The internet can be a valuable resource in raising kids. Used right, it can provide a wealth of information, quality entertainment, and can even foster stronger ties with friends and family. With smart appliances and homes on the rise, these interactions will continue to expand in scope.
As kids’ engagements with the internet become more and more frequent, it’s important to ensure that they remain protected from online threats, whether these come in the form of inappropriate content or malicious software. Here are five steps you can take to build up your kids’ online security.
Programs for Kids
There are a lot of online options that cater specifically to first-timers on the internet. Kid-friendly browsers and search engines are available for different age groups and on a variety of devices. These programs have less options for use and draw on highly restricted online databases in order to ensure a controlled, secure virtual environment.
There are also online resources to help kids figure out the internet. Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” project helps kids learn about online behavior. It also has a simple video game that helps them learn experientially.
When kid-friendly browsers become too restrictive, you can switch your kids to regular browsers—while keeping them safe using browser filters. While the most commonly used browsers have built-in settings, such as site blocking and search filters, they also have several options in the form of downloadable extensions. These rely on a mix of AI and online databases to provide more refined content filters.
If you’re worried about kids stumbling into danger outside your browser configurations, you can also apply broader safety measures. Most internet service providers (ISPs) have parental control options that you can configure along with the rest of your account specifics. Alternatively, you can use parental control software, which allows you to set limits on all of a device’s functions. Some involve monitoring and time-restriction tools on top of content filters.
Many content programs or services, such as Netflix, have kid-friendly options. In these cases, however, it’s best to avoid sites with user-generated content. YouTube, for example, has come under scrutiny because of the questionable filters for YouTube Kids.
General purpose antivirus software remains a solid choice for online safety. The malicious software it’s designed to combat can pose privacy risks or infiltrate your computer with spammy, often inappropriate content. Better still, antivirus programs can neutralize threats that were introduced before they’re installed, as well as those that come from offline sources, such as flash drives. They’re an excellent supplement to more specialized online security measures.
Virtual Private Networks
For a higher level of privacy protection, it’s best to use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt all communication coming into or going out of your computer, keeping it safe from anyone who might be trying to monitor you. This guarantees that any private or sensitive information—ranging from messages exchanged to account information logged—remains safe from prying eyes.