If you blinked and missed it, you may not have realised that it was Safer Internet Day the other day.
I didn't do anything special as I'm sure you didn't but it got me thinking about the safety precautions we have in place to keep our kids safe online.
As they're getting older they're getting curiouser and curiouser about the internet.
And it can be a great source of information for completing homework tasks.
Leaving the internet completely open and without controls though has to be a thing of the past in our household.
North Korea eat your heart out!
When we moved house we decided it was time to give fibre broadband a go.
And eventually we chose BT Infinity and I was pleased to discover they had a good handle on parental controls.
You can use the preset control levels that are light, moderate or strict or you can create your own.
I created a custom profile because non of the presets quite fit what I was looking for.
You can choose to suspend controls at specific times of the day - perhaps when the kids have gone to bed.
You can also set times of the day when distractions such as social media will be blocked in addition to your chosen filter level.
That way the kids can get their homework done without any annoying distractions.
Parental controls are great and everything but they fall down when it comes to search engines.
They'll stop your kids from accessing an inappropriate site but they won't hide anything you don't want them to see listed on a search engine.
So you have to make sure you also enable Safe Search if you're using Google Chrome or the equivalent in other browsers.
It's particularly relevant when it comes to image search because kids could see something they shouldn't very easily.
The easiest way to control their browsing on a PC I've found is to add a supervised Chrome profile.
It turns on Safe Search by default and you can child lock the account so they can't switch to another account.
My son got an android tablet for his birthday and it doesn't allow me to set up a restricted android profile for him.
It doesn't allow me to add a supervised Chrome profile either. It's a flaw that means I can't be sure he won't turn Safesearch off.
At the moment, I'm going on the assumption that he won't but I can't set him up his own Google account until he's 13.
So I have to trust him.
Just like it's not wise to give your kids unfettered access to search engines, the same goes for Youtube.
On a mobile phone or tablet you can swap Youtube for Youtube Kids which gives you a greater degree of safety.
I disabled the Youtube app on my son's tablet so that it doesn't appear on his apps list.
He may still be able to access Youtube via a search engine however.
I've turned on restricted mode on the browser version but there's no way for me to stop that from being turned off.
I suspect it comes down to the fact I can't set up the restricted android profile again.
I much prefer the way that Sony allow you to set up a kid's account on the Playstation from the age of seven.
It makes keeping kids safe online so much easier. I'm sure I could install an app to sort out all these restrictions.
It just seems a pain in the butt to have to install another app when you'd expect this sort of stuff to be built in.
Social Media Is Off Limits
Up to now, neither of my kids have had any interest in social media other than watching Youtube videos.
And I'd like to keep it that way for now. I know that the minimum age for most of the social media sites is 13.
Whilst I don't want them to miss out, I also think that 13 might even be too young for a social media account.
I'm thinking more like 16 would be an age I'd be comfortable for them to have one.
I'm not keen on setting up an account now and lying about their age either! I thought about it but it didn't sit quite right with me.
What would I be teaching my children about rules and more to the point about online safety?
No Online Chat
The threat of online grooming of my kids terrifies me.
To think that some old perv would be pretending to be a kid to entrap them is so creepy.
It's why I won't let me son use online chat even on Minecraft.
Luckily, he's not interested in it at the moment, although he's asked me what it means.
Some of his school friends play Minecraft. I'm sure eventually the day will come when he want to chat with them online.
I hope that day doesn't come any time soon.
If it means keeping my kids safe online, they'll just have to wait until they see them at school.
How Do You Go About Keeping Your Kids Safe Online?
Do you use parental controls? What about apps on mobile phones and tablets?
Do you let your kids use social media if they're under 13? Do you think it's safe for them to do that?
What about search engines? Do your kids use them and what safeguards do you have in place?
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