There can be no doubt that more children are now accessing the internet than ever before
The growing availability of internet-ready devices, and the increasing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook or YouTube have caused a dramatic increase in the numbers of young children accessing websites on a daily basis, and studies show that the majority now actually prefer playing online to more traditional pursuits, like watching TV. In this article, we’re going to look at how this prevalence of online activity can lead to dangers, and how you can keep children safe from them.
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Unfortunately, the internet isn’t necessarily the safest playground; it's very easy for people to anonymise themselves online, and there is a perception that online actions have no real-world repercussions. The more young children gravitate towards the internet, the more important proper cyber safety for kids becomes. Bullying, from peers and adults, is an ever present danger, and the sudden increase in the number of young children using open and public sites to chat has also attracted an elevated number of manipulative online predators - many of whom are very adept at disguising themselves, and befriending unsuspecting children.
It is possible to avoid most of these dangers by following some basic e-safety rules, revolving around helping your child to avoid potentially dangerous situations, protecting sensitive data, and limiting your child’s access to sites and/or content that could have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
By following the below guidelines, you can help your child to be safe online, and ensure that they are never bullied or groomed while trying to enjoy the multitude of highly beneficial content that’s available.
The most important thing to do when it comes to internet safety for kids, is to explain the relative dangers of using the internet to your child. Explaining that they may be targeted by bullies, that people do act negatively, and that they do have to exercise caution if they don’t want to be targeted will go a long way towards preparing them for the dangers that they may face. Even something as small as taking the time to explain that it isn’t sensible to share private information, such as your full name and address with a relative stranger, can be enough to help them avoid a potential dangerous situation once they are online.
Explaining that your child has the right to use the internet without feeling intimidated is also important - in an ideal scenario, your child would tell you whenever they were bullied, insulted or made to feel uncomfortable, and sitting them down to explain that this is the case will help to ensure that you can keep a handle on their experience.
Beyond helping your child to understand the dangers associated with the internet, you can also look into installing parental controls. These controls are normally offered by your internet service provider (ISP) and can be applied for the whole household; allowing you to choose what type of websites you allow your child to visit, and then having the router block access to other devices.
Some devices also have built-in parental controls which offer a more flexible option if you want to be able to browse freely on your own computer, but limit your child’s access to potentially harmful or damaging content.
It’s important to make sure that privacy settings are used to limit the amount of data your child can accidently share with predators or bullies. Most devices have privacy settings that allow you to do things like banning apps from sharing location data. Ensuring that you have selected the correct option can be the difference between your child remaining anonymous, and a bully being able to discover where they live. Many social networking sites such as Facebook have their own privacy settings too, so that you can keep your child’s account private.