How To Keep Kids Safe Online

How To Keep Kids Safe Online


Children today are born into a world of technology; almost everything they do is connected to a device that uses the internet, whether it's playing on an educational app on their tablet, watching videos from their favorite YouTuber, or playing online games with a chat feature. As a parent or educator, you may be aware of the online dangers and how to protect yourself, but what about when it comes to teaching kids how to do the same? This guide is full of internet safety tips to help you become more web savvy and give children the tools they need to understand the risks and stay safe online.

Understanding Parental Controls

By monitoring your children's activities online, you can understand what they are up to and create appropriate boundaries. Parental controls fall into three major categories:

  • Content filters: These restrict access to age-inappropriate content.
  • Usage controls: Usage controls limit the use of devices and prevent forbidden usage.
  • Monitoring tools: These track the activities and location of the child when using the device.

To find these parental controls, go to Settings on your device. You are usually able to create a pin or password that your child won't have access to.

Passwords And Data Security Dos And Don'ts

Ensure that you secure both your online accounts and your children's online accounts with strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed. Here are some tips to create a strong password for your device or account and keep cybercriminals at bay:

Password Dos

  • Use words that are not in the dictionary for your password, as long as you'll remember them.
  • Choose a complex password, with a combination of letters, symbols, numbers and both lower and upper-case letters.
  • Change your password periodically.
  • Make use of multi-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security.

Password Don'ts

  • Avoid easily guessed passwords such as 123456 or the word 'password'
  • Don't include personal details in your passwords.
  • Avoid using the same passwords for different mobile devices or accounts on the internet.
  • Do not reveal the password to anybody excepted to a trusted adult you know in real life.

Practical Tips And Privacy Settings For Social Networks

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Tips For Creating An Online Profile

Ensure their profile or username doesn't include your child's real name.

Ensure their profile image is not a real photo of them. Why not encourage them to use a drawing or cartoon instead? There are tons of websites where you can create a cool avatar or cartoon based on your likeness. If they do use a photo of themselves, encourage them to choose one taken from a distance, and ideally not one of them in school uniform, as uniform is often an easy identifying characteristic.

If your child writes a short bio on their profile, this should not contain any personal information like their school name or full name.

It's recommended that all under-18s have private or protected profiles. Check out how to access privacy settings for different platforms below.

Set a strong password. It's up to you whether you know their password, but it would be prudent to have access to it in case of emergency.

Privacy Settings Guides For Social Networks

Tiktok

TikTok accounts for users under the age of 16 are marked as private by default as of January 2021, while accounts for users beyond this age are public initially. If your kids are aged 16-18 it would be wise to encourage them to keep their accounts private too. Here's how to do it:

  1. Click your icon on the bottom right of your app.
  2. Select the triple-line hamburger icon in the top right of the screen.
  3. Select "Settings and privacy".
  4. Go to "Privacy" under the "Account" section.
  5. Move the toggle to mark as private.

When your TikTok account is private, it means that you must have approved people who can follow you and view your posts. They can never Duet, Stitch or download your videos. Even on public profiles and videos you can still disable the option to Duet, Stitch or download.

Plus, on public TikTok accounts you change the visibility settings of individual videos, both as you upload and retrospectively. When go to post a video, you'll see a section that says "Who can watch this video". You can set this to "Only me", "Friends" (people you follow back) or "Everyone".Note that other TikTok users can view your username, bio, and profile picture whether they are your followers or not.

Twitter

On Twitter, there are lots of ways to control your privacy settings and managing who is viewing your child's tweets, and whose tweets your child is viewing.

  1. Click the cog-shaped symbol on your Twitter account's home page.
  2. Go to "Settings".
  3. Click the "Security & Privacy" tab.
  4. Check the "Protect My Tweets" box.
  5. Click "Save Changes".
  6. Click your icon on the top left of your app.
  7. Scroll down to "Settings and privacy".
  8. Go to "Privacy and safety".
  9. Click on "Audience and tagging".
  10. Move the toggle to protect your tweets.

The change is effected immediately. To confirm, you must re-enter your password. A lock icon appears beside your username if the change is effected.

Now, only your followers can view your tweets, and cannot retweet your tweets. Protected tweets do not show up on search engines, nor in the Twitter search bar. You will have to manually accept each follow request when your account is private, unlike the default option, which allows anyone to follow you.

On the same Privacy and Safety screen you can also protect your Twitter stream from sensitive content.
From the "Audience and tagging" screen you can also adjust your tagging settings, which dictates whether people are allowed to tag your child in photos. Click "Photo tagging" and adjust the settings accordingly.

From the "Privacy and safety" screen you can manage blocked accounts and muted words by selecting "Mute and block". You can set it up so that tweets containing specific words do not show up on your child's feed, and can manage any blocked or muted accounts. Muted accounts are not the same as blocked accounts as their tweets are still visible if you go to their profile, but their tweets do not show up in your child's feed or notifications log. Note that if your child goes to the "Mute and block" page they will be able to see these words you've selected.

