The big bad web: Ensuring your child is safe online

The internet is a fantastic tool that has changed the world in many great ways; however, as with many things in life, the web has a sinister side. The unfortunate truth is that your child is never more than a few clicks away from content with adult themes, or sites with far more worrying motives.

Not only is ominous content a concern, but cyber bullying is a modern plague in our society, too.

Electronic devices and the rise of social media have allowed group bullying to become a common issue.

Therefore, as a parent, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the warning signs and offer support before your child has the courage to ask, since, so frequently, children struggle to trust anyone when the abuse is coming.

In order to ensure your child is never exposed to these dangers, here are some tips to bear in mind:

1. Monitor their online activity

Just as you would keep a careful eye on your child playing outside with friends and do your best to make sure he wasn’t taking unnecessary risks in the playground, you ought to do the same when he is on the web.

Even though it can seem tedious after looking at the millionth YouTube video, being by your child’s side is the best way to ensure he has a positive experience online. has produced a very comprehensive online safety guide that’s worth a read.

2. Make your expectations clear

Before your children start to use electronic devices to browse the internet, make your expectations clear to them. Determine how much time you want them to be online each day and which sites you find acceptable, by making it clear you can be sure there will be no misunderstandings.

This is also a good time to outline the potential consequences for breaking the rules.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to make a list of sites they are allowed to visit without permission and make it clear that if they want to visit any not on the list, they must seek your approval beforehand.

3. Educate them on privacy protection

In recent years, it’s been very apparent that many youths haven’t been aware of the consequences of revealing their personal information. Therefore, by teaching your children about the potential dangers, you can be assured that they will hopefully make the right choices. The best way to do this is to make it 100 percent clear that:

• They should never provide their personal details including name, address, password, or photographs without asking you first.

• They should never open or respond to e-mails from unknown e-mail addresses.

• They should never arrange to meet up with anyone online.

4. Take advantage of parental controls

Many parents begin researching for software to help keep their kids safe online without realizing their internet service provider probably already provides free parental control software. Some providers offer controls that allow you to restrict the access your child has to certain websites. They also allow you to filter by age, time, and category, ideal for busy parents who want some additional peace of mind.

5. Ensure your child can trust you

It’s important to let your child know that if she ever sees anything online that makes her feel uneasy, she can seek your support without prejudice. Of course, you need to ensure she knows the consequences for actively seeking out sites you don’t approve of. However, equally, she needs to know she can trust you to not overreact in the event that she stumbles on something by mistake. Therefore, reassure your children and make it clear that they can approach you in such events without fear of repercussions.

6. Restrict device use to an appropriate location

By isolating device use connected to the internet to an appropriate location, like the living room, you can easily monitor what your kids are up to on the web. It’s never a good idea to leave children unattended online; therefore, consider disconnecting the internet from computers in their room or places where it’s more difficult for you to monitor their online activity.

7. Consider limiting use to kid-friendly sites only

For young kids, it’s a good idea to limit the websites they can visit and only allow them to use those designed specifically with a child audience in mind. That way not only do you know they’re safer, but they are actually benefiting from content designed for them; some popular sites include Yahooligans, KidRex and FunBrain.

Judith McLean is a mother of four and an educator, who has written extensively on the topic of parenting. Find more of McLean at