Even as we make our way back into the office and see our kids settle back into school, it’s evident that our reliance on the internet as a way to socialise, learn remotely and even attend appointments is here to stay.
But with all of this extra time online comes a need for parents to monitor how – and when, and why – their kids are using the internet. We know we should set rules, but what should they be?
“With these permanent lifestyle changes come a number of privacy, safety and digital health concerns for parents to contend with,” says digital expert and educator Michelle Dennis. “How can we keep our families safe online and manage screen time in a world reliant on technology? While 94% of parents recognise that protecting their child’s online safety is important, it’s common for us to feel ill-equipped to protect our children online.”
Fear not – here are a few ways to help your family stay safe and healthy when they’re online.
Turn off location settings
It’s no secret that your phone keeps tabs on your physical and digital movement, but this is equally true for your kids. Even one person in the household having their location settings on can put everyone else’s privacy at risk, so it’s good practice to disable this setting on all devices that are used by the family. It’s important for family privacy that location settings for all apps are turned off — including Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and others.
Be security aware
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) recommends parents familiarise themselves with the security functions of their mobiles and ensure they keep their software regularly updated, as phone manufacturers are constantly updating their operating system software to combat malware. It is also worth considering installing anti-virus software on your family’s smartphones if you think that you may potentially be at risk to ensure you are doing everything to protect your information and stop the possible scammers.
Set boundaries around what’s appropriate to be shared on social media
While social media can be a great way to stay connected with others, it’s important to remind your kids that whatever you post or share online can leave a permanent digital footprint. This is especially important for young people, who can often have a false sense of security when sharing and communicating online. Be sure to encourage your children to be wary of socialising or sharing personal information with anyone they haven’t met face-to-face before.
Use a private social media app
It can be confusing for kids when their parents lecture them on the need to be vigilant online yet themselves post masses of photos of their kids publicly. Research by private sharing app Momatu found that over one in five parents said they’ve had photos of their children on social media shared elsewhere without their consent, and over one in 10 have experienced negative comments posted on pictures of their kids. Despite this, 80% of parents still post photos of their children to social media. When it comes to family content, a private photo sharing app like Momatu is the safest option.
Monitor your children’s social media accounts
If you would like to allow your kids to have some privacy online, but still worry about various online threats or too much screen time, downloading an app designed to supervise, manage and protect their device use is a great solution. For example, Qustodio allows you to see how your child uses devices, apps and the web, and to easily set healthy limits to manage your child’s online experience. The app also contains powerful filtering technology which is automatically enabled to protect your child from harmful content, and is available on desktop and mobile, too.
Be on alert for impersonations
If you receive a call, text message, or email from an unknown number, consider not answering and do not provide any personal/financial identifying information if they request it over the phone. Avoid clicking on any links or open any attachments from any unknown senders, and remember that scammers can manipulate caller ID information – they often pretend to be someone you trust, like a charity, mobile service provider, government official, or even a family member. If you are worried, simply contact whoever the message claims to be directly by a number you know is theirs, and hang up if someone calls asking for personal information or money. Using caller protection apps are a helpful way to protect yourself against scam phone calls as they block the numbers and texts you want to avoid.
Protect your family’s personal information
Two-factor authentication is also a good way to build in an extra layer of security to control access to sensitive data as it double checks your identity first before letting you use a particular account, such as your email. Never give out personal details like your password, PIN, bank, or credit card details, in response to any unexpected text message, email, or phone call that you receive without first verifying the legitimacy of the request.
Be careful what you install
Do not install apps or software on your mobile unless they are from a trusted source such as Apple AppStore or Google Play and avoid unauthorised or “pirated” copies of software. Once downloaded, an app can gain access to the more sensitive and personal information on your phone, and creating an account via your Facebook login, allows these apps access to any public information on your profile. To safeguard your personal information, remember to regularly log into your Facebook account to check which apps have access to your profile and remove the ones that you no longer need. It is also important to be wary of apps or software attached to notifications that you were not expecting to receive as these can sometimes be scams.