The topic of online safety can seem quite daunting, especially as a parent, who already has enough going on. Nevertheless, it’s important that you know how to keep you and your little one safe online.
This will not only keep you safe but also set a good example for your child as they grow up and use the internet more frequently.
This guide is a little lengthy so feel free to skip to the relevant bits or read a little and come back to where you left off using the handy contents links below to navigate.
In this guide we will cover:
1. Cyber Security – the technical bit to ensure your personal info is safe,
2. Social Media – all about using social media safely and responsibly,
3. Your little one – tips on screen time, talking to your child about online safety and parental controls,
4. Additional resources – useful articles with additional information.
Cyber security might sound scary and technical. But don’t worry - once you break it down into categories it’s actually quite simple!
By cyber security, we simply mean taking steps to protect your personal information.
You store more information online than you may realise. From your full name and email address (which are available publicly) all the way to more private information like your address and bank account details.
But don’t worry! There are several precautions you can take to ensure the personal bit is protected – let’s have a look at these now.
1. Use extra authentication
Some websites now offer multi-factor authentication to reduce the chance of unauthorised access. Typically, you will be emailed or texted a code that you have to enter alongside your password to enter your account.
Although this will require an extra step when logging in, it reduces the likelihood of an intruder being able to log in as you and having access to your information. So, we highly recommend doing this if the website you use gives you the option.
2. Be careful when you click
We’ve all seen an ad that says something along the lines of ‘Wow! I’ve lost 40lb’s just by eating this fruit!’ when browsing. As much as we wish it could be true, links like these are always fake.
These fake websites can threaten your device and the data on it. They can download malicious software onto your device if you visit them or click on a link.
They often look real or offer something too good to be true.
The other side of this is ‘clickjacking’ – fake links on social media pages that have been hacked.
You might have seen/received a message that says something along the lines of ‘look at this photo I just found of you!’ followed by a link. But these links usually lead to one of the following:
- Spam advertising,
- Malware planted on your device,
- Or it takes over your profile to post the same links.
3. Set a strong password
Setting a strong password and changing it periodically is so important in keeping your information safe. Unfortunately, Password1234 isn’t going to cut it in 2021.
Make sure you don’t use the same password on all websites – this just makes it easier for hackers to access all your information in one go.
If you need help remembering lots of passwords that change often, use password management software to store and enter these for you.
If this sounds a little complex you can find tips and additional information by clicking here.
4. Phishing emails
You may receive emails that look legitimate, from places such as your bank or social media websites. If you click on this link, you may even be taken to a website that looks legitimate.
This could be criminals trying to trick you into signing in, stealing your password and username.
If it does seem like something important you need to check on, your best bet is to not click on the link at all but to search for the web address of, for instance, your bank and enter your account through a browser rather than an email link.
You can also take a quick peek at the email address itself; often phishing emails will come through from an email address that looks a little off (such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or is totally random!
If you do notice a phishing email address it’s best to block them straight away to prevent it from happening in the future.
5. Use security software
Security software has been around forever so it may seem like it’s something for old computers and not for your brand-new device. But these can be very helpful for all of your devices, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or pc.
There are both paid and free software applications you can use which can help secure your device.
These will help detect any threats and delete them before they manage to do any real damage. You can find the legitimate ones by clicking here.
Social media is amazing! It’s a fabulous tool that can be used in countless ways. By social media, we’re referring to everything! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and even our communication platform Famly.
Unfortunately, social media can be (and often is) misused. From oversharing all the way to cyberbullying and inappropriate content.
This misuse can very quickly become an online safety issue, particularly when it concerns your little one. So, let’s drive straight in to see what we can do to stay safe!
1. To share or not to share
The first thing to remember is that the photos and information you (or your little one) share on social media are there to stay forever, even once deleted they will stay in the ‘digital sphere’.
That’s why it’s vital to ensure the content shared is thought through in the first place. Will you want all of these people to see this post? Will you be okay with this post being there in 5+ years? Is it appropriate to share this?
We recommend saving a post as a draft, waiting a short period of time, going back to it and seeing if you’re still happy to post the same content.
Another factor to consider it’s difficult to keep things private online. Even messages sent between friends can get passed on and accounts can get hacked. This means anything you say privately, or not, online has the potential to reach thousands of people.
Finally, as your little one gets older and begins using social media for themselves, they will look for a role model, so they know what good social media usage looks like.
As their caregiver, it’s important to be a positive role model in this stage, showing them what good social media usage is.
