A recent survey by parenting site Netmums found that almost three in 10 parents let their youngsters use the internet without any restrictions or supervision.
While it’s great to allow children freedom, the internet can hold some dangers for children – especially those who have never been given any supervision or instruction on how to use it safely.
However, with these top eight tips, you can ensure that your children stay safe while they are online.
1. Don’t let younger kids surf alone.
You should always sit with primary-school aged children when they are online. Not only can you make sure they don’t access any inappropriate websites, but you can also answer any questions they have.
2. Use browser filters.
Most of the big search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo! allow you to modify their search functionality so that explicit material cannot get through. While they will definitely help your child surf more safely, no filter is 100% effective so make sure your children know to come and tell you if they see anything that upsets them.
3. Alternatively, use child-friendly search engines.
These filter out inappropriate websites and are easier for little ones to use. Try KidRex or KidsClick. If your children use the computer on a regular basis, you might want to consider making this your homepage - you can always navigate to your usual search engine when you are on the computer. .
4. Use parental controls software.
Most internet software providers also supply parental control software. These will allow you to set boundaries appropriate for your child’s age.
5. Make sure you have effective anti-virus software on your computer.
While it’s good to teach children about scam emails and websites, there’s still a chance they could click on an untrustworthy link. The appropriate anti-virus software will ensure that your computer won’t then be infected, or better still, it won’t allow anyone to access untrustworthy sites in the first place.
For more information on protecting your computer from viruses, read our how-to tech guide.
6. Talk to other parents
While you can protect your child in your home, it can be more difficult when your kids are online at friend’s houses. The best thing is to communicate with other parents – explain any concerns you have, plus share your tips on keeping your kids safe.
If your kids use mobile devices such as ipads or iphones, you can set these up to be child friendly so that no matter the internet connection, they are still protected.
7. Make sure your kids never register on a website until they’ve got your permission.
You could actually set up a family e-mail account that everyone can use for this purpose. That way you’ll be able to see what competitions they’ve entered or what websites they’ve registered for.
8. Teach your child to know what to do if something goes wrong.
For younger kids, it’s good to have this conversation while at the computer. You could ask them to show you their favourite websites and get them to tell you why they are safe. Perhaps you could see if they have any surfing tips to share with you as well – a two-way conversation will make much more impact than you just preaching to them!
Ask them as well how they would deal with finding a website that upsets them - who would they tell? Where would they go for help? Once they know these important basics, they’ll be able to deal with finding unsuitable websites.
Whatever their age, it’s important to regularly check in and see what they’ve been up to online. It doesn’t need to be a cross examination – for older kids, you could see if they can recommend some great sites for you to visit.