From the "Privacy and safety" screen you can control who is allowed to send a private message to your child by selecting "Direct messages". Here, you can make sure the toggle is set to not allow messages from everyone.

Note that other Twitter users can view your username, bio, and profile picture whether they are your followers or not.

Instagram

When you set your Instagram account as private, even if someone finds your profile, they cannot view your posts until you grant them express permission. If your posts are set to private, your photographs will only be accessible to those signed into Instagram who you've permitted to follow you.

  1. Tap on your profile image in the lower right corner.
  2. Select the triple-line hamburger icon in the top right of your app.
  3. Hit "Settings".
  4. Go to "Privacy".
  5. Move the toggle to mark as private.

From the "Privacy" screen you can also adjust other settings and safety features:
1. Go to "Hidden words" to manage who can comment and message your profile, and what they are allowed to say. You can restrict offensive content, which is Instagram's selection of words it has deemed offensive. For more specific cases, you can also build a custom list of words or emojis you find offensive and would like to block your child from seeing. In both cases, if anyone sends a comment or message that contains one of these words, they will be hidden from view. Note that if your child goes to this page they will be able to see these words you've selected.
2. Similarly, you can limit who is allowed to follow, comment, tag and direct message your child using the "Limit", "Comments", "Mentions", "Messages", "Restricted accounts", "Blocked accounts", "Muted accounts" and "Posts" sections.
3. On the "Posts" screen you can also hide like and view counts from public view. Ensuring no followers can see the number of likes on a post may be helpful for self-esteem.

Note that other Instagram users can view your username, bio, and profile picture whether they are your followers or not.

Snapchat

Snapchat introduced privacy settings to reduce the growing prevalence of scammers on the app. Some of the options in the privacy settings are:

  • Two-factor authentification: This feature links your mobile device to your Snapchat account. A hacker would need both your password and phone to access your account.

  • Location feature: Snapchat can track your location and allows everybody on your friends list to know where you are. To disable this, go to "location" and tap "Ghost Mode". You'll disappear automatically from the map. If you want just a selection of your friends to know your location, you can also set this by using the "Only these friends" option.

  • Control who contacts you: By tapping the "contact me" in the settings tab, you can manage and restrict who is able to contact you. You can prevent random strangers from adding you by opting out of the "quick add" option.

  • Manage how Snapchat uses your contact: Snapchat will ask for your consent before syncing your contact information. If you've given the app permission to sync, any changes you make to your contacts will be instantly updated. You can easily turn off this setting. Simply uncheck the "Sync Contacts" box on the preferences tab. You can also go ahead and double-check every synced contact with Snapchat before deleting all of their information from the app.

  • Control who you share with: The cool lenses and filters on Snapchat encourage users to take pictures of their moments for everyone to peek into. When dealing with such personal information, it's important to consider who you share it with. When sharing snaps, ensure that the settings are limited to "My Friends." Also, be sure you're sharing snaps with individuals you know rather than a random stranger you added to Snapchat accidentally. Snapchat also has a fantastic feature that alerts you when someone takes screenshots of your snaps. Use this function to keep an eye out for such alerts. If someone keeps taking your screenshots, you have the option of confronting them or reporting the account and blocking the individual.

Facebook

You can view and adjust your privacy settings on Facebook at any time. Tap your profile picture on the top left hand side of the Facebook interface. Select "privacy settings" in the settings option, and from here you can select the audience that can view the content you upload on your profile.

  • Click on your Facebook icon.
  • Click the 3 dots next to the "Your Story" button.
  • Go to "View Privacy Shortcuts". Facebook has a mini-hub geared towards improving your privacy. You can click the "Take a Privacy Checkup" link that will take you through various suggestions.
  • Make sure you set up 2-step Authentication and limit access to your content.

Youtube

YouTube is a part of Google and therefore adheres to Google's privacy policies and principles. You can adjust and control your privacy settings by heading to "Your Data in YouTube" on your Google account. Start by going to YouTube's main page to access your privacy options. Then, in the top-right corner, click your avatar and then the gear icon to access your account settings. This is where you can control and set what the general public sees and doesn't see while searching for your profile. Go into the "General" sections and toggle the "Restricted Mode" to protect your children from harmful video content. You can also discover other privacy options that can suit you.

Twitch

You can find Twitch's privacy settings in the account settings. Click on your profile picture in the top-right corner, then click "Settings." There are several privacy options in the privacy settings on Twitch.

Tumblr

If you want to create a private Tumblr account, you'll need first to create a standard public one and then make it private by using the "Password Protect this Blog" feature. You can also restrict others from seeing that you are active by turning off the "Let others see that you are active" option in the privacy section.

  • Tap your icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • Select the cogwheel icon at the top.
  • Make sure you set your "Visibility" to an appropriate safe setting.
  • We would advise you also disallow submissions and opt out of letting strangers submit questions because we've found this is how most online predators will try to target you.

Whatsapp

On WhatsApp, there are various privacy features that you can utilize. The privacy settings allow you to set who can:

  • See the time you were last seen on the app
  • Add you to group chats
  • See your read receipts
  • See your "about" information
  • View your status updates.

