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BYOD 101: Online safety for beginners

Have you just bought your child their first device? Here’s what you need to know to keep them safe as they dive into the online world. By Sonia Speedy.

Our eldest daughter will be taking a shiny new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to school this year for the first time and she’s dead excited. She’s envisaging game playing on tap now, along with plenty of time ‘searching up’ stuff online. But we have other ideas….

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A new device opens the world up to kids in exciting ways. But we’re all aware of its dark side too – the online bullying, pornography, online grooming, and scams that can lurk there.  

Kids don’t necessarily understand that people may not be who they say they are online or may be trying to get information out of them for dodgy reasons. So it’s our job to teach them about it and make sure there is as strong an online safety net around them as possible.

This key information from Netsafe will help get you underway in preparing your child for the online world when they get their first device. Both Netsafe and Own Your Online offer loads of great support in this area.

Create a safe platform

  • Make sure the device you have is getting regular security updates and the operating system is up to date. Set the system preferences to update automatically so that any known security holes in software gets updated straight away. Make sure any outstanding operating system updates are installed too.
  • Use a long and strong password – one that doesn’t include any of the child’s personal details like date of birth, or any info that would be used in security questions.
  • Keep antivirus protection up to date.

Teach them good online hygiene

  • Make sure your child’s screen locks automatically and is always locked when they’re not using the device.
  • Teach them to only enable Bluetooth and WIFI when needed, rather than leaving it on permanently.
  • Make sure any games or apps that aren’t needed are uninstalled, such as games your child outgrows.
  • Make sure software is only downloaded from legitimate app stores and trusted websites.
  • Use adblockers so your child doesn’t click on anything dodgy.

Explain how they can keep themselves safe

  • Teach your child to be careful with their personal details – even things like which school they go to.
  • Explain that people may not be who they say they are online and so the child needs to be extra careful. This means taking care of who they friend or communicate with. Young kids particularly shouldn’t friend someone online they don’t know without talking to you first.
  • Check the privacy settings of apps your child uses – some will allow your location to be shared publicly or you can lock it down to just your friends.
  • Teach your child how to spot suspicious activity – like emails phishing for password details.
  • Make them aware of their digital footprint – that what they post online could follow them around indefinitely. Teach them to think twice about anything they share online.
  • Let them know that if they or a friend are targeted by online bullying or have any concerns online, they can come to you for help. And remind them that anything that is not OK in real life, is not OK online either.

Parental controls

Parental controls help to limit the online universe for kids, by excluding the bad stuff as much as possible. Keep It Real Online (another great resource for parents) describes three types of parental controls.

These are:  

  • Network controls – those on the hub or modem from your ISP (which will then apply to all devices connected in your household)
  • Device controls – set on the device itself – be it the laptop, the Chromebook, or the smartphone
  • Platform or application controls – set directly on the application settings such as YouTube, Google etc.

You can get more help on setting these up from Netsafe and Keep It Real Online. Another important resource to consider is Switch on Safety – a free filter parents can apply to their child’s device. It blocks unsafe websites such as scams, bad software, and content unsuitable for young eyes and was created by The Network for Learning, which is the government company responsible for filtering online content in schools. Installing this will help protect your child when not under the protection of school filters.

Read more about online safety >>

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