The internet is a vast and wonderful place but it is also a scary one when you are a parent. The seemingly endless and useful array of information at your fingertips can present a threat to the safety of your children. A simple spelling error can introduce your kids to a darker side of the web, but striking a balance between access and complete lockdown can be a challenge, especially if you are not tech-savvy.
Luckily, there are many ways you can childproof your computers, and you don’t need a tech degree to do it.
Childproofing computers effectively puts safeguards in place deep within the system. This way, if all your lectures about internet safety and the appropriate use of Google are ignored by a curious child, you can limit the damage. While you may not be able to prevent every piece of inappropriate media or every sketchy website from reaching your children, you might be surprised at just how much protection you can give your little ones online.
Start with web filtering. This lets you prevent a device from accessing specific sites. OpenDNS is one program that can help you do it for all the devices that connect to your home internet connection by going through the router, but there are others. Your internet provider may be able to help you set up this type of filtering too.
Remember Parental Controls
If you have a family computer, you may be able to leverage the family safety tools that are built into the operating system. Both Windows and Apple products have some parental controls built into the computer. These will let you limit certain websites as well as prevent downloads, limit computer time, and restrict access to certain apps. Choose the controls you would like, then set it and forget it. You can also log in and change permissions easily.
Limit User Accounts
Instead of sharing a single account on your computer, set up user accounts for each of your children and an administrator account for yourself. This account will act as the primary control for your system, so never give that password out. Next, set up user accounts for your kids. This lets them customize the background they see, store documents, and otherwise personalize their experience, but it also enables you to control what they can do on that computer.
Monitor Peer-to-Peer Sites
Spend time monitoring peer-to-peer sharing sites as well. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and more are common amongst kids. Make sure you know what they are sharing and who is interacting with them. One best practice is to require your children “friend” you with their accounts, or you can create a dummy account that they can friend (so that their friends won’t know it is you).
Check Downloads and History
Make sure to check the downloads and browsing histories for your kids as well. It only takes a few minutes to look at their search history, web page history, or download folder and verify that they haven’t done something inappropriate. In some cases, the issue isn’t finding that they went to a banned site but instead seeing that they are looking for specific content. Think of it as a teaching moment.
Invest in Identity Theft Protection
The most significant online risks to your child are not limited to individual sites. Without realizing it, your children may make themselves vulnerable to identity theft. Take steps early on to prevent this by subscribing to an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. This way, accidentally shared information, like a Social Security number or another personal detail, will not risk identity theft.
Protecting Your Family
Keeping your family safe online takes a few steps to set up, but it is an effort that is well worth it. After limiting certain websites, setting up user accounts, monitoring usage, and protecting the identities of you and your children, you can rest easy knowing that the whole family is safe. That piece of mind is priceless.