How can parents help keep children safe online?

The safety of children on the internet has been called into question in recent weeks following a number of incidents that have raised concerns about the amount of harmful content online.

Internet companies are being pushed to do more to combat this but parents – even those with limited knowledge of social media – can also take steps to make them feel more comfortable about how their children use the internet.

Here is a look at a number of ways parents can help keep their children safe online.

– Use parental controls

Most internet-connected devices offer parental control systems but users can also choose to install their own.

Both iOS and Google offer features that enable parents to not only filter content but also set time limits on how long children can use certain apps.

For iOS devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, you can make use of the Screen Time feature to block certain apps, content types or functions.

On iOS 12, this can be done by going to settings and selecting Screen Time.

For Android, you can install the Family Link app from the Google Play Store.

Games consoles also support parental controls that can be set up manually – the UK Safer Internet Centre offers downloadable guides for different consoles on its website.

– Filtering content

Many internet service providers offer content filters, which can be used to block certain websites being accessed from specific devices via a home Wi-Fi network.

In some cases, this can also be used to set time limits.

Visit your service provider’s website for more details but it should be noted these features will only work while a device is connected to a home broadband network so additional steps will need to be taken to secure devices when being used outside the home.

– Understanding apps

Some concerns around social media can be better approached if parents know how the various platforms operate.

Net Aware, a website run in partnership between the NSPCC and O2, offers a range of useful information about each social network, including guidance on minimum age requirements and the types of content usually shared on that platform.

– Talking to children

Many charities, including the NSPCC, stress that talking to children “openly and regularly” is the best way to keep them safe online.

Its website features a number of tips on how to start a conversation with children about using social media and the wider internet, including having parents visit sites with their children to learn about them together and discussing how to stay safe online and acting responsibly.

- Press Association

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