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How To Protect Your Children Online

Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet can seem a daunting task. By following a few basic guidelines you can help protect and educate your children.

Know about the Internet

The Internet is an immense resource that can be used for good and bad. It's important to know what you are up against so understanding what the Internet can offer and what your children are likely to use will put you in a better position to advise them. Courses may be available in your area or online which can teach you more about the Internet and help you guide your children's use.

Talk to your children

The most important thing you can do to protect your children online is to educate and talk to them about Internet safety. They should know that they can always come to you if they have a concern or question and should not be embarrassed to ask.

Ask them what they do on the Internet and what kind of websites they use.

If your children use chat rooms and instant messaging make sure they know the people they are talking to might not be who they say they are and they should not meet people they have met online without talking to you first or share personal information with them.

'Social networking' sites (such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo) are very popular among teens to keep in touch with friends. These sites may encourage children to give out personal information, but do also have privacy settings to ensure that your profile can only be viewed by people you know, and parents should encourage the use of this.

When educating your children you should not just make them aware of inappropriate material and people on the Internet but also make sure they understand that they should not run applications they do not trust or give out personal information to people they do not know or trust.

Be watchful

You should locate their computers in living room or other communal areas to monitor their Internet activity, this is especially important for younger children, this will also enable you to better educate your children while they use the Internet.

You should also be concious of Internet access on mobile phones as this is a lot harder to monitor and most phones will come with some sort of Internet access.

Parental control software

Parental control software can be used to help protecting your children but should not be used on its own. As children get older, they are quite likely to find ways around parental control software, however for your younger children this can be helpful in preventing them from accidentally stumbling across inappropriate material.

Make sure the search engine your children are using has search filtering enabled:

Some broadband providers offer the option to run content filtering / parental control for your broadband connection and you may want to consider using a solution like this instead of software running on your computer.

You should also always run up-to date anti-virus software in the event your child does download a infected file. As this could comprise the security of your data.

Parental controls in Windows Vista

If you use Windows Vista, you will have access to some built in parental controls that will help you control how your children use the computer. These can allow you to set restrictions on web sites, games and other programs, as well as impose time limits.

The options for this can be found in Control Panel, then User Accounts. The settings can be applied on a per user basis so different settings can be applied for different users in the household. Click the images below for examples of the settings that can be used.

Full instructions on how to use these features are available from Microsoft.

Find out more

There is a wealth of information available online to help parents ensure their kids are safe online. Try the following sites as a start.

Ofcom - Managing Your Media
Get Safe Online

Internet Filters and Parental Controls

Net Nanny
Cyber Patrol
Cyber Sitter