Looking back, it seemed that when I was a little girl ‘safety’ was a word that was mainly applied to crossing the road, stranger danger and kids being in the kitchen. Computers were just beginning to take off and the internet was unheard of. These days are very different. Children are growing up in an internet age, and using computers, laptops and tablets bring a very specific set of threats and dangers that parents have to be aware of, and in control of. For parents of teens, it is even more difficult, with the media full of stories of online bullying that has, in the most extreme cases, led to teenage suicides, assisted by images and posts on Facebook and Instagram.
We want our children to be able to use and enjoy the web, our everyday life is a mass of computer technology, and kids get so much fun and knowledge from computers, whether they are playing games, using Snapchat to talk to friends, or using them to research school projects. There are plenty of safety guides out there that give you information about how to use the internet safely and how to protect your information, and the scope of our internet use means that these range from info for pre-schoolers to older children, moving on to our tweens and teens who seem to spend most of their life online.
Here are a few things you need to be aware of if you have children and teens using the internet, whether on their Smart phones, tablets or computers.
Using a VPN
For teens in particular, torrenting is a key way to share and download files. It means that files can be shared amongst many different people, but it is not without risks. You need to be sure that your children are not torrenting any illegal material – i.e. something that is copywrited, but also that the files that are downloaded are not infected with a virus. You can prevent this by using a VPN (a virtual private network). The website Best VPN.com suggests NordVPN or Cyberghost as reliable networks.
The first rule of Facebook is that users should be 13 years old and older. Facebook is not a suitable site for youngsters, and they really shouldn’t be on there. If your 13 year old does want to make a Facebook account, you need to look carefully at the safety and privacy settings. Keep profile information just to friends, do not make this public, and make sure this includes videos, photos and posts.
You also need to keep your teens information from search lists so that strangers are not able to contact your child.
One of the most important aspects of Internet Safety, according to the Internet Matters site, is that you have an open dialogue with your children and teens about their time on the Internet. It is often simpler with your younger children, but don’t let embarrassment stop you talking to your teens about subjects like cyberbullying and pornography. If you feel that there might be an issue, talk about it.
But you also need to talk about appropriate behaviour from your children online. Trolling and abuse is not acceptable, but trolling can often come from youths, so you want to keep your child on the straight and narrow when it comes to their internet behaviour.