At Beano.com, we think the internet is pretty much the best playground there is. But, just like your local playground, the online world has its own scrubby bit where all the shifty looking types hide out. So how do you keep your kids safe on the cyber swings in the sunshine and away from the bench with all the rude graffiti on it?
First things first, get techy. Just as firewalls at work keep us focused on that v important spreadsheet and away from Facebook, you too can tinker with your network settings at home to keep the really nasty stuff away from your kids. Basically, you’re pulling up the drawbridge and preventing anything bad from entering your home. Log into your online account and navigate to the filters or web safe settings. Here, most providers offer you a choice of types of content to block as well as allowing you to specify websites that are strictly out of bounds.
Mobile networks have similar restrictions that you can set when your kids are out and about on their phones or tablets, but remember – this doesn’t prevent them from joining a wifi network and potentially accessing BAD STUFF that way.
So, what to do when your iPad ‘accidentally’ finds its way into a school bag for tonight’s playdate at little Johnny’s wifi-enabled house? Relax! Even if Johnny senior hasn’t made safe his network settings, you can stay one step ahead by adjusting your device settings to apply that safe filter wherever your tech ends up.
Can you prep a device to make sure one’s little darling remains Johnny-proof? Yes, you can. Belt and braces time – individual apps also have settings you can use to filter out the bad stuff, so make sure you regularly go through these and get toggle happy with the controls.
Great, so that’s that right? Before you dust off your hands and think your job here is done, there are a few more things to consider. Search engines don’t just show us what time the supermarket closes on Sunday or make you look like a god when answering homework questions. They were invented to trawl everything on the internet and present it back to us. While network filters prevent clicks through to dodgy sites, you can still search images on sites like Google and find mucky pics. Or so we’re told… Switch to a pre-filtered search engine instead, such as Google SafeSearch or try to get the kids used to search engines designed with them in mind, like Swiggle.
Time to switch device. You’ve made your smartphones, tablets and laptops safe – what about the gogglebox? Did your kids figure out how to enable your telly for web browsing before you? Yeah, brilliantly clever rascals aren’t they? Luckily, you can scupper their chances of accessing adult content on entertainment platforms like Netflix, iTunes and all the terrestrial broadcasters, just by setting up passwords or individually tailored profiles. (Just don’t forget your PIN or it’s pre-watershed entertainment only for you, too!)
Do you just want someone to do all of this for you and make it go away? We know the feeling. Someone buy Internet Matters a pint then, because their parental controls checklist tailors instructions according to what you and your kids use. Just click your providers, devices and apps and up pops step-by-step instructions that even the most tech-averse among us can follow. Easy peasy.
Devices and telly sorted – what about social media? While most platforms are 13+, it’s likely your kids might stumble onto a browser window you’ve left open while stalking old school friends on Facebook. Head into your account settings where you can opt for privacy levels that get rid of unsuitable adverts. Likewise, blocking pop-ups on your browser of choice is another easy way to keep things simple and safe.
But the main thing? Sorry, but kids and internet safety is no plug and play solution. You’re going to have to talk to them about this stuff, you will have to sit with them and listen to inane YouTubers, and you have to keep lines of communication open, so they feel safe and secure enough to talk to you when they do see the bad stuff. Because it will happen. Just like when they go for an explore over the other side of the playground. They’ll soon scurry back with a freaked out look on their face, happy to hold your hand and have a go on the zip wire instead.