By Chelsea Hopkins, Social Media Manager, Fasthosts
The internet is a fast-changing world of information that allows kids to play, create, browse, and engage with different people from all corners of the globe. Although the access to information, entertainment, and connection it offers is vital to modern life, safeguarding kids’ online safety is crucial for their wellbeing, development, and future success in an increasingly digital world.
In the following guide, the experts at Fasthosts take a practical approach to online safety. They provide tailored advice and strategies to specific age groups, aiming to empower us with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions, and to help parents keep their kids secure on the web.
Know your parental controls
Parental controls are designed to manage your children’s online time, keep track of activity, and filter out inappropriate content. There are various ways to implement these controls:
- Internet provider – You can set up filters that block access to potentially harmful and inappropriate content on any device connected to your Wi-Fi network.
- Household devices – Most devices such as phones and tablets allow you to set up parental controls to limit screen time, control content, and block in-app purchases.
- Mobile operators – Filters can also be set up on mobile contracts for users under 18 which will block explicit content.
- Online services – Many online streaming services – such as Hulu and Netflix – offer a set of parameters where you can set passwords, maturity ratings, and manually block certain content from your child’s profile.
- Software – There’s plenty of software out there that allows you to monitor your home network, and the activity of each connected device.
- VPNs – Using a virtual private network adds an extra layer of security when browsing the web. A VPN – powered by a VPS – hides the user’s actual public IP address and secures traffic between the user’s device and the remote server.
As kids grow, the safety measures in place should adapt. That’s why it’s important to tackle online safety in a proactive way where a child’s age is taken into account. Below we have narrowed down the top tips for child online safety from 0 – 18 years old, classified by age range:
Preschooler: 0 – 5 yrs
If your preschooler doesn’t have their own device just yet, it’s likely that they’ll borrow from their parents or siblings to watch videos or play games. Here’s how to make sure your child is using these devices safely:
Keep it kid-friendly: Allow the usage of kid-friendly apps and websites that you have verified. Do your research beforehand.
Supervise: Not all video content is what it seems. Always try to be in the room or close by when your child is using the internet.
Monitor your child’s usage: Keep a close eye on your child’s device usage, especially if they’re accessing the internet. Better yet, use this time to go online with them where you can guide them and explore the digital world together.
Set boundaries: Set boundaries by establishing time limits. Use passwords on devices, apps, and online features to restrict access.
Educate: It’s never too early to teach about internet safety, so introduce healthy concepts like asking for permission, and seeking support.
Kindergarten: 5 – 6 yrs
Although a lot of the advice given in the previous step is relevant to this age group, when a child steps up to kindergarten, they may find more opportunities for independence and interaction with older peers.
Continue supervision: You will likely want to alter parental controls, potentially allowing this age group to access the internet for educational purposes with parental controls in place. Make sure to continue close supervision and education about healthy online safety habits.
Be available for support: The internet can be fun and exciting, but there can sometimes be scary or upsetting things out there. Encourage your children to put down their device and come to a trusted adult if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Elementary School: 6 – 11 yrs
As kids start becoming more independent, their use of devices and the internet will increase. Their online activities may change, including more communication with friends and peers, and venturing into the world of social media and video-sharing platforms.
Maintain supervision: Kids at this age will be wishing for more autonomy, but it’s still important to monitor their activity.
Teach safe browsing: Explain the basics of safe internet usage so that they know the risks to look out for.
Online etiquette: Educate them about being kind and respectful to others online, and never sharing personal information, especially any that could allude to identity and location.
Parental controls: Although some parental functions could start to be reduced, it’s a good idea to keep reviewing the current controls with open and honest discussions.
Middle School: 11 – 14 yrs
Transitioning to middle school is an important milestone in a child’s journey. It marks moving up to adolescence where they will be spending a significant amount of time online and interacting with peers.
Privacy settings: Encourage kids to be mindful about what they share and post online. Encourage privacy settings on social media platforms and other accounts.
Cyberbullying: Keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying. Educate your child on the dangers to look out for and the potential effects it can have on themselves and others. Reiterate that they never have to give in to pressure or other forms of online abuse. You should also become familiar with the signs that your child might be being bullied, such as becoming withdrawn, hiding their devices from your view, or giving up on favorite games.
Encourage communication: Create a safe space for open communication, let them know that if they ever come into contact with cyberbullying or become a victim of it themselves, to inform an adult.
Dangers of the internet: Encourage them to question the safety and credibility of the information and content they encounter online. Whether that be watching videos, or friend requests from strangers. Help them recognize the signs of legitimate websites as opposed to fake/misleading websites.
High School: 14 – 18 yrs
At this age, the internet is an integral part of their daily lives. Kids – or rather young adults – in this group will adapt quickly to new technology, and use it to communicate, create and post content, and socialize with their peers.
Online reputation: Strengthen their understanding of the value of their online reputation by emphasizing how their online decisions now may impact their future.
Keeping information private: Discuss the importance of critical thinking before they post, remaining mindful, and keeping personal details private.
Responsibility: Encourage independence and responsibility while ensuring that they understand that you are there for help and support. Continue to have regular check-ins with them about their online experiences.
Healthy habits: Stress the importance of a healthy balance between both online and offline activities.
Additional tips and info
Stranger danger: Always remind your children of stranger danger and to never accept a friend or message request from someone they don’t know – it simply isn’t worth the risk.
Cybersecurity: Teach them the importance of creating strong and unique passwords to keep their accounts secure.
Lead by example: Be a good role model for internet use. Show them how to be responsible online and demonstrate positive behavior to follow. This is especially important when it comes to social media usage, and healthy levels of screen time.
Internet safety is an ongoing conversation, remember to regularly revisit and reinforce these principles to keep your children safe online in our ever-evolving digital world.
About the Author
Chelsea Hopkins is the Social Media Manager of Fasthosts
Fasthosts has been a leading technology provider since 1999, offering secure UK data centres, 24/7 support and a highly successful reseller channel. Fasthosts provides everything web professionals need to power and manage their online space, including domains, web hosting, business-class email, dedicated servers, and a next-generation cloud platform. For more information, head to www.fasthosts.co. uk.