Internet Safety For Kids should be on every parents mind. The Internet is an example of everything that is great and terrible about humans. On the one hand – a brilliant resource, on the other hand – a terrible danger. Your childs tablet or smartphone is a portal to the Internet, such portals require gatekeepers. But who is the gatekeeper – you, your child, anyone? How can you help protect your child from the dangerous elements of the Internet?
The first thing is to recognise the dangers and inform yourself how to mitigate them. Good job, you’re doing that right now. There are a number of things YOU CAN DO to reduce the risks to your child, and I’ll describe them here. Note, this isn’t a How-To guide, with 1000’s of devices out there that’s an impossible task. But you will find out what YOU CAN DO:
1) Disable Internet Access
This is the most extreme case. The smart device will effectively become a dumb terminal. It’s designed to be a connected device, but with no internet access there’ll be no email, twiiter, facebook, etc. You can disable internet access on the device itself, whether via wifi or mobile network. See your device manual for details. With no internet connection, you won’t get updates to your Apps or your operating system. You can enable internet access and update the operating system and Apps, then disable internet access again.
2) Control Internet Access via your home router
If you’re a bit more tech savvy you can control internet access of the smart device using the settings on your home router. Many modern routers (and older ones) have the ability to control access to the internet using the MAC address (a unique number for every network device). You can setup the days and times that the device can access the internet – no surfing by gaslight! However, this can control internet access at your home, but not your childs friends house, or any WiFi network anywhere else in the world.
3) Safe Surfing with K9 Web Protection Browser
So you’ve given them internet access, how do you ensure they’re only looking at suitable websites? K9 web protection can help. Blue Coat Systems K9 Web Protection Browser (available on Google Play) allows you to configure which sites can be accessed – based on many categories of material (see K9 Web Protection Browser for more info).
4) Malware, Missing Device or worse Missing Child
Another must-install app is Lookout Security & Antivirus. The Free Version provides Security & Antivirus, Find My Phone, and Backup & Restore capability. I don’t use the Backup & Restore feature because I use the one provided by Google Contacts. The Premium version also includes a Safe Browsing feature. So if your device is missing, you can find it using the Find My Phone feature, if your child is missing then just hope they’re somewhere near the device :-/
WARNING: There are apps out there that purport to be family monitors, call monitors etc. but they may be of questionable authenticity. Only install apps that you trust, have a quick read of this blog post: “Your Android Phone – Getting More Out Of It”
5) Registering with Google
To get the most out of your Android device you’ll want to register with Google, this will require a gmail account. Choose a username wisely, perhaps not something that identifies your child like their actual name. Remember it’s an email address, that opens up inward and outward communication. You can setup your childs gmail to forward all incoming email to another email address (one that you monitor). Depending on your childs age this is either prudent parenting or Big Brother. It’s your call. Google+ now requests that users use their real name and not a pseudonym, however this is being challenged in courts over privacy issues.
Be mindful if you are signing up for Google+, there is an option “Instant Upload” that will automatically upload all photos to the Google+ account. By default they should be uploaded to a private album in your Google+ account. But they’re stored on “the cloud” i.e. a computer server somewhere on the internet that you don’t control. You can disable “Instant Upload”.
You may be surprised at how much information you provide to websites by just loading their page. Do you know your IP address, your ISP, your OS and web browser? Look at the image —> When you accept the permissions Apps can access much much more.
6) Common Sense
You know your kids are resourceful, right? And they have resourceful friends, they can find ways to circumvent the precautions you’ve taken. The kids need to be informed about the dangers, if they’re able to recognise the dangers and deal with them your job is already done. There’s many things you can stop your kids doing, but learning isn’t one of them. One way or another, they will learn, hopefully they learn the right stuff.
If you have any further precautions or know of useful apps please provide info in the comments below.