The Covid-19 lockdown has seen home schooling become the norm, much to the distress of many parents, children and teachers struggling to manage a new and unfamiliar remote teaching experience. If you are lucky enough to have internet access at home, especially fibre internet connectivity with its stability and great bandwidth, the online learning experience becomes a lot easier and there is a plethora of excellent content to make your child’s education experience interactive, exciting and manageable.
Many children have access to a smart device of some sort – a phone, tablet or laptop – all connected to the internet. While online security has always been a concern for parents, the changed circumstances have amplified the need for greater security awareness not only on how much screen time children spend online, but most crucially, what they could be exposed to.
“As important and powerful as the internet is, and as fundamental as it is to our daily lives and tasks especially during lockdown, it also has a dark side. For any parent, the biggest concern is that children don’t have the necessary grasp of the privacy issues and any potential threats that could put them at risk. Cyber bullies, stalkers, hackers and wholly inappropriate content are also online unfortunately, so make sure you spend the time to educate your children about the risks, how to identify and avoid them before they happen, and that anything that makes them feel concerned or uncomfortable is cause for your immediate attention and intervention. Two of the most important aspects of protecting your child online come down to opening the lines of communication between you so that your child shares any concerns with you, and secondly, putting the necessary security and monitoring measures in place to keep them safer online,” explains Jacques de Villiers, Head of Fibre-to-the-Home of Metrofibre Networx.
Metrofibre Networx shares some handy tips on how to keep your child safe online while they embrace all the educational value and treasure that the net has to offer:
- Open cards and straight talk: Before you allow your child to access any digital platforms, have THE talk. Make sure that your children understand the risks and all the potential content that they could be exposed to, and what is appropriate and not appropriate. They should understand that the very same ‘stranger dangers’ that lurk in the real world, exist on the web too in many different formats. Make rules with your children such as never uploading or downloading photos of themselves or friends, never divulging any personal information whatsoever (age, gender, address and so on) and never talk to strangers online. Your children should always clear any downloads and apps to be installed on their devices with you first. Have an honest discussion and let them know that they can talk to you about anything that concerns them.
- Controlling online content and browsing: With the right online app and parental controls on your favourite browsers such as Google and Youtube, you can block inappropriate content and pop-up ads.
- Google has a child-friendly version – https://www.safesearchkids.com/ – not only is it a safe search engine specifically designed for children, but there is loads of excellent material for parents and children on how to keep safe online.
- Youtube kids provides a version of the service oriented towards children, with curated selections of content, parental control features, and filtering of videos. You will need to set this up on your child’s devices and manage the settings, so find out how on Youtube’s Parent Guide.
- Social media platforms are not intended for children and any participation of children that are younger will need express consent of a parent or guardian. Many platforms have introduced age restrictions which have been reinforced with the European Union’s introduction of its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 that set the age of 16 as the digital age of consent.
- Virtual assistants – Google assistant, Siri and Bixby could take a child to online places that they should not be. To restrict what path your smart device’s voice assistant will lead your child, read this simple tutorial.
- Monitoring apps – there are various parental monitoring apps that allow you to keep track of your child’s online behaviour and what they can access, and even set time limits. Qustudio, Net Nanny and Kaspersky Kids are just some examples, and will even send you notifications if your child ventures into searches that are blocked.
- Keep track of time – lockdown has exponentially increased the amount of time that children are spending online and onscreen. But that does not mean that they should have unfettered access as digital media addiction is a growing and serious reality. Set timetables or rosters for when they need to do their online schooling and classes, allow some leisure and play time, and then set clear times for screens to be off. There are many handy tools and apps that allow you to manage their online browsing and what they are able to access, as well as limit their online time with handy schedulers and parental controls – such as Net Nanny or Qustodio or Screentime. Many have free versions although the paid versions offer a lot more functionality, cover multiple devices and the annual plans are typically inexpensive and well worth the investment, and peace of mind!
- Virus and Malware Protection – just like any work laptop or device, make sure your child’s devices are protected from the usual threats posed by viruses, malware and spyware, and keep these up to date. Applications such as Kaspersky Total Security provides protection for the whole family from computer viruses, cryptolockers, protects payments encryption, secures passwords and blocks webcam spies.
At no time in our history have we ever been this reliant on internet connectivity to work, learn, play, connect and communicate. The Covid-19 lockdown has amplified our digital reliance in unimaginable ways. Giving your family and children the gift of fibre connectivity is a massive advantage in terms of the educational progress and ability to keep pace with the new remote learning realities, as well as access some of the incredible educational and recreational content that it holds. But with that gift comes the responsibilities of keeping your children safe online. Have the all-important talk with your children about the online world, and all its benefits and risks. If you need help with setting up the necessary security and safety measures for your home devices, invest in the services of an IT techie to advise you and help set everything up – it’s likely to be one of the best investments you can make in helping your family navigate their online journey and get the best out of your internet connection,” concludes Jacques.