It’s the start of the school year again, so you’re probably giving your kid the same old tips – be careful when crossing the street, don’t talk to strangers, don’t run with scissors, etc. But have you realized how much time they spend on the internet? Has it crossed your mind that your children can be exposed to great dangers while using it?

A study from 2016 discovered that 1 in 3 internet users was an underage child. Another survey from the same year indicated that the number of 3 to 4-year-old kids using the internet at home doubled between 2010 and 2015 (from 19% up to 39%). The overall numbers show that kids aged 1 to 10 accounted for the most growth in internet use.

As a parent, it’s important to get familiar with all the hidden online dangers and cybersecurity risks children can face. This article focuses on this rapidly growing internet user age group (1 to 10) and the security issues that relate to it.

Check our infographic about internet safety for kids to learn how parental controls come into the picture.

internet safety for kids infographic


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Why parental controls are crucial

First off, let us introduce you to the possible dangers a child might be exposed to while using a smartphone, tablet, or computer:

  • Watching inappropriate, explicit, or violent videos (e.g., on YouTube)
  • Clicking potentially harmful third-party ads, for example, pop-up and in-game ads, which may result in:
    • Installing unwanted or dangerous third-party programs that can allow cybercriminals to spy on your kids’ online activities and steal sensitive information
    • Leaking personally-identifiable data to scammers and cybercriminals
  • Exposure to inappropriate, dangerous, or even life-threatening online games and challenges like the Blue Whale and Momo. These can trick, force, or threaten kids to perform certain tasks, or else, something bad will happen to them, their friends, or family members. To mention the worst case scenario such exposures might result in, there have been several suicide cases linked to such “games”.

Let’s see what kinds of parental controls you can apply to avoid these potential risks for the sake of your kids’ internet safety.

How to protect your children online?

#1 Educate your kids about online dangers

Internet Safety for children

Why do it

Your kids may not understand the potential risks of using the internet, and can thus cause harm to themselves, their friends, or family members.

How it works

You can’t start educating your kids early enough – they are born into a world where the virtual seems more occupied than the real. Showing a good example of internet ethics from the very beginning is a good way to start.

Once your children are old enough to understand, you can explain the various risks on the internet, warn them about the “bad guys” out there engaged in cyberbullying, scamming, and emphasize why there have to be parental controls in place.

#2 Use a content filter and block websites

content filter for online safety

Why use it

Your kids may be introduced to inappropriate or dangerous web content, which could be offensive, frightening, or violent in nature, and have a bad influence on their development.

How it works

If you want to have control over what your kids can be exposed to while browsing the web, you can apply parental control tools, such as filters and content blockers. Some websites have parental control features, like the Safety Mode on YouTube, which ensures that your kids will not have access to inappropriate YouTube videos.

Filtering tools and internet safety apps like the Chrome Content Filter,  Net Nanny, Safe Eyes, Qustodio, and FamilyShield enable you to block access to domains or types of content, which, for example, match certain red flag keywords like hatred, pornography, and violence.

#3 Install a child-safe internet browser

safe internet browser - internet safety solution

Why use it

A kid’s browser or child-safe browser offers pre-approved games and websites only, with an option for you to edit the list by adding or removing access to certain content.

By using the same popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox, your kids may (even accidentally) have access to your browsing history or (if there’s no filtering tool configured) to potentially-harmful web content, including adult videos, violent games, and so on. This could have a bad psychological effect on small children.

How it works

Child-safe browsers, aka kid-safe or kid-friendly browsers, like KidRex, Maxthon, and KidSplorer, were designed to only allow your kids to access sites you have whitelisted. This gives you full control over the contents and websites your kids can see.

All you need to do is install one of these apps and configure it for the best safety possible.

#4 Lock specific apps away from kids

parental controls

Why use it

Even though you have set up content filtering, website blocking, or installed a child-safe browser, your kids can still easily launch other kinds of applications on your smartphone, tablet, or PC, including banking apps and social media apps. Of course, your children may have their own mobile devices, but even those can have apps you don’t want them to use.

It’s best to keep your small kids away from certain apps, such as online banking, Amazon, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media platforms. It is probably easier to lock the whole app than to use, for example, Snapchat parental controls.

How it works

If you’re using an Android smartphone, you can find free app lock software on Google Play. If you have an iPhone or another device with iOS, you can lock first-party Apple apps by editing your settings.

