Protecting children’s identities online
Worrying about exactly what, or who, your child might come across when they’re using the internet is probably one of the top parenting concerns of the 21st century. There’s a huge variety of websites out there for them to enjoy but there is also a wealth of unsavoury characters looking to exploit them.
Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to online security; they are more naïve towards the dangers and their clean credit slate makes them an ideal target for identity theft.
This can often go unnoticed for years, until the child is old enough to apply for credit themselves, only to discover that somebody has already taken advantage of their details.
While it is near impossible to completely safeguard a child when they are let loose on the web, there are some easy things you can do to help them protect their online identity.
Set boundaries together
Firstly – and most importantly – have proper conversations with them about safe internet use: don’t just bark the rules at them. If they fully understand the dangers of giving out their personal information or accepting friend requests from people they don’t know then they are more likely to want to comply.
If they are old enough to use social media (most of these sites have a minimum age of 13, but often don’t have controls in place to stop kids lying about their age in order to sign up) then you can sit down together and go through the privacy settings. Disable the location services (and dissuade them from geotagging photos or putting up pictures that show their school, uniform or other identifying factors), make sure only their accepted friends can see what they post and remove as many details from their public profile as possible. You can also choose to remove their account from search results, so strangers can’t find them.
Creating your own account on these sites and connecting with your child is also a fairly effective way of keeping a check on who they are friends with.
Make use of ISP filters
One way of making sure your child isn’t accessing inappropriate websites is through your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) web filters (e.g. BT Parental Controls, Sky Broadband Shield, TalkTalk HomeSafe). This isn’t a legal requirement at the moment but most ISPs already include them to shelter children from some of the nasties online.
Each provider presents their filter in a different way: some offer pre-set groups, such as ‘Kid Safe’ that you can switch on, while others give you levels (‘Light’, ‘Moderate’, ‘Strict’ etc.) to choose from. Most ISPs will also give you the option of customising your filter to block or allow specific websites.
Don’t forget mobile devices
If your child has access to an iPad/tablet or smartphone then ensure that you utilise all the restrictions it has to stop them accessing inappropriate websites, apps and other functions as well as preventing them purchasing anything in the app store without your consent. In most cases you’ll find everything you need by going into Settings on the device.
For more information, use Broadband Genie’s guide to protecting your kids online.
Rosalind Brookman, Contributor at BroadbandGenie.co.uk