The potential of the internet is staggering; its potential as a means of finding information, shopping, socialising, relaxing and generally making our lives easier and richer. It has therefore become a perfect place for all of us, but particularly our children, to express ourselves and flourish. However, its potential also extends to those looking to illegally exploit the billions of us logging on, so it’s vital that we know how to protect our children whenever they’re online.
There are perhaps more risks that can potentially affect children when they’re online than adults, but on the other hand it should, in many respects, be easier to keep these risks at an arms length. In addition to the threats that adults encounter, children may also have to be protected from issues ranging from inappropriate content (such as ‘adult’ sites) to the more sinister threats that some other users pose younger individuals online.
A Safe Environment
Before allowing your child to access the internet, your first step should be to set up a controlled environment in which your child can get online. That might mean specifying the times of the day in which they can access the computer (some operating systems now have built in controls to help you with this) but should definitely include setting up a unique account for your child which can then be set to have only limited permissions - for example, not the ability to download and install new programs.
There is a forum for pretty much anything on the internet and that includes many subjects (and therefore much content) that would be inappropriate for young children to be exposed to. Ideally, as your child grows up you would want to educate them as to these dangers and encourage them to make their own sensible decisions when browsing the web, however it is also sensible to create a safe environment for them using parental controls so that they will not stumble into inappropriate areas by accident.
Parental controls can come in the form of special software or the built in functions in later versions of Windows and Mac OS which will allow you to specify which websites your children will be able to access as well as what activities they will be able to perform on your PC. It is worth spending some time familiarising yourself with these programs to ensure you create a safe but still rewarding environment for your child.
It is also worth keeping your browser up to date and ensuring that it is set to block pop up windows so that your children do not see anything they weren’t expecting to and setting your home page to a child friendly site so that they at least start browsing in a safe environment.
You can if you wish also install internet monitoring software which will track your child’s online activity if you have any concerns over what they might be seeing or doing.
Before anyone connects to the internet on your PC, you or your child, you should always ensure that you have taken steps to protect the computer against the threat of malware, or as they tend to be more commonly referred, viruses.
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