Has Santa delivered devices for your kids that might allow them to access the internet for the first time ever? Not sure how to handle it?
Kids going online can be a minefield of problems. They might access content that you don’t want them seeing. Or they could talk to strangers with terrible intentions. Or even get bullied by other kids they know.
It’s a good idea to set boundaries and expectations with your kids to start with – if you are going to allow them to use their devices to connect to the internet at all. Have a talk with them about the dangers of the online world, and establish house rules. What can they do online and what can’t they do? What sites are they allowed to use and what sites are forbidden? Who can they communicate with (for example, maybe they can have an email account to keep in touch with Nan in another state).
Monitor their activities and keep them accountable. For example, in my household, one of my daughters recently broke the house rules about internet usage twice. The first time, she got a warning. The second time, she had her tablet taken away and hasn’t earned my trust back sufficiently enough to have it returned. I have stressed that being allowed internet access requires me to trust them, and it is a privilege, not a right.
There are a variety of filters available that you can install on devices or on your router that will block different types of content such as pornography. Even if your child isn’t going looking for it, they still might click on something they shouldn’t, somewhere in the course of their browsing.
Here are specific steps you can take on common devices and operating systems to put boundaries on what your kids can access online:
When Using Windows…
If you are a Windows user and haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet, here’s a compelling reason to do so. If you use it, you have to use Microsoft’s family controls that are stored on the web. Go to account.microsoft.com/family and create an account if you don’t already have one. Once you are signed in, you will see an option to add a child to your digital family.
You’ll then have to enter an email address for your child or set one up. Once they have accepted their invite, they will appear on your family list where you can then apply limits about what they can access when they are signed in to a device that has Windows 10 on it.
The web interface lets you do all sorts of things from blocking websites, restricting apps and games on an age-level basis and even set limits on what times they can use particular computers.
You can also see everything your child has been up to online through the family web portal.
When Using OS X…
Apple doesn’t have a cloud-based interface like Windows for parental control. Everything is handled on the device that runs OS X. To enable parental controls, you need to go to System Preferences, click Users & Groups, unlock the dialog and then click the + symbol under the list of users. From the drop down menu, select “Managed with Parental Controls”.
You then need to fill out the rest of the details, and a new child account will be added to your Mac’s master list. You then tick “Enable Parental Controls” and click the “Open Parental Controls” button.
You are able to do things like disable the webcam, restrict the apps they can run, limit who they can communicate with in mail and restrict or allow websites. You can also set time limits and privacy settings and monitor their activities through the logs.
When Using IOS…
If your child is using an iPhone, iPod or iPad to access the internet, you can use parental controls on the device. These are known as Restrictions and they can prevent access to specific apps and features.
From the Settings icon on the screen, go to “General” then “Restrictions”. When you enable restrictions, you will need to create a passcode. It’s important not to forget the passcode because otherwise, you will need to erase or reset the device in the future to access it.
Go to Settings > General > Restrictions. Here, you can turn on or off restrictions for the listed apps and features.
When Using Chrome OS…
If you are running a device that uses Google’s cloud-based operating system Chrome, this is for you. You will need to sign out of your current account then click the menu button and choose “Add supervised user”. You’ll be prompted for a name and password for the new account.
Your child will be able to access their account from the Chrome OS login page. You’ll be able to manage what they can and cannot do from www.google.com/settings/chrome/manage.
The SafeSearch feature is set by default and the ability to install apps and extentions inside Chrome is also disabled.
You will be able to see all the sites your child is visiting and block access to specific websites if you want to.