Advice for a child safe internet usage environment

With ‘Safer Internet Day’ now a prominent date in the education calendar, independent price comparison and switching service, Switcher.ie, has compiled a selection of useful tips to help parents keep their children safe while online.

The annual event, which started as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004, is designed to make parents, teachers, children and the wider community more aware of internet safety and address the dangers and vulnerabilities faced by children on the world wide web. This year’s theme is ‘together for a better internet’.

Talk to your child about internet safety

The first and most important thing to do is to speak to your child or children about how they spend their time online and how they use the internet to communicate with their friends. You should also set out your expectations for their behaviour online.

If you don’t know where to start, check out Webwise, which has loads of tips on getting the conversation started. Google also has an online game called ‘Interland’, which teaches players all about internet safety, so that could be fun to go through together.

Don’t talk to strangers

This old adage still rings true - advise your child to only contact and reply to people they know offline.

Make sure you have agreed safety checks in place

Make an agreement with your child that they’ll check with you before signing up for any online services or games so you can go through the form together. Depending on their age, you may also want them to check with you before uploading photographs - even if the pictures are not of their faces, sometimes landmarks, schools etc. can give away details about their location.

Activate parental controls

Most broadband providers allow customers to install parental controls at a household level. These are generally free, and will restrict access to websites that contain age inappropriate content - some even let you create a ‘whitelist’ of sites that can be accessed. How to set up the parental controls will depend on your broadband provider, so the best bet is to check out their website or give them a call to see how to activate them in your home.

Install apps to control smartphone usage

There are a variety of smartphone apps available that you can use to restrict the types of content that the device’s user can access - some of the most popular ones include Net Nanny, and Norton Family Parental Control. For certain sites, like YouTube and Instagram, there are quite nuanced settings available that you can set for individual accounts, so be sure to check the settings when your child is setting up the account.

Manage a healthy amount of time online

Make sure that you’re happy with the amount of time your child is spending online - chatting with them about this and ensuring some time each day away from devices might be sufficient for you. However, if you need more help, some parental controls allow you to limit the amount of time that a device has internet access per day, which could be useful.

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