Tap the 3 dots icon in the top right corner, select Settings -> Account -> Privacy and make sure you open your personal data to your contacts only.

Internet Safety For Kids By Age Group

Keeping kids safe online is a challenging task because, particularly as they get older, you want to give them appropriate levels of privacy and trust, but also need to ensure they're not in any danger. Being able to tell a trusted adult when things go wrong is just as important as trying to teach them how to avoid danger in the first place. Here is how you can talk to kids of different ages to ensure internet safety:

Children Aged 5 And Under

  • Do not offer a choice regarding what they can look at - navigate to the app you're happy for them to use and hand them the device.
  • Ensure you have YouTube Kids enabled rather than YouTube on the device they are using. Tell them they must ask you if they want to switch apps.
  • Set a timer on the device and tell them that when the timer goes off they must hand the device back to you.

Children Aged 6 - 10

  • Establish the boundaries around device usage. Be clear on what they can do and what they cannot do with the mobile device available to them.
  • Agree a time limit, then set an alarm to go off when the time is up. Give a 10-minute warning when the time is nearly up.
  • Make sure that they only access age-appropriate sites and spend time overseeing them playing online.
  • Encourage them to use their devices in the presence of people that can monitor them.
  • Have a fun 'real life' activity lined up for when their time is up!

Pre-Teens

  • Keep the conversation going around how to be safe online. This is the stage where kids transition into a more independent phase and become more confident and informed when using the internet.
  • Engage them and make them trust you enough to tell you and show you what they do on the internet.
  • Seize the opportunity when they get a new device to talk about the dangers they might encounter on the internet.
  • Talk to them about the benefits of social media and the dangers that come with it. They might want to create an online profile because they have seen their peers do so. Let them know that whatever they upload or post online may remain in the public space forever and teach them how to set privacy settings to block strangers from their social media profiles.

Teens

  • By this point, the internet will likely be a substantial part of your child's daily life. Teenagers communicate and socialize using social media and the internet and quickly adapt to new technology.
  • When discussing the dangers of the internet, don't hesitate to bring up challenging issues like sexting and nude images/internet_safety.
  • Teenagers are known for following the bandwagon, so you should talk to them about not sending inappropriate photos or texts
  • Advise them to view their social media profile as a potential official portfolio - they should only upload content that they won't regret being in the public domain in the future.
  • Draw up a contract between you and your child in which you agree the rules of engagement regarding their online activity.

How To Stay SAFE - A Summary

S = Secure

First make sure that your children's online space is as safe as it can be:

  • Set up appropriate passwords and carry out the items in our Internet Safety Checklist.
  • Put age-appropriate controls in place where necessary to restrict the time they spend online and the sites they have access to.
  • Install child-friendly alternatives where possible, for example, YouTube Kids instead of YouTube, to prevent children from accidentally viewing inappropriate content.
  • Spend time helping them to download suitable apps onto their device that they can default to using.
  • If they are over 13 and want to create a social media account, help them set up any necessary controls and make sure they agree to always share their passwords with you.

A = Agree

Next, make an agreement with your child(ren) around what they can and cannot do online.

  • Agree which times of the day or week are suitable for screen time. For example this might be after school, once they have done their homework, for 45 minutes, or it might be an hour per day at weekends only. You need to decide what is right for your family and make sure that you explain this to your children and have their agreement.
  • Set out your expectations in terms of what is and isn't allowed when playing online, eg outline any games or apps that are banned, and have a clear agreement around how much time they are allowed to spend online.
  • Agree where in the house they are allowed to spend time online, for example for younger children it is best if they are in the same room as you, so that you can more easily monitor what they are doing.
  • Draw up a contract for your teens, in which you agree the rules of engagement regarding their online activity. This can include that they must always tell you their passwords, what will happen if they lose or break a device, what the rules are around having their mobile outside of the home during family time.

F = Familiarize

It's important to familiarise yourself with the internet landscape and to understand where your child's interests lie, so that you can make it as safe an environment as possible.

  • Ensure you know what the online risks are.
  • Spend some time playing games with your younger children, so that you are aware of exactly what games they are playing and which apps they are using.
  • Spend some time playing games with your younger children, so that you are aware of exactly what games they are playing and which apps they are using.

E = Enjoy!

Finally, remember to have some fun! You will not be able to keep your child away from the internet forever. A better approach would be to find positive ways to help them embrace it and use it as a learning tool.

  • Take an interest in their online games and watch them play, or even better, play some online games together - the more of an interest you show, the more likely they are to tell you if anything strange happens to them online.
  • Teach them that it's OK to say 'no' to any requests they get online.
  • Go for a conversational rather than confrontational tone to encourage your children to open up to you.
  • Encourage them to have a healthy relationship with the internet.

  • Ensure that you maintain responsible online behavior in front of your kids. This may include things like not spending too long looking at your phone, checking that your own social media accounts are private, setting time limits on social media sites, blocking and reporting hateful comments, or showing your child what a spam link might look like when you come across one, and why you'd never click it.

Kidadl's SAFE Guide To Screen Time

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