You are hyper-aware of the dangers online and want to protect your children; your children are fearless and intrepid, seeing the internet as a source of endless possibilities with absolutely no perception of potential danger — and there we have a recipe for a tiring game of cat and mouse — you put rules in place and they do their best to get round them.
Here’s where the technology comes in to increase your family’s security and privacy online. Create different user accounts with you as the administrator and your children as limited users. With your administrator status, put basic defences in place. Adjust your web browser security settings to block sites and downloads that might risk your security and privacy. Use the parental control features to filter information based on a child’s age, blocking inappropriate content before they see it. Configure instant messaging to allow only approved contacts. Use antivirus and antispyware, and set limits on downloads — especially regarding free games, music and animated toolbars.
Back this up with e-safety training (and try to ignore the eye-rolling from your teens or tweens who know it all). Remind your children to protect their privacy: only using a first name or nickname online; never giving out a phone number or address; never sending photos of themselves; never agreeing to meet someone met online without supervision; and never revealing passwords. And do some judicious policing: monitor where your children go online by reviewing their search history.
This all sounds great, but what about teenagers who are so clued up and know how to disable controls, wipe search histories, hide what they do and set up false or hidden accounts? On a practical level, there are two things you can do:
- Make sure they know about the traps, tricks and scams that are out there to put them on their guard; use their natural teenage paranoia to your advantage.
- And follow the main piece of advice given by CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre1): keep computers in general family areas and have a ‘no minimising’ rule. This means that no one is allowed to minimise the screen when you walk past or, if they do, you have the right to see what has been minimised.
Technology and teenage paranoia can be a winning combination in your battle for safety online; you just need a suitably devious approach. Read more on this with our article “Kids, the internet and sucking eggs”
1The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children. It’s part of UK policing and about tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces. It’s made up of police officers specialising in this area of criminality, working with professionals from the wider child protection community and industry: seconded staff from organisations such as the NSPCC; teams sponsored by the likes of VISA and SERCO; experts from government; and corporations such as Microsoft offering specialist advice and guidance.