12 tips to keep your kids safe online

The internet can be a dangerous place for children. Luckily, you don’t have to be a computer expert to keep your kids safe online. Follow these top tips.

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Half a decade ago parents didn’t have to worry about things like cyber bullying, strangers trying to chat to their children online or their kids stumbling upon something R-rated while browsing for funny cat videos. But times have changed, and so parents have to adapt.

How do you ensure your kids aren’t in harm’s way when online? How do you educate your kids to use the internet safely?

Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at security software company ESET Southern Africa, shares this advice for various age groups:

Under 5s

This is a tough age as children are so young.  Many parents may even feel that online security is not applicable to them. However, what happens during these formative years can have a huge impact on your kids for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, with technology being introduced from a young age, it’s essential you know how to keep your children safe.

  • Make sure your devices are password protected so that your children can’t accidentally go online when you are not there.
  • Invest in parental control software. This powerful technology is a real asset when it comes to safety.
  • Start talking about online safety and set boundaries.  For example, stress the importance of not talking to strangers online and set limits to device usage.

5-9-year-olds

Between the ages of five and nine, there is a decided shift in the way children view technology.

  • Continue with the previous tips, adjusting, for example, some of the settings on your parental control app.
  • Ensure that your children are accessing age-appropriate content (films, video games and apps).
  • If your children have their own devices, ensure that there are limits to what can be done on them or accessed.

9-12-year-olds

This age group is where children begin to develop their tech skills, as well as gain a better understanding of the internet. They know shortcuts, have favourite websites and are active on social media. It is also the age where children will start to query things and have a desire to take ownership and responsibility over their devices and what they view online.

  • Reinforce why you limit usage and why you have restrictions in place. It is not about control, but about safety and what you deem appropriate for their age.
  • Shift the focus of your conversation with your children to topics such as privacy and cybercrime.  Your kids are among the most vulnerable groups online.
  • Reiterate the importance of security. From passphrases to two-factor authentication and encryption, there are plenty of ways to stay protected.

13-16-year-olds

The teenage years are about give and take. As hard as it is to accept, your baby boy or girl is now a mature youngster, capable of looking after themselves and keen to be more independent.

Equally, on the flipside, they’re still young, dependent on you for many things and in need of constant guidance, as well as age-appropriate boundaries.

It’s essential that there is trust between both sides. This way, you as a parent, can feel confident about letting your kids get on with their lives, while not having to look over their shoulder constantly.

  • Your ongoing conversation with your kids will need to change and take on more adult topics. Things to bring up at this age are cyberbullying, sexting and the threat of online predators.
  • As you may have done with other aspects – like buying clothes and spending money on leisure activities – let them take control of things to do with the internet, such as apps, music or film purchases (setting limits, of course).
  • Point out that certain activities, which they may consider harmless, are in fact illegal. Brush up on your own knowledge of what is legal and what isn’t.

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