Keeping kids safe online

Deep into the school summer holidays, many children will have chalked up much more time than usual on tablets, mobiles and computers.

Yet despite such a large chunk of children’s lives being spent online, a worrying proportion of parents have never bothered to set up parental controls on family technology.

More than a third of parents of four to 18-year-olds have no parental controls in place, according to a survey of 1,000 parents for Get Safe Online, an internet security awareness initiative set up by the Government, the National Crime Agency and Ofcom.

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In addition to some parents failing to use technology to help protect kids online, only half tell their children to steer clear of pop-ups or links online and a similar proportion tell their child what to do if approached by a stranger online.

In addition, less than half talk to their child about what to do if they’re bullied online.

Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, says: “Technology is now a given for children, but the online world changes so fast - we’ve seen that over the last few weeks with the mass uptake of Pokemon GO which now brings the online world into physical environments and a whole new set of risks. Our children are growing up to be extraordinarily tech-savvy, which does make it difficult for parents to keep control of what they’re doing online. And we can see that many are worried about the risks their kids face.”

Get Safe Online recommends parents take the following steps to protect their children online.

Talk regularly with your child about their online lives.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and rules for your children from a young age.

Try some of the technologies your child enjoys for yourself.

Talk to friends and family about how they keep their children safe online. Exchanging experiences can be valuable.

Use parental controls on computers, mobile devices and games consoles as well as privacy features on social networking sites and safety options on Google/other search engines. Opt into your ISP’s family filters.

Install reputable parental control software and apps to help ensure age-appropriate online activity and monitor your child’s internet usage

Stay aware of changes in your child’s behaviour or moods, as it may be a sign that your child is being bullied or abused online

Try not to rely purely on technology to keep your child safe online, instead use it to support you in setting the limits and building a dialogue with your child

Social networking and picture sharing sites have minimum age limits - find out what they are and make sure your child isn’t using age-inappropriate networks and apps