In our previous post, we talked about various threats children face online. In this post, we look at various online safety tools available to counter these threats.
Creating an account and protecting it with a password is the first and most basic safety measure we can take. This not only allows the application or the platform to identify your child as a unique person but also allows you to get the best out of the safety features available to you within those applications and platforms.
We need to educate our children not to share the passwords and also exercise good housekeeping skills by choosing strong passwords and changing the passwords on a regular basis.
There are two types: 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) and 3-Factor Authentication (3FA). As the names suggest they use two or three of the three authentication factors available.
Authentication factors classically fall into three categories:
- Knowledge factors – Usernames, IDs, passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) all fall into this category.
- Possession factors – One-Time Password tokens (OTP tokens) sent to your mobile, and key fobs that generate a token are the most popular.
- Inherence factors – Retina scans, iris scans, fingerprint scans, facial recognition, and voice recognition.
Where available, it is important to enable these features as they give an additional layer of protection to your child’s online accounts.
Most social media platforms, online games, browsers, chat rooms and applications offer some safety features that can help you manage access to age-appropriate content and protect the privacy of children. These include blocking, reporting and privacy settings. Some of these platforms also provide activity logs, timeline and tag reviews and tools to turn off location sharing.Managing who can see what from online accounts, should be the second step we as parents should take when setting up online accounts for our children.
Ratings provide concise and objective information about the content in films, videos, games and apps so parents can make informed choices. Organisations such as British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) work with on-demand services to give age ratings for video and game content available for downloading and streaming.
As parents, it is important to adhere to these ratings to protect children from potentially harmful or otherwise unsuitable content.
Also known as information filtering, use an inbuilt (in-app or broadband routers) or external programme (such as software or hardware parental controls) to screen and block inappropriate content a child can view, such as pornography, violence, gambling, and illegal drug information. Most social media platforms, online games, browsers, chat rooms and applications offer inbuilt content filtering tools. Also, it is important to set filters to block access to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks as they allow users to connect directly to each other’s computers to retrieve and swap files without the need for a server. They can contain tremendous amounts of inappropriate content.
Parental controls are a form of content filters. They can be used to block upsetting or harmful content and control in-app and online purchases. Most modern parental controls also come with tools to manage screen time, lock devices, monitor content downloaded to devices and track the location of your child’s mobile device.
There are two types of parental controls:
- Parental control software – protect the home network and the devices they are installed on
- Parental control hardware – protect the devices connected to the hardware unit
Parental controls are an important way to keep your child safe online. But they are network or device specific, not account specific so they don’t protect children if they log on to their social media, chat or online gaming account from a different network or device.
Internet Safety Education
Even with the best tools for internet safety, education plays a key role in setting boundaries and using technology in a way that’s right for them. To teach children to make better decisions online, we as parents need to be digital media savvy. There are many safety education resources available online from Google to Facebook and children’s charities such as NSPCC. Net Aware and UK Safer Internet Centre provide useful guides to popular sites, social networks, apps and games.
Close yet unintrusive supervision can also help:
- Watch out for any sites that sound inappropriate.
- You may notice the history has been cleared or deleted.
- Some children are selective when deleting files from the history.
- Excessive time online, especially at night, may indicate a problem.
- Chat rooms are often prowled by sexual predators. They also allow users to communicate via webcam and audio chat.
- Many multiplayer games also come equipped with live audio chat capabilities through which individuals can alter the sounds of their voice.
- Update the operating system regularly, install a firewall, install up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- We find that having a friendly discussion with the child also helps.
To recap, no tool is a substitute for parental supervision, and filters may not stop a determined child from bypassing them and accessing unsuitable content. Internet safety education plays a key role in keeping children safe online. There are a number of tools available to filter content, manage screen time and track children’s devices but they are network or device specific, not account specific.
Also, no matter how well children are educated about the dangers, they can be tricked into befriending an imposter or targeted by faceless malice. There is no way to verify who your child associates with, chat with, play games with, follow or being followed online. None of the social media sites, chat apps, chat rooms, games and browsers can verify who their users really are!
But, CAP is coming to fill that gap!