29 July 2021
How to help your children practice safe browsing
Using online resources is part of all our lives and children will often use search engines such as Google and Bing to find information. It is important to understand the enormous scale of content online and just the same as offline, some content will be inappropriate for children and young people to see.
There are currently between 1 and 1.5 billion websites on the internet and those sites can have multiple pages, sometimes in the thousands (e.g. Amazon). Hundreds of millions of images and videos are shared between users every day.
As parents, we want to keep our children as safe as possible. There are things we can do to keep them safer whilst still having access to the internet.
Keeping children safe during online activities isn’t that different to keeping them safe during offline ones. For example, we wouldn’t let a child into the swimming pool without taking steps to keep them safe. This might include armbands, a lifeguard, staying in the shallow end of the pool with you. Starting in a very safe environment, slowly learning skills, building confidence and knowing what to do if something goes wrong. Over time these things might be removed once we are confident that they have the appropriate skills. There is no age attached to this, it comes down to the comfort level of each parent in relation to aspects such as trust, skill and risk awareness, and there are some things which we would always keep in place no matter the age.
It’s helpful to follow the same idea as our children start to explore online; at a young age we keep them as safe as possible by only allowing a select number of websites they can go to; we are there with them whilst they are browsing and enjoying content. But as children grow older, they will want to explore more, they may need to use the internet for school purposes, but they’re also curious and want to learn new things; we can’t always be looking over their shoulder to check content. It’s important that we give them the appropriate tools so that their online experience is a positive one.
To help keep your children safe online, you can use technical tools (such as parental controls) and non-technical ways (such as talking to your child and keeping an eye on what they are doing).
Parental controls are a really important part of helping to keep children safe online. However, no tool is 100% effective or should be seen as the solution. It’s important to make use of technical tools as well as non-technical solutions like regular conversations and family agreements.
What might be okay for one child might not be okay for another: children are different, families are different, we have individual preferences. It is important for families to review settings and make sure they have the right ones in pace for their family – every family is different.
Tips for Parents
- Keep the conversation going, talk about what is OK to search for and let your child know that there is unsuitable content on the internet, so to tell you if they see something which upsets or worries them and assure your child they won’t get into trouble.
- Let your child know what actions you would like them to take if they see something they aren’t sure about, but keep it simple:
- Turn off the computer monitor (not the computer), lock the screen on their phone or tablet, or turn it face down.
- Come and tell you.
- Explore the options that are available to filter content from your broadband provider.
- Consider using a child-friendly web browser and talk about whether you should click on links if they aren’t sure what they are or haven’t clicked on before.
- Ensure your child is only using online services that are appropriate to their age. You can check age ratings of apps, sites and games on our reviews.
There are different types of parental controls that you can use:
Most broadband companies provide you with free safety filters on your internet which can be tailored to your individual requirements. They are all easy to use and set up. Filtering options are often split into categories such as gaming, social media, adult, gambling etc and can be tailored to your own requirements. For more information from the more popular broadband providers:
A kid-friendly web browser is designed to protect kids online by limiting access to specific types of content, such as adult pages or violent content. There are a number of child-friendly web browsers such as:
Kid-friendly web browsers can help to reduce risk, but remember that if they switched to a normal browser they could access inappropriate content so you should be around to see what they are doing.
All mobile providers offer free parental controls to help limit what a child can see on their device. If you didn’t when you purchased it, make sure to contact your provider and ask for adult filters to be turned on as these aren’t always set up automatically.
Remember to review settings occasionally to check that they are still working for your family, especially if you have given your child one of your old devices.
What should you do if your child see’s inappropriate content online?
If your child does see something inappropriate online, stay calm and follow our tips on how to handle it and prevent it happening again.
Many children are taught in school to turn the monitor (not the computer) off, lock the screen or if using a phone or tablet to just turn it face down and tell an appropriate adult so that the content can be checked. This is a very good approach and it’s important that you talk to your child about this. Reassure your child that they won’t get into trouble, to not get angry or look shocked in front of your child and to praise them if they do tell you. You can find more tips here.
Remember to keep the conversations open with your child and review any settings or agreements you have in place as your children and your family change over time.