The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Children Online in 2019


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We’re at that point where our children know about technology and the internet than we do. I’m sure if you have children, you probably rely on them to teach you how to use your mobile phone or iPad! How many times do you ask your children to diagnose the router and get your household back online?

According to the NSPCC, 1 in 4 of 8-11 year olds and 3 in 4 of 12-15 year olds have a social media profile. 25% of children would have experienced something upsetting or unnerving online. It’s our job as parents to take back the reins and protect our children online.

There are many steps parents or guardians can take to protect their children’s safety whilst online. Children are easily manipulated, which is why they are an easy target. Children often give into peer pressure because this is what they’re being guided to do (unless they are guided elsewhere).

Protecting children online can range from preventing advert pop-ups to saving their lives. Just as parents do offline, boundaries need to be set, guidance needs to be provided, and safeguards need to be put in place.

Restricting YouTube

Over 30 million people use YouTube on a daily basis. With the introduction of Smart TV’s, laptops, tablets and smart phones, it’s easy for anyone to access YouTube. It’s actually very common for families to login to YouTube to put on kid’s programmes as o posed to watching TV.

Although YouTube is incredibly popular, it’s not always appropriate for every audience. This includes children. However, as with many online applications, YouTube can be restricted and safety features can be initiated. Being aware of how to access these features is essential to protecting your children online.

  1. On the desktop version of YouTube, click on the avatar in the top right hand corner of the screen and select Settings
  2. At the bottom of the Settings page you’ll see an option to turn on/off Restricted Mode

The Restricted Mode (as shown above) will hide videos that have been flagged by other uses as inappropriate. Although this is a step towards protecting your children whilst using YouTube, it won’t 100% remove all inappropriate content. Below I’ve listed some alternative options to ensure you can keep your children safe online whilst using YouTube.

  • Use YouTube Kids – this service was created by Google as an alternative to YouTube. It displays appropriate content for children which is approved by parents. There are a wide range of parental controls.
  • Use computer speakers – if your children are wearing headphones whilst watching YouTube, you won’t be able to hear if they’ve come across something inappropriate. Although it’s not a fail safe to stop your children watching this kind of content, it may help to stop it sooner rather than later if you can hear it.
  • Create a new channel – you can create separate Google accounts so that your children can have their own account which you can manage. You can restrict their usage through their account by creating additional YouTube channels and subscribing to those that are appropriate or approved by you.

Social Media Privacy

It’s estimated that there will be 2.77 billion social media users globally in 2019. Facebook is the market leading social media outlet with around 2.27 billion registered accounts. Most social media platforms are age restricted, but this doesn’t stop younger children from registering or signing up to them.

If your children are using social media (let’s face it, they probably are), you need to know how to protect them. Social media is designed to connect with friends and family, however, we know that’s not always the case. In order to protect your child’s privacy, I’m going to guide you through the popular social media platforms and how to keep your children safe.

Facebook:

Keeping your children safe online with Facebook mainly revolves around privacy. When someone posts something on Facebook (a photo, video, status update etc.) this information is shared to a particular audience. Knowing how to restrict that audience is key to helping in protecting your children online.

Facebook has many settings and options that you can enable to change the type of audience that yours or your children’s profile reaches out to. For example, when posting an update, you can select specifically who sees this.

In order to change your child’s Facebook privacy settings, click on the arrow at the top right of Facebook:

Select settings from the drop down list and then select privacy to adjust your settings. There are plenty of privacy options to choose from, allowing you to lock down your child’s Facebook profile to ensure they are kept safe online.

Instagram:

Instagram is an app for your smart phone. It allows you to share photos and videos with people that follow you. You can also view photos and videos of those that you follow. You can restrict your Instagram profile so that when people want to follow you, they have to request your permission to do so.

If you’re using an iOS or Android device, navigate to your profile and select the hamburger (3 horizontal lines) from the side panel. Click on the settings icon and select privacy and security. This will allow you to access your account privacy in order to flag your profile as a private account. This means only those that you approve will be able to see your profile.

When someone requests to follow your profile, a notification will appear. This notification will prompt you to approve or ignore a follow request. This means you have a lot more control over who sees your (or your child’s) profile and therefore any information that they post.

Snapchat:

Snapchat has somewhat evolved over the last few years. It’s no longer just an app that allows you to share and receive photos and videos. You can now create stories, create private messages, and see other people’s locations. This means that there’s a lot more to consider in terms of privacy.