A quick disclaimer regarding sharing content before we go further:
It goes without saying but sharing explicit images of anyone underage is illegal, but did you know it’s still illegal even when it’s shared not maliciously or even accidentally? That’s why it’s important to review all photos before sending them via any social media platform.
Like any form of bullying, cyberbullying can be horrible. Cyberbullying can happen via text, email, social media, online games and more. It can consist of:
- Threats and intimidation,
- Harassment and stalking,
- Rejection and exclusion,
- Identify theft, hacking into social media accounts and impersonation,
- Publicly posting or sending on personal information about another person,
Unfortunately, it can happen at any time and to anyone. Whether that’s your little one on an online game or yourself on social media.
Knowing this, it’s important to take cyberbullying seriously in any capacity – use parental controls on games, block and report any bullies and make sure to talk to your little one about this should it ever occur (we’ve included a handy resource on this below).
As children become more active online at a younger age, the possibility and probability that they’ll see something inappropriate increases.
Whether it’s an explicit pop-up ad on a free game, videos showcasing children’s cartoon characters in adult situations, or a forum promoting negative behaviour. An innocent search can accidentally expose children to content that can make them feel upset and confused.
Tools like parental controls can negate this possibility and help protect your child from accessing inappropriate content (onto that later).
Unfortunately, you can’t control everything that pops up on the internet. To help them avoid it or cope with it after the fact, talking to your little one is important. Explain the situation or threat honestly and offer tips to avoid it happening in the future.
If your little one is younger and doesn’t quite understand yet, prevention is key. Before allowing them to play the game or watch a video, be sure to check it yourself and find alternatives if any content you’re unhappy with pops up.
Your little one
Your little one is a sponge. They will absorb the information they observe and that they are taught.
Therefore, it’s vital you teach your little one how to be safe online and to set limits to ensure they have a positive relationship with the digital space, to begin with.
But how does one talk to a toddler or pre-schooler about staying safe online? Can you really go into detail about the possible threats that lurk online? Let’s take a look!
1. Talking to your little one
Talking to your little one about online safety can feel daunting – the topics to cover can range massively but whether it’s discussing screen time or appropriate social media sharing, you should be open and honest with your little one.
Explaining that being safe online is just as important as being safe outside and positively reinforcing good behaviours with treats or fun stuff can be a good start.
For any rules, you set into place - if you explain the ‘why’ behind any rule, your child will be much more likely to follow it as they will understand it’s necessary/in place for their own good.
When your little one begins to form an online presence or even just watches YouTube videos or play games be sure to explain what they can and cannot do as well as why.
2. Setting parental controls
As a caregiver, you are always trying to do your best for your child. When it comes to video gaming or time spent online, it’s no different.
From deciding how much time your little one spends playing video games and how they can connect and interact with others online, to whether they can make in-game purchases and how much they can spend. You’re most likely just trying to navigate this in the best possible way.
That’s when parental controls come in. They can be a handy tool to set these restrictions, ensuring your child has these limits set in place automatically, allowing you to worry about the more important stuff.
Simply have a look at the games or devices settings, the parental controls should be pretty easy to find and navigate from there.
3. Controlling screen time
Parental controls can be a handy tool to set screen-time limits but how do we decide on these limits, to begin with?
Rather than just implementing a random sounding rule, discuss this with your little one to make a plan together.
Make sure they understand your concerns and agree together on a set of rules on when and how long for they can go online, as well as which sites they can visit (this discussion can vary on age but it’s still important to have early on).
Now onto some tips on deciding/discussing screen-time:
- It’s good to give your little one’s eyes half an hour’s rest from the screen before bed.
- Tell your child that you’re putting your mobile or tablet away too – younger children are more likely to mirror your actions.
- Try using Forest – an app that gives your child a great incentive to stay away from their screen. It lets them grow a forest full of trees and the longer they leave their device untouched, the bigger the forest grows.
That’s all from us! But don’t worry if you’re still looking for more information, we’ll leave you with additional resources to help you and your little one stay safe online.
Gaming guide for pre-schoolers – click here to read this resource.
Managing screen time, tips for discussing this with your child – click here to read this resource.
General online safety advice for 0-5 years – click here to read this resource.
Sharing tips for parents – click here to read this resource.
Promoting positive body image (these are some good tips for when they start using social media and are faced with perfectly filtered Instagram images) – click here to read this resource.
Guide to using social media and understanding your digital footprint – click here to read this resource.
NSPCC guide – click here to read this resource.
Childcare insights – click here to read this resource.
Talking to children about racism – click here to read this resource.
Password setting advice – click here for this resource.
Protection software info – click here for this resource.
Cyber Security tips – click here to read this resource.