Here's how to keep your children safe online
The internet is stuffed full of great resources and activities for kids, but there’s a danger they’ll find and do things which aren’t so wholesome. We continue our feature below, showing you how to keep your children safe online.
What can you do?
The threats we just looked at on the last page may sound bad, but the good news is that you can prevent most of them happening without too much time, effort or money.
As we said right at the start, common sense plays a big part here. For a start, we’d recommend not allowing children to have their own PC or laptop in their room. Ideally, you’d have a family computer in the lounge (or whichever room you spend most of your time) with a screen that faces into the room.
This will discourage most inappropriate activities as it will be obvious what they’re up to even if you only glance in their direction.
The most important thing to do, of course, is to talk to each child and explain (in a way appropriate to their age) the dangers that the internet could pose to them, and why they can’t have a computer in their room.
Also, encourage them to tell you whenever they see anything that makes them uncomfortable or upsets them, or simply isn’t what they expected. You can delete inappropriate websites from your browser's history, and add the site's address to a parental control filter list (we'll come to this in a minute).
Also encourage them to tell you if they receive any threatening or frightening messages or emails - you can add the sender's address to the email program's blocked list.
You should also make it plain what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable online. That’s something only you can decide, but you can’t expect your kids to know they’re doing something wrong if you haven’t set any boundaries.
You might, for example, tell your child that they're not allowed to download files from a website without your permission first, nor share a file with anyone without your consent. You could also set rules about which online chat services are allowed, ban them from replying to unsolicited emails or signing up for free accounts without you first checking that it's ok.
Many people decide that they want to limit their children’s screen time, including TV, games consoles and using the internet. On a computer you can install programs – typically called parental control software – which can determine when the internet can be used. Usually, you’ll be able to choose blocks of time when internet access is allowed. For the rest of the time, it will be unavailable.
See also: How to choose parental control software
In order for parental controls to work, you'll need to give each child their own user account on the computer. Having individual accounts means you can apply certain rules to each child, according to their age.
Go to the Control Panel from Windows' Start menu, click on User Accounts and then Manage another account. You can then click 'Create a new account' and select Standard user rather than Administrator. This will prevent them from installing new programs and making other changes to the computer. Make sure each account has a password.
Windows 7 has built-in parental controls, which are useful to some extent, but they can’t restrict internet access to certain times of the day.
What you can do is restrict how many hours your child can use the computer, which games they can or can’t play (according to age rating or game name) and which programs they can or can’t run.
In Windows 8, parental control features have been beefed up and renamed Family Safety. When you create a standard user account in Windows 8, you're given the option to enable or disable this feature.
Family Safety is considerably better than what you get in Windows 7. For a start, you can control both the number of hours the child can use the computer as well as full control over when they can use it - you can select different times for individual days of the week. You can also remotely monitor the child's activity, as well as remotely changing settings via the Family Safety website.
The good news for Windows 7 users is that you can download Family Safety as part of the Windows Live package. It allows you to block or allow certain websites, manage who your child can contact via Windows Live apps and view activity reports.
Next page: enabling parental controls in popular browsers and other apps