A Guide to Keeping Children Safe Online

It can be difficult to start conversations with your children about what they are doing online.
January 12, 2021
Having regular conversations about their online habits will make them feel more relaxed and more likely to talk to you about any worries they have. In the same way you would talk to them about their day at school, you can talk to them about what they’re been up to online. Thankfully what keeps children safe offline, tends to be very similar to the factors that keep them safe online.

What apps and sites are safe for children?

One of the biggest worries to many parents is not knowing what their child is up to online. There are so many apps and websites out there that some parents don’t even know about, let alone use. It’s also very common for children to use different apps and websites to adults, so asking your child what apps they are using and becoming familiar with them yourself will help you have a better understanding about what they are doing online.

Although there are some sites that can be dangerous to children, there are also so many sites that are great for them to be using. It’s about working out which are good and which we need to be wary of. Ofcom’s ‘Media use and attitudes report’ gives a great insight into a number of the popular sites children are using at the moment.

If you come across an app or site you’re worried about, have an open conversation with your child about it. It may be good to ask why they want to use that particular app or site. This way you get a better understanding of why they use it. If you still think the app or site isn’t suitable, perhaps try asking your child what age group they think the site is suitable for and if any of their friends use it.

Remember, if you’re concerned about anything you see, make sure you tell them. Being honest and open with them will encourage them to do the same. In the same way if you think the app or site they’re using is really good make sure you tell them. Being positive about sites you like will show them you are positive about them being online. Then if it comes to a time you don’t like a particular site they might be more understanding as you’ve been positive with others.

Top tip:

Go to the settings part of the device and look though the safety and privacy features for the apps your child is using and look at what measures they’ve put into place to keep your child safe. Make sure you talk these through with your child so they know and understand the importance of these features. Within these settings you may find that ‘geo-location’ has been enabled automatically, its essential this is switched off. Teach your child how to block people and how to report anything offensive they see online. It’s key for your child to know they can come to you if they see anything that upsets them so you can work through it together.

What is the best parental control software?

Parental controls are an easy and simple way to give you more confidence that your child is safe from any inappropriate content that they may be exposed to online. As much as we’d want to think the web is a safe environment for children, unfortunately it isn’t always. With busy time schedules it’s not always possible to keep an eye on what children are looking at online. But parental control software gives you the option of blocking access to particular sites, filtering certain content and setting time limits.

Google Family Link

Google Family Link is a great app that lets you set ‘digital rules’ to help your child stay safe online. Some of the key popular features in the Google Family Link app include the ability to monitor your child’s screen time and even view your child’s activity, seeing how much time they are spending on particular apps. You can also approve or block all apps that your child may want to download to their device. Whilst Family Link gives you great control and visibility to see what your child is up to online, it doesn’t directly block inappropriate sites and content. However, this can be done through some of the apps you can access through the Family Link app.

Free Parental Controls Software

There are a number of other free parental control software you could use to make sure your child is safe online, such as Qustodio, Kaspersky Safe Kids and Kidlogger. If you want to find out more about these software’s, you can find a full breakdown of each one here.

How much time should children be spending on screens?

Screen time can be a worry for all parents so setting screen time limits can be helpful but it’s important to know what your child is doing online before setting screen time limits. It’s estimated that children aged between 5-15 spend around 2 hours a day online, so it’s essential to make sure your child has a healthy amount of screen time and doesn’t go overboard.

Being online is great for children to keep entertained with games and talking to friends, it also is a wonderful platform for children to use for learning purposes. Work out what sort of sites your child is using and why they are using them before setting limits. If you child is online for learning purposes, it’s important not to put a big limit on their learning time. If however, they are mainly using the internet to talk to friends, live stream or play games, that’s when a time limit will be good to use.

Finding the right screen time balance | 3 top tips

  1. Sit down as a family and agree a few screen time rules. Establish time for learning and socialising. This will help manage expectations for how long they should be using screen time for learning and how long they should be using it for social activity. It’s good to keep on top of this and review every so often based on the child’s current needs.
  2. Try and set aside some time where you can all be together not using screens. For example, at meal times there could be a rule where no one can use devices during meal times. This way they have a complete break from screens. It’s a great time to talk about their day and have face-to-face interactions.
  3. Children will often mirror what they see their parents doing so, it’s important to set a good example of taking breaks from screens.

What is live streaming?

A livestream is a real time online broadcast that children can either watch or share themselves. They may be catching up on what their favourite celebrity or blogger has been up to. Or they might be creating and sharing their own videos. If they are creating and sharing their own videos it is often of them gaming. Either way, it’s super important for children to understand the importance of staying safe online.

Some live streams can be made private, such as Zoom and other video conferences that allows you to invite people into the stream. These types of live streams are usually password protected so no one can join unless they are manually let in.

However, some live streams are public and can be watched by people all over the word. These are the ones that you need to keep an extra eye out for. If a stream is public viewers can comment whatever they like and it will appear on the screen. This is where it’s important for children to speak up if they read anything that upsets them.

What makes live streaming so popular?

Live streaming generally originates from YouTube, where celebrities and bloggers share what they are doing. When children are viewing live streams it’s a great opportunity for them to feel involved and interact with celebrities/people with similar interests. This can be a great way to improve their communication skills and feel as though they are part of something. On the sharing side, children can get a great confidence boost when they share something and receive positive feedback. However, if they end up receiving negative feedback this can result in them feeling upset and sometimes embarrassed. Another reason children may find live streaming appealing is the financial rewards that they can sometimes win. This mainly is associated with gaming and used on the app Twitch.

How to keep children safe when live streaming?

If your child says they’re using sites for live streaming/playing games, it’s important to know what these are and the possible risks to using them. Live streaming has become a really popular way for children to communicate online. It’s essential for children to understand that once a live stream is up online it can’t be edited so any personal information will be on there forever.

What to consider before a live stream

Factors that children may need to consider before a livestream are things such as the background of the livestream (you may not want your location or your house to be in the background of the livestream, especially family photos or important personal belongings). It’s also important to note that others can record live streams and re-watch them later. It may be worth making a family decision about where live streams would take place in the house. For example, it might be safer for livestreams to take place in a less private part of the house such as the living room rather than in your child’s bedroom. This way everyone can keep an ear or eye out for what is going on and be wary of risks.

The online word is a fantastic platform for children, where they can socialise with friends and learn. However, it’s important to take the right precautions for keeping them safe when online. Hopefully this guide has given a great deal of insight into the number of safety measures you could put in place to keep your child safe online. Knowing you’ve taken these safety precautions may result in you feeling more confident about your child’s online safety and will result in a positive mindset to your child being online. Remember to keep having those conversations with them about their online activity and making sure they know they can come to you with any worries they may have.