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How to Set up Safety Controls on the Internet for your Child

Find out how to keep your children safe while using the Internet with these top safety tips for parents.

The Internet has become an integral part of our lives in today’s fast paced technological world.

Many families across the country have a computer or two and it is no secret that the Internet is widely used for information, communicating and of course as a source of learning. The Internet can help children of all ages to learn more about practically everything.

Today’s children start using computers from a very young age and are increasingly using the Internet, too, whether it is at home, in school, on their mobile phones or via a games console.

But with areas of the online world given over to pornography, violence and misinformation on a number of topics, not to mention the perceived threat from online predators, it is imperative that parents set up Internet safety controls and help protect children and young people from unsuitable sites.

Just as you would keep your child safe in the real world – they need protecting in the virtual world too.

It is important to understand the internet to keep children safe from harm, but it is equally important to equip young ones with the skills they need to keep themselves safe, so they can experience the internet positively and responsibly.

Setting up Parental Controls

Most of the operating systems on computers, digital TVs, mobile phones and other devices that offer internet access may already include some parental control feature.

Windows XP

If you’re using the Windows XP operating system on your computer, it has very few parental control features built into it.

But you can set up a ‘Limited’ user account by going to ‘start’, click ‘control panel’ and then ‘user accounts’ and lastly clicking on ‘create account’.

This will restrict the user logged onto the computer from changing most of the computer settings and deleting important files. The best way to set up safeguards on an XP system is to install a third-party parental control tool which can be downloaded from secure sites such as K9 – recommended by the government and child protection authorities.

Windows 7 and Vista

If you are a Windows 7 or Vista user, set up the safety controls by clicking on ‘start’ then ‘control panel’ and the click ‘add or remove user accounts’.

Click on the ‘create new user account’ link and enter a name for the account and be sure to click on the ‘standard user’ box before pressing the ‘create account’ button.

Once you have created the new account click on the icon, and then on the ‘set up parental controls’ link on the left. Click on the user account icon again and check the box next to ‘on, enforce current settings’. This will allow you to customise specific settings.

There is a Time Limit to block or allow your account holder from using the computer at certain times of the day. By choosing Games you can specify whether the user is allowed to play games at all and also be able to block certain games by age, rating or title.

If you click the ‘allow and block specific programs’ button, it will limit which applications the user can run.

Vista users have two more options to choose when setting up the controls. The ‘activity reporting’ link will allow you to log and retrieve information about the account holder’s computer usage and the ‘windows vista web filter’ will let you block or allow internet content and downloads.

Windows 7 users can add these functions by downloading the live essentials pack from Microsoft.

Both system administrator accounts will need a password in order for the parental control to be effective.

Apple Mac Users

If you use an Apple Mac computer with Macintosh operating system it is has simple parental controls. Simply go to ‘Apple’, click on ‘system preferences’ then ‘accounts’ and then click on the plus (+) sign which is located on the bottom left and fill in the details for the account holder.

Be sure to select the ‘standard’ link from the new account dropdown menu at the top. Then click ‘done’ and tick the ‘enable parental controls’ in the accounts dialogue and press the Open Parental controls button. You can set up each element of the parental controls on the system, content, mail & ichat, time limits and logs individually.

Social Networking Sites

Communication and networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are increasingly growing in popularity and it is on sites such as these that children are often most at risk.

Social networking sites allow account users to create a personal profile, where users can build a webpage about themselves.

The page includes information such as name, contact details, address and location, birthday, photo and also allows users to ‘post’ or upload comments about them onto the page.

A good tip is to become familiar with the social networking sites your child might want to use or uses, including how the privacy settings work, and set them up together.

It is best to help your child understand why it is important to keep personal information private and restrict their account to people they know and trust. Be sure to keep up to date with the privacy settings, as they can change and need to be updated regularly.

Always ensure you have their login details too, so you can occasionally log on and check on their privacy settings. If you are on Facebook yourself, add your child to your friend’s list, too, so you can keep an eye on their wall activity.

Teaching Children Online Safety Requirements

Talking to your child about their activity online is much the same as keeping a close eye on their activities in the real world. You can have rules and boundaries and it is important to let your children know this. Rules could be about when and where they can access their social networking sites, whether they are allowed to post pictures of themselves online or if they are allowed to open new profiles or join other websites without talking with you first.

Reminding and reassuring your child that if anything happens that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, they can talk to you about it and that you will not get angry and will help them.

To report something that has happened online, visit the Child Exploitation and Protection Centre (CEPO)