Keyboard for computer with safety button highlighted in blue

Do you know how to protect your children online?

If you’re concerned about your child’s safety when online, there are several things you can do.

The rise of internet access in Ireland - both in the home and via mobile devices and tablets - has been swift, and it’s now seen very much as a household essential in most homes.

And, while access to the internet at the touch of a button is fantastic - and something most of us couldn’t live without - how can we make sure that our children aren’t exposed to inappropriate content when they’re online?

Today is Safer Internet Day - and new research from Switcher.ie has highlighted that four in five parents have serious concerns about their children’s internet usage.

So if you’re worried about the content that your children could potentially access online, what can you do?

Talk to your child about internet safety

The first thing to do is to speak to your child or children about how they spend their time online and find out how they use the internet to communicate with their friends.

Then, ensure they are aware that they should:

  • Only contact and reply to people they know offline;
  • Check with you before signing up for any online services or games so you can go through the form together; and
  • Check with you before uploading photographs - even if the pictures are not of their faces, sometimes landmarks, schools etc. can give away details about their location.

It may be helpful to put your home computer in a family room so you can monitor your child’s online activities, but if you don’t, there are other steps you can take to safeguard the internet in your home.

Setting up parental controls

Switcher.ie’s research found that almost three in five parents don’t use parental controls.

On top of educating your children about safe internet usage, you can also use parental controls on devices, websites, or your modem to block them from accessing certain types of content.

On smartphones, there are a variety of apps available that you can use to restrict the types of content that the device’s user can access - some of the most popular ones include Net Nanny, and Norton Family Parental Control.

However, it’s worth noting that for websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube there are quite nuanced settings available that you can set for individual accounts - so it’s worth checking these out when your child is creating their account and making sure you’re happy with how it is all set up.

In addition to these measures, most broadband providers now offer parental controls that you can set up at a router level - so they apply to every device in the home.

These are generally free, and will restrict access to websites that contain age inappropriate content - some even let you create a ‘whitelist’ of sites that can be accessed.

In addition, some parental controls allow you to limit the amount of time that a device has internet access per day, which could be useful if you want to ensure your child isn’t spending too much time online.

And others let you set age rating restrictions for devices accessing the internet, depending on time of day.

How to set up parental controls

How to go about activating parental controls will depend on your broadband provider, so the best bet is to check out their website or give them a call to see how to activate them in your home.

It should only take a few minutes, so it’s definitely worth it for peace of mind.

More information about making sure your children are safe online

The Safer Internet Day and Webwise websites have loads of resources for parents and schools that can help you to better understand how to work with your child to make sure they’re using the internet safely.