If you want to make sure your child is using the internet safely, a good start is to look at the kind of things our children are interested in, help them locate suitable sites (which you can bookmark as favourites) before looking at additional software, and browser functions to stop them stumbling across unsuitable sites.
Try to encourage them to share information with you and talk about the sites they've visited from the very first time they use the web; this helps to create a sense of security, respect and openness that they can continue to apply as their use of the web increases.
Outlined below are some of the potential problems that threaten internet safety for children:
1. Explicit websites
Even the most unassuming and innocent word when typed into a search engine can bring up results for websites full of inappropriate images. Without the appropriate parental controls, many of these websites can be seen freely by your children.
2. Inappropriate instructional websites
A simple homework or reserach task could give your child access to one of many 'how-to' style websites. While most of these are genuine and trustworthy, some are more sinister with details on how to construct weapons, conceal anorexia or how to make and take illegal drugs.
3. Online predators
The dangers of paedophiles posing as children in Internet chat rooms is well known, but children still put themselves at risk by giving out their personal details, either willingly or accidentally.
4. Cyber bullying
Online bullying is an increasing issue for children. Through the use of email, social media and forums, bullies can attack their targets with vicious messages.
This is when you receive an email that looks as if it's been sent by a genuine source, such as your bank or a well known website, but really they are seeking passwords, account numbers and personal details, leaving you prey to identity theft.
Otherwise known as malicious software, this often arrives via infected links and downloads. The types of viruses which can present themselves allow attackers unauthorised control over your computer and information.
7. Risk of committing a crime
Children may infringe copyright without even knowing. Downloading music and films are one of the most well known ways of breaking copyright, but also copying or using images or essays to use for homework could be breaking terms and conditions.
It can be hard to tell if an email or offer on a website is genuine or not. Something that sounds fantastic could be just an opportunity for someone unscrupulous to send you fake or poor quality goods that you've paid for at top quality prices. The worst case scenario could mean that your credit card details are taken and your bank account is emptied.
The main concern for parents is making sure children don't receive emails with explicit content, this can usually be resolved by adding the correct blocks to your email account to limit the amount of spam received.
10. Poor wireless security
Leaving your wireless connection unsecure, for example without a password or using a public connection, can leave you open to a number of threats. It is very easy for those with the knowledge to break into your system and help themselves to all the information you have on your computer, giving them access to your banking accounts and Internet history. Make sure you adopt the correct security with an unrecognisable network name and unguessable password.
How to protect yourself
In order to protect you and your family from the above threats, you will need to make sure you apply the correct security feautures to your computer:
Some browsers and search engines are designed to filter what results a child can get from a search, to make sure explicit material such as pornography doesn't make it through. These can also help block unwanted pop-ups and any specific types of websites.
Make sure you install a trustworthy and sufficient anti-virus software package. Do your research and talk to experts in computer shops who will be able to help you pick a package to suit your needs.
Make sure paswords for wireless connections, online accounts and other personal details are secure and changed regularly.
Never open suspicious emails or those from unknown sources, you can apply filters to your inbox that will protect you from these. See your email settings for specific filter options.
Talk to your children about internet safety and make them aware of the steps they should take when using the web. Also keep an open dialogue about their time online so that they are able to talk to you when issues arise, such as bullying or inappropriate behaviour.
Never download software or content you are unsure about. A reliable anti-virus software will be able to warn you when this is about to occur.
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Always remember this when you are presented with offers and competitions online.
Check the copyright of images and content you wish to use, there are plenty of free image websites that allow you to use images without breaching copyright or you could seek permission from the owner of the image.
Try to stay as private as possible on social media, keep phone numbers, personal details and comments about your personal life offline, e.g. do not share when you are away from your home or buying expensive products.
Always make sure your children know who they are talking to online — someone who may seem innocent may in fact be a predator. You cannot tell a person's age or any other details just from their online presence.