Safer Internet Day 2019: Working with your children for a better online experience

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Beginning in 2004, Safer Internet Day (February 5) has grown to become one of the landmark events in the online safety calendar. And this year’s theme, “Together for a Better Internet,” summarizes many of the discussions we’re seeing around online safety and cybersecurity. The topic is too complex a minefield for any of us to bear sole responsibility for, so we need to work together to bring about the best possible future.

What does it mean to work together where online safety is concerned? It could be an IT security company working closely with parents to develop products, or parents and teachers working to ensure the online education of our young people.

But what about children themselves? We devote a lot of time to finding the right solutions and products to protect our kids online, but one day those kids will grow up and live without online parental control. We need to think about the best way to prepare them. “Together for a Better Internet” should mean working with our children to educate, inform and protect them so they learn to make the right decisions for themselves.

That’s not to say that software doesn’t play a crucial role, and ESET encourages all parents to take care when choosing the right parental control software on the family computer. We also advise involving your kids in the process. Talk them through the programs you’re installing and select your privacy settings together, discussing why you are doing it and the kinds of threats you’re protecting the family against. As part of this conversation, you can discuss what they’re doing online, who they’re talking to, and what kinds of things they need to be careful about.

Many kids see control settings on the internet as a block to having fun; what they need is someone to explain the reasoning behind the controls. By having this discussion, you’re giving your kids an element of control and responsibility over their online activities which—when paired with the rules and software we all need to protect ourselves—should produce better results when it comes to their internet education.

The internet is such an integral part of our lives that the earlier you start involving kids and teaching them about their online worlds, the better the results. Creating an open dialogue will always be more effective than just putting your foot down.

Set a good example: Whatever you expect your kids to do, make sure you are also doing. The online world represents dangers for everyone and we can all benefit from a few more precautions.

If you’re asking your kids to cover their webcam when they’re not using it, then make sure you do too. If you’re restricting their screen time, consider setting yourself some boundaries as well. With the damaging effects of too many screens on our health and well being, it’s unlikely to have any negative repercussions.

ESET’s internet security software, such as our ESET Parental Control for Android, places a large emphasis on parents and children working together. You can collaborate on navigating online, managing what apps and websites are accessible, and deciding what’s appropriate. The product includes age-based filters so you can easily set certain restrictions without imposing a total ban.

Other features include setting time limits on when children can play on their devices and creating exceptions that kids can request. You can even send your kids messages which they must acknowledge before they can continue to use their devices.

These kinds of elements allow children to be involved in the monitoring of their safety, and truly help parents work with their kids for a better internet and the best possible online world.