Do you know how to keep your kids safer online?
I first met Tony Anscombe a few months ago at a ‘Child Internet Safety’ round-table discussion and how parents felt about tackling it. The general consensus was that parents are aware of some of the dangers of the internet, many of them are willing and want to keep their kids as safe as possible when online but many simply don’t know where to start.
‘ nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of parents are adamant that the ultimate responsibility for online safety education falls to them’.
As a technology consultant in education and a parent myself, I do feel I have a slight advantage, as I do have the technical ability to put some of the safety measures in place, however, I need to emphasize ‘slight’. I have done a few things at home but not nearly enough. I wouldn’t even know where to begin when setting parental controls on the router.
Tony is not only Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies but also a father himself and wanted to share with you some tips for keeping your kids safer online which also includes a downloadable Guide for Parents.
Author: Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies
On 22nd July 2013, David Cameron announced plans to have online pornography blocked to most UK households by changing the default settings for internet providers. Going forward, customers would have to actively contact their suppliers to ‘opt out’ of this, change their settings, and ‘opt-in’ to view adult material. There was, unsurprisingly, a huge media storm in response to the proposal with fevered debate on all sides.
Away from the debate, it did, however, raise an important question – how much do you actually understand about the implications of this for you and your child? If, like many of the parents I have met over the past few weeks, you are not familiar with ‘tech jargon’ and talk of ISPs, SSLs and WPAs etc., let’s make sense of it all together.
What does ‘opt out’ content filtering mean?
As the name suggests, opt out content filtering means that you have to consciously ‘withdraw’ from the filtering service if you do not wish to use it. Our mobiles, TVs and computers are all set-up with default settings – also known as ‘factory settings’.
Unless you actively reset, change, turn off or ‘opt out’ of these settings, they become part of your computer, mobile or TV settings. Until the Prime Minister’s announcement, the default setting for blocking pornography was ‘off’ – meaning that unless you actively switched on/’opted in’ for the service, by default you and your child were not protected against explicit images and pornography online. Now, unless you actively switch off/’opt out’ of the default setting on your computer, you and your child will automatically be protected from explicit content and pornography online.
We tend to presume a level of safety protection when we go online – something that is often not the case, especially when the right precautions (antivirus, firewalls and blocking, for example) aren’t in place. Many of us weren’t even aware that default settings had to be changed to ensure our safety so the automatic filter just takes manual changes off our to do lists – one thing less to worry about!
What else should you be aware of?
- There are other threats facing your kids online. Keeping our kids safe online takes so much more than a default ‘safe’ setting. Nowadays, there are chat rooms, social networking sites and forums that all encourage kids to communicate in ways that fall outside the filter. For example, what happens if your child is over-sharing information or compromising their safety on what the filter considers to be a ‘safe site’?
- It’s not fool-proof. A filter is not a complete solution for protecting your child online. Time must be spent educating children about the potential risks they are exposed to online and how to handle these should they arise. It is important that you view the filter as a starting point and accompany education with additional security precautions.
- It’s not all about filters. While ‘opt out’ and other protective filters are a key part of protecting your child online there are other basic controls you can take ownership of. Most security software lets you set time limits of their surfing, add sites to a ‘blacklist’ or organize a specifically constrained device profile for them to use – all are great ways of monitoring where and what they can access.
How can I be sure my child is safe online?
The honest answer – you can only do so much. If you have all the necessary security measures in place, and have educated your child as fully as possible then you’re in the best possible position. As they get older you need to trust that they will make the right decisions, but in the meantime here’s my advice, one parent to another:
- Show an interest. You wouldn’t let your child out all day without asking where they had been, who they had been with and what they had done so why not ask similar questions to our child when they are tucked away with a laptop or computer?
- Be open. They’ll often follow suit. If you openly share your knowledge and insights they’re likely to share theirs. Make sure you know what’s going on in their world so you’re always one step ahead in protecting their privacy.
- Download the apps they are using. Most antivirus software products enable you to look at and manage the apps your kids are using. Take the time to look at what they’re doing – from here you can build a safe environment for them to use.
- Educate yourself. You don’t need to become an internet security expert, but it’s worth having a basic awareness of the potential threats, as well as other things your children may encounter online, and what you can do about them. With the right knowledge you can teach your child best practice too – our e-book (downloadable here) is a great place to start.
If you found this article useful, do let me know as we may be planning a mini-series of posts around this topic. If there is anything in particular you would like to know please do leave comments/questions below.