What parental controls should I use? How to protect your children online

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  • There’s a fine line between taking an interest, and interfering, in your child’s life. But when it comes to the internet we all need to be vigilant, as there’s a torrent of unsuitable online material that no child needs to be exposed to.

    And there’s another troubling problem many kids are experiencing. With the ever-expanding range of devices that can now access wi-fi, it’s easy for cyberbullies to establish contact with other children, often through social media – and online bullying has the potential to be a 24/7 threat.

    That’s why it’s so important for us to set up parental controls that help protect our children from cyberbullying, inappropriate sexual or violent content, or online approaches from strangers.

    That’s where Internet Matters comes in. Backed by key industry names including the BBC and Google, it’s a not-for-profit organisation with the sole purpose of keeping children safe in the digital world, and its website is packed with invaluable tips and expert advice to help you keep your child’s online activities safe and fun. And, with over a third of parents unsure where to go for help with online safety issues,* it’s a great resource to turn to.

    Setting parental controls

    It’s vital to take an interest in your child’s online activity right from the start. It’s not being nosey, simply sensible.

    Setting up parental controls is one of the most important things you should do to ensure your child’s safety, though how far you take this will depend on their age and maturity. It can seem a laborious process, especially if they use multiple devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles and smart TVs. But it’s surprisingly easy – especially when you follow the plain-speaking advice on Internet Matters, where you’ll find a link to an interactive guide to setting up parental controls. Once you’ve worked your way through all the devices and apps in the house, you’ll know that you’ve password-protected your child from accessing anything you don’t want them to see.

    Safer social networking

    It’s especially important to be aware of your child’s online social activity, where it’s all too easy to get caught up in sending or receiving inappropriate or upsetting messages and pictures. Go through the privacy settings on any new social media app they use, and set them all at the strongest level to ensure that only people they really want to ‘talk’ to can search for your child, tag them in a photo or share what they’ve posted. Sites change their privacy settings from time to time, so you’ll need to stay up to date with these.

    If you’re still concerned, you may want to download apps that help you control what your kids see and do on their devices, and you’ll find details of apps recommended by Internet Matters here.

    If you don’t have your own accounts on popular sites like Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, check out the social networking section at Internet Matters, which explains all the networks and apps – and what they do. Better still, join the sites yourself, and become your child’s ‘friend’ on Facebook, or Instagram follower.

    Most of us use the internet these days, and of course it’s a fantastic resource on so many levels. Internet Matters will help to put your mind at rest, and you’ll feel far better equipped to help your child enjoy their digital life safely and securely.

    Find out more at internetmatters.org/cyberbullying

    * From an online survey of 1,500 parents with children aged 6-16, conducted by Opinion Leader for Internet Matters.

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