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I remember a time before we had the internet at home and I remember how my world opened up when our first dial up connection arrived. I remember chatting to friends for an hour each night and searching for answers to homework assignments. But as the years have gone by the internet has grown so much that there is pretty much a whole online world at our fingertips.
But, when I was a child, the only real risk online was meeting the wrong people in an online chatroom. For children today the risks run a lot deeper. There are so many things that could run up huge credit card bills at just the touch of a button and there is so much content that isn’t suitable for a child’s eyes. Even the most innocent of searches can lead to not so innocent results.
As a parent our main aim in life is to keep our children safe. To protect them as much as we can and to guide them through life unscathed. This is no longer just about day to day life but about their online activities too. With many children having received new devices for Christmas it’s the perfect time to take steps to keep them safe online, especially whilst they’re getting to grips with their new pieces of tech.
So here are five things you can do to keep your child safe when using tablets and other devices:
Have clear rules – When it comes to devices, make sure your children know what they are and are not allowed to do on them. Make sure the children understand why they have a tablet or mobile phone and what you expect from them when using it.
Talk about it – Always talk to your children about how to use devices safely. Make online safety conversations a regular topic and make sure they know to talk to you if they see anything online that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell them the importance of only using their devices for things that they know they are allowed to do.
Explore the internet together – Take time to teach your children about the different apps and websites available to them, the ones that they may find useful – depending on their age and ability. Introduce them to things that may interest them but ones that are a safe space online – like YouTube Kids and CBeebies. Net Aware gives independent reviews from parents and young people on the most popular apps.
Trust your children, to a point – Whilst talking to your children regularly it’s important to trust them. Let them use their tablets and mobile phones but always make sure they’re willing to share with you what they have been looking at – their browsing history and recent searches. If your child has searched for something inappropriate then it’s best to know sooner rather than later.
Install Parental Controls – Many devices come with parental controls installed now but so many don’t. Plus, even if they are installed they need setting up. These parental controls can be used to block any content that isn’t age appropriate or suitable for your child, it can control in-app purchases and manage how long your child spends online each day. It can really tailor your child’s user experience to be one that is really suitable for them.
NSPCC and O2 have teamed up to make the whole world of parental controls that much easier and can give you advice on installing parental controls and setting them up too. They are providing parents with free advice and technical support to help them keep their children safe online. They run workshops and offer a free dedicated helpline service – 0808 800 5002 – for any internet safety questions and additionally parents can get hands-on free assistance in-store with O2 Gurus and this is open to all parents, whether an O2 customer or not.
So with these tips, and some help from NSPCC and o2 you should have all you need to keep your children as safe as possible online. The parental controls may not be needed as much as they grow but they can act like stabilisers for younger children, showing them the way into a new online world until they’re ready to go it alone. We wouldn’t be without parental controls and they’re definitely something you should have on your child’s tablet and mobile phone too.
As a UK charity almost 90% of our funding is from generous people like you, who care about the safety of children. If you’ve found this advice useful you can support the NSPCC with a donation here.