How to lock apps away from kids on Android

  • Download and install app lock software on your smartphone
  • Activate the app on the device
  • Tap the ‘Add’ button to load your app list
  • From the list of apps, select the ones you want to lock by tapping them
  • Set an app password or pattern lock 

How to lock apps away from kids on iOS

  • On your Home screen, go to ‘Settings’
  • Choose ‘General’
  • Scroll down to ‘Restrictions’ and tap the item
  • Tap ‘Enable restrictions’
  • Enter a Password and confirm it

This will unlock a bunch of options: blocking first-party apps, setting parental controls over content/media, and preventing changes to your privacy settings.

#5 Monitor or limit your kid’s gaming apps access

internet safety for kids and teens - lock games and apps

Why use it

If you don’t lock, monitor, or limit the gaming apps your kids can access, they could be presented with inappropriate content and violence that may prove harmful to their developing personality.

How it works

While there are lots of educational and fun games aimed at kids below 10, there are also ones you would never want your kids to see or experience. You might need to monitor the kind of gaming apps they can download from online app stores. It’s also useful to be wary of the different video game ratings to know which one is suitable for your children.

Alternatively, you can install a kid’s browser or child-safe browser, which offers pre-approved games and websites only.

Most modern devices like smartphones are equipped with parental controls. These controls enable you to block or limit the games your child can play based on, for example, the age rating.

Depending on the device, it’s also possible to set a time limit on how much your child can spend playing a game, limit in-game purchases, block internet access and location tracking/sharing. You might want to try specific time-limiters like Screen Time, which is a great app for Android and iOS to limit the time your kids can spend using certain apps.

Finally, creating a children’s account on your device is probably the best basis for game safety because it gives you full control over what your children can do online.

#6 Create a separate children’s account on your devices

separate child account

Why do it

If no parental controls are applied to lock certain apps and block access to content, your kids can still use apps they are not supposed to, which could result in exposure to inappropriate material or even security/technical issues like leaking information or locking the device.

How it works

If you want to be thorough, you may want to create a children’s account for your kids to limit: their overall access to the internet, the time they can spend using it, the applications, and files on the device they may use.

How to set up parental controls on Windows 10 (children’s account):

  • Open Settings > Accounts > Family & other people
  • Under “Your Family,” click the “Add a family member” icon
  • Pick the “Add a child” option
  • If your child doesn’t have an email address, click “The person I want to add doesn’t have an email address”. The wizard will help you create a Microsoft account.
  • Press “Confirm” and close the window.

For older versions of Windows, you can similarly set up a children’s account via the Control Panel.

How to create a children’s account on Mac:

  • Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Parental Controls
  • Go to add Manager and click on the lock icon and unlock it. You will then be prompted to enter an administrator password and name
  • Choose a user and enable Parental Controls

Fortunately, you can set up multiple users for your mobile devices as well.

You might leave your social media accounts signed in or perhaps your device has quick ways to access your banking details. Even worse, you may have sensitive photos and information stored on your drive.

These are good enough reasons to have separate accounts for your children.

How to create a children’s account on Android:

  • Go to Settings > Users & Accounts > Users > New User
  • Your device should ask whether you want to add a regular or restricted account
  • You’ll get a warning on what to expect from this profile – it’s like setting up a new device from scratch
  • Calls and messages are disabled on the profile by default. Hence, go to the admin account and jump into the Users menu. Tap the Gear icon next to the new user’s name and toggle the “Turn on phone calls and SMS” option

For an iPhone, you can opt to create a family account. You’ll need to create an Apple account for the kid. Then, add his/her Apple ID as a Family Member. Later, you need to set up some restrictions.

A children’s account is a very simple way to protect your kids on the digital highway, without having to change restrictions every time you want to go online on the same device.

#7 Use a VPN for online privacy and security

VPN for online privacy

Why do it

When your device connects to the web via an unsecured public WiFi hotspot, your kids and their online activity are simply not secure on the digital highway. Cybercriminals and online predators might be able to access all the content on the unprotected device, as well as use the built-in camera and mic to spy on whoever is using it.

How it works

To stop such exposure, it’s possible to use encrypted channels so that hackers can’t snoop on the user. This is when VPN solutions (Virtual Private Networking) come into the picture. Such a privacy service can scramble all the internet traffic and thus make it impossible for prying eyes to use it in any way.

Conclusion

Nobody doubts that the internet can open a world of fantastic possibilities for kids. Nevertheless, try to encourage your children to come to you whenever they experience any issue online, no matter how marginal it may appear to them.

But, most importantly, apply the above parental control tips for the best level of internet safety for your kids.

References:

National Center for Education Statistics

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

Global Kids Online

Child Development Institute

The Guardian

Science Daily