Safer Internet Day: expert tips to keep children safe online

Help and advice on safe and secure internet browsing from those who know the industry best

Today (9 February 2021) is Safer Internet Day – an internationally-recognised event that’s all about promoting secure online activity, designed to make the internet a safer space for future generations.

Cyberspace can be a risky and challenging place to navigate , and keeping children safe when parents already have so much on their plates – from work to home schooling to managing general pandemic-related stress, and so on – is no easy feat. Recognising this, cybersecurity experts BullGuard have penned a series of age-appropriate tips to support safe web browsing and, hopefully, help give parents peace of mind.

“The internet is a great tool for exploration, education and communication, however, as law enforcement, cybersecurity companies, educators and child protection organisations will tell you, it can also be a minefield of misinformation and deception. In this digital world, it’s absolutely essential that children have the protection and guidance they need and hopefully these tips will go some way towards arming parents and carers with knowledge and tools to help guide them to safe online practises” – Nat Maple, CMO, BullGuard

Safer internet tips for up to 5 years old:

  • Establish passwords and PINs and keep them secret from your child
  • Always check the age recommendations before downloading apps, games, TV shows and films
  • Remember that using public WiFi leaves you vulnerable to hackers unless you have a virtual private network (VPN – hides your presence online and encrypts data) in place
  • If your child has their own personal device, such as a tablet, set the homepage to an age-appropriate website such as Amazon Kids or CBeebies
  • Share your tech rules and guidelines with grandparents, babysitters and other care providers

Safer internet tips for 6–9-year-olds:

  • Download reliable internet security software, complete with parental controls which allow you to block inappropriate content
  • Teach your children that they must not reveal any personal information about themselves online – including things like passwords, the name of their school or their home address
  • If your child asks to use an app, view certain content or use a new device (such as a smartphone or VR headset), always do a safety check (check privacy settings, for example) before saying yes

Safer internet tips for 10–12-year-olds:

  • Tell your child that it’s important to keep their devices secure and well-hidden when in public places to avoid the risk of theft or loss
  • Discuss what’s safe/appropriate content to post and share on the internet – here, you can introduce the concept of a ‘digital footprint’ that leaves traces of them online forever, even when content is deleted
  • Explain that being online doesn’t give them anonymity or protection, and that they shouldn’t do or participate in anything that they wouldn’t do face-to-face
  • Ensure that privacy settings have been applied to any social media profiles so strangers don’t have access to your child online, and make sure your kids understand the importance of not accepting friend requests from people they don’t know

Safer internet tips for 13 years and over:

  • You might be right in thinking that your child knows more about technology than you, so try to keep on top of the latest digital trends (games, social platforms, etc.) and discuss with your child what you know and what they are learning
  • Ask them about the kind of content they have seen online and explain the dangers they could be exposed to. They also need to comprehend the risk of sending compromising pictures of themselves to other people, as well as letting someone know when they receive such images or documents from anyone else – especially strangers
  • Talk openly and honestly to your child about how they explore issues related to the health, wellbeing and body image of themselves and others on the internet – they could come into contact with inaccurate or dangerous information online at a particularly vulnerable time in their development
  • Have open discussions about how your child behaves towards others, particularly in terms of what they post online, and ensure they’re aware of the potential repercussions and effects that hurtful/misleading posts or comments could have
  • Warn them of the dangers of behaviours such as sexting or other inappropriate use of webcams
  • Ensure your children always ask permission for access to your payment card or other financial information

And finally, the experts note that if your child possesses advanced technological knowledge, they could start to experiment with accessing confidential information from websites or companies. This, it’s important to emphasise, is hacking. If you think your child has this level of tech know-how, it’s imperative that you warn them of the dangers and legal implications of hacking, steering them instead towards more positive use of technology. You never know – it could prevent their involvement in accidental or intentional activity with criminal consequences later down the line.

You might also like: One in five passwords include company name, say cybersecurity experts


Leave a Reply