Keeping children safe online

If there are children in your family you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting them online.

With Christmas not long behind us and 2018 underway, now is the perfect time to review your household’s online security arrangements, especially if there are children in your family. If Santa has recently treated them with new tablet devices, phones and laptops, it’s important to remind children of how they can stay safe online as well as ensuring that the latest security updates are installed on all their devices.

Many children use the internet to play games, watch videos (YouTube Kids is a well-known favourite!), use social media and research topics to help with their homework. So, teaching them lessons about the risks could prove to be very valuable in the long term. If you haven’t thought about it already, maybe take a few minutes to brush up on your knowledge by reading our checklist below.

Teaching children to stay safe online - checklist

1) General risks
Children need to be made aware that using the internet comes with a range of risks – their actions are directly linked to their online safety and can even have an impact on your wallet. Talking openly and regularly to your child, sharing time on the internet together and setting family rules about using the internet are some of the best ways to help keep your children safe online. They need to know that the internet is a useful tool but that actions online can have repercussions. If you make this clear to them, in language they can understand, it’s an important first lesson.

2) Don’t trust that people are who they say they are
It’s easy for someone to create a false identity online. And, sadly, not everyone has good intentions. Have a rule with your children that they should never arrange to meet someone they have 'met' on the internet and to tell you immediately if they're worried about something (or someone) they encounter online.

3) Keep personal contact details private
Make sure your child understands never to give out personal details to anyone online, including phone numbers, email addresses, their home address, or anything relating to their age, school, friends or family.

4) Be careful when posting or sharing content
If you let your children post in chat rooms then it’s a good idea to check that the chat room is moderated. This means that a comment will be approved by an administrator before it’s posted for the world to see.

Encourage them to think about what they choose to post, reminding them that whatever they say could be around for a long time. The internet doesn’t easily forget – show them examples of recent celebrities whose old social media posts have come back to haunt them!

5) Friend requests
It’s important for children to understand that online security is more important than popularity contests, so they should keep their social media accounts private and only accept friend requests from people they know.

If possible, it’s also a good idea for you to become ‘friends’ with your child on social media, so you can see what they’re posting and who they’re connected to. This is a particularly good idea if you’re worried about who they’re speaking to or notice a change in behaviour.

6) Parental control settings
Parental controls are an important way to keep your child safe online. They can be used to block upsetting or harmful content, control in-app
purchases or manage how long your child spends online. Some even allow you to set up regular reports for your peace of mind. And the good news is that parental controls are really easy to set up.

Innocent searches sometimes reveal results that are not so innocent. So if you’re worried about what your child is searching for online, who they’re talking to or what they’re seeing, use parental controls. Most devices have some inbuilt control features and you can search for more tools online.

What to do if they’ve got any problems…

Make sure your children know to tell you if they have any issues online. You can then choose the right course of action to take, whether that’s just a case of reassuring them or checking for more information. In extremely rare cases, you may need to seek advice from Action Fraud, the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command), or by calling 101 to speak to the Police for non-emergency guidance.

It’s also worth checking with your children’s school to see what ‘internet security’ teaching they cover as part of the curriculum. More information for schools and parents is available at www.outofyourhands.com, which provides valuable resources for schools and students in key stages 2, 3, and 4.

Police Mutual is here for the Police family and your family. Keeping your personal data and information secure is as important to us as helping you with your financial, physical, and mental wellbeing. We have been trusted to support the Police Service and their finances for over 150 years and will continue to adapt to serve our members, meeting their needs in an ever-changing world.

Article published on 1 January 2018

James Heaney

About the author

James Heaney is a Marketing Manager in the Brand team, responsible for PR and advertising. He is based at the Lichfield office, and likes skiing and writing for children in his spare time.

Read more of James's articles