With Snapchat, the default settings mean that only friends can contact you or see your story. If you want to change these settings, you can click on the settings icon and select who can to adjust the options. These options include:

  • Who Can Contact Me
  • Who Can View My Story
  • Who Can See My Location
  • Who Can See Me In Quick Add

If someone sends a Snapchat to you that isn’t on your friends list, this will appear as a notification. If you choose to accept them as a friend, the ‘snap’ will be available to view. As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest keeping everything as friends only to avoid any nasty surprises.

Anti-viruses

An anti-virus is essential on both your desktop and smart devices. Children, as well as adults, may find themselves clicking on links or downloading software that can cause a virus. Anti-viruses protect you and your children against unwanted viruses and ensure that your devices remain safe.

Cybercrime is at an all time high so it’s essential to obtain an anti-virus. According to Statista, AVAST is the most popular (most downloaded) anti-virus holding over 17% of the market share. There are lots of options available when it comes to anti-viruses, including both free and paid versions.

Once you have an anti-virus installed, if your children do click on malicious links or download unwanted software, your anti-virus will alert you to any threats. Some recommended anti-viruses include Avast, Avira, and BitDefender.

VPN’s

If you’re concerned that your child’s internet activity can be tracked by others, or you just want to protect their privacy, you could consider a VPN. VPN’s are available for both desktop and mobile usage. There’s a huge range of VPN’s on the market, including paid and free VPN options.

A VPN will let your child browse the internet anonymously, securely, and safely. Most VPN’s are designed not to log any of your data, so even the VPN companies won’t know much (if anything) about your children’s internet activity. That all sounds great, but you may be wondering why you need to hide this kind of information.

When you browse the internet or engage in any kind of internet activity, cyber criminals (and other people) can find ways to access your data. Data includes personal information like your name, date of birth, address, and even your bank details. If your children register for online games, they may input their personal details. This is definitely information that you want to be kept private.

Game Consoles

By the end of Q3 2018, 40% of households had a game console. Game consoles are fun and are often used by children to play video games individually, or connect with a group of friends. The moment your game console is connected to the internet, you’ll want to protect your children online.

Game consoles have evolved massively. They now have the ability to download games, browse the internet, and make purchases. Many of the modern consoles have features to protect your children, so I’ll cover a few of the popular ones below.

Xbox One:

The Xbox One’s safety features are quite impressive. You can make changes to the console based on your child’s age, and protect the whole family.

In order to adjust the default settings on any Xbox account, follow the steps above. Content restrictions can be put in place based on the recommended age for that content. This will control access to games, TV shows, films, and music that is age appropriate. This also applies to the content that your child can view in the Microsoft Store.

PS4:

In the PS4 5.00 system updateFamily on PSN was introduced. This feature allows you to create accounts for family members, customising separate parental controls for each child’s account. You can appoint a specific adult family member as a parent/guardian.

As you can see from the table above, the only thing that a Family Manager can’t do is set restrictions on other adult accounts. It’s worth noting that there can only be one Family Manager per console.

Unwanted Messages

It’s important to teach your children not to open messages from people they don’t know. It’s entirely up to you (of course) how you approach this subject, but my suggestion would be not to place negative connotations around it. If your children do receive an unwanted message and they feel scared or nervous to tell someone, due to the negativity surrounding it, they may not speak up.

If your children receive messages from an unknown contact or person via text, social media, or instant messaging, explain to them that they must tell a parent or guardian. They should be aware not to open the message, respond to it, or click on any links that may be sent through the messaging services.

Parental Controls

As we’ve seen from some of the content above, parental controls can be activated on many devices. This includes on mobile phones, which is one of the key areas for you to enable these features. Smart phones can do a lot more than they used to be able to. Your child’s location, personal information, contacts, and more can be obtained via their phones.

Android:

You can setup parental controls for an Android device via Google Play. Any controls that are put in place only apply to the device that they’ve been added on. You’ll need to repeat the parental controls steps on another device to add them there.

If you have multiple people on one device, you can actually setup different parental controls for each user. So, if you have your two children sharing a mobile phone, you can restrict their access at different levels if their ages differ.

Parental controls for Android can be configured based on games & apps, films, TV, books, and music. It’s important that you enable parental controls on your child’s Android device to ensure they are being safe and protected.

iOS

Protecting your child’s iPhone or iPad has never been easier with iOS 12. Restrictions allow you to restrict specific apps, functionality, privacy, data usage, and even content types and ratings. Similar to Android, this is in order to restrict what your child can view or do on their iOS device.

Follow these simple steps in order to access restrictions:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap Screen Time
  3. Tap Turn On Screen Time
  4. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions
  5. Enter a four-digit passcode
  6. Re-enter the four-digit passcode