In today’s world, the Internet accompanies children everywhere. For some chores, children need the Internet to find out about a particular topic. Children and young people should take advantage of the positive offers of the digital world, but they should also be aware of the risks of the Internet and social media.
Especially the safety of children and teenagers on the Internet is a concern of many parents. In this article, you will get concrete advice on how to set up Internet access for children safely. We will go into detail about technical security, child and youth protection, and setting filters. You will also receive important information on how to protect your children’s personal data on the Internet.
Advice for parents on Internet safety
Young media users like to discover new content and websites on the Internet. To teach them how to use the Internet safely, some precautions should be taken in advance. These precautions can protect your children from danger on the Internet:
- Find out about the dangers and possibilities of the Internet in advance.
- Explore the media world together with your child and show interest
- Find out about your children’s surfing habits and agree on fixed surfing times
- Check available parental control apps at www.alertdino.com
- Inform your children about possible dangers and make clear the importance of protecting personal data.
- Select child-friendly offers and block dubious Internet sites
- Use the operating system to activate security settings and create a separate account for your children
- Install filtering software and a parental control program
- Signal to your children that if they encounter questionable content on the Internet, they can expect support from you
- Depending on the severity of the problematic content, you should report the violations to jugendschutz.net, for example
You can find out how to teach your child to use Internet-enabled devices responsibly and which rules on Internet use make sense in our article on how to use cell phones, tablets & laptops for children.
Secure PC and laptop
It is advisable to set up a separate user account for your children via the operating system of the PC or laptop. Depending on their age, you can provide this with certain restricted rights. Thus, among other things, the installation of programs can be prevented. As they get older, older children and teenagers know how to bypass parental controls, making it more difficult to control Internet use. For this reason, joint agreements regarding media use are becoming increasingly important.
In addition to classic protection programs such as virus protection and firewalls, your security precautions should also include protection programs for Internet browsers. With the help of certain software, your children can be protected on the Internet. Filtering software analyzes websites and blocks questionable and problematic Internet sites. These create a protected Internet space for your children. In so-called positive lists, also called whitelists, children and teenagers can only access websites that are listed as trustworthy. In contrast, negative lists or blacklists list Internet sites that are not suitable for the target group and deny children and young people access. On the Internet you can find child protection software for download:
- It opens only child-friendly Internet sites and is suitable for children up to 12 years.
- Parents Friend allows time limits on Internet use, has an individual blacklist with keywords and logs all Internet actions of your child.
- Parents Friend 2013 offers an overview of different whitelists and blacklists and a time limit, the cost of this software is 30 euros.
Protection of children and young people
The age recommendations of the respective websites, which can be set by the website operators with the aid of an age label, can be used as a guide to the individual content. Well-known instant messengers and Internet communities usually have an age recommendation from 14 years. Youth protection filters can be used to block unsuitable websites or to allow websites that have been checked. Due to different Internet services such as instant messenger and e-mail, youth protection filters cannot yet guarantee comprehensive technical protection. To date, the youth protection filters only refer to websites and block questionable content. To meet technical standards, the filters must be continuously developed and updated. Most of the youth protection filters work with a positive list from FragFinn. FragFinn is a children’s search engine on the Internet that has been designed especially for six- to twelve-year-old children and provides useful support for their first steps on the Internet.
To date, there is only one recognized youth protection program: JusProg. On the website Jugendschutzprogramm.de you can get the free version. Designed for Windows 7 and above, this program promotes the safety of children and young people on the Internet. In addition, the youth protection program reads the classified content by means of an age label and decides whether the Internet presence is suitable. In addition, the program is user-autonomous, so that individual Internet sites can be blocked or unblocked in deviation from the default settings. While the basic version is free of charge, a premium version offers additional options. Internet use can be limited in time and there is a filtering of content for advertising traps and rip-off sites, which consequently blocks these sites.
Searching safely on the Internet
In order for children and young people to be able to search the Internet safely, precautions should be taken in the Internet browser.
- Creating a child-friendly start page on the Internet
- You can set individual pages as the start page in the Internet browser – for example, http://desktop.meine-startseite.de/ offers the option of selecting certain topic boxes that link on to other children’s and youth sites or also contain current news suitable for children.
- Use of child search engines
- Children’s search engines can narrow down information suitable for children and report on current topics, offer free children’s games online and are particularly suitable for surfing beginners.
- Set security filters on Google and Bing
- Otherwise, you should set security filters on the classic search engines. Google, for example, offers the SafeSearch service, which prevents inappropriate results in search results.
For children, the website Internauten is suitable for informing them about these topics. For more child-friendly media suitable for children of different ages, see our article on websites and learning apps for children.
Protecting personal data
All Internet users unknowingly leave behind information and data on the net. The IP address, place of residence, date, time and which pages your children have visited before are read and stored with the so-called cookies. Although these can facilitate navigation, it can also lead to the disclosure of data to third parties. For this reason, it is recommended to either allow cookies only temporarily or to delete them after some time. The setting “Delete cookies after session ends” can also be selected in the browser options.
In general, it is advisable to publish as little information as possible on the net. This is because published data on the Internet of any kind is difficult to control and remains on the net – in line with the motto “the Internet never forgets”. Children in particular are often unaware that disclosing personal data can also entail negative risks. For example, your children may be contacted by strangers or for advertising purposes. Another risk factor is cyberbullying. Then it even goes so far that children and young people are deliberately bullied on the Internet. It is therefore advisable that you make your children aware of responsible handling of personal data on the Internet. In addition, you should set up a separate and impersonal e-mail address for your children. This should not be based on the children’s personal data.
Surfing safely with smartphones
Children often reach for their smartphones as soon as boredom sets in. For this reason, it is recommended that, in addition to the safety precautions on the PC, these are also set in the smartphone. For a child-friendly setting of the smartphone you should:
- activate the device’s own security settings.
- Activate the integrated child mode on the smartphone for small children.
- Do not store any payment information.
- Install a parental control app.
- Switch off location tracking.
- switch off the Internet function for small children and only use apps for children that can also be used offline.
Besides these settings, there are also additional device settings and tips for the individual operating systems on how to set parental controls for iOS and for Android. For iOS, automatic time limits can be set up in the device settings. You can also disable app installations and in-app purchases or secure them with a code.
With the help of an additional filter for content, you can also define which apps your children are allowed to install and use. For Android parental controls, passwords for app purchases can be set in the Play Store. A password-protected parental control setting can additionally prevent access to movies and apps that are not age-appropriate. However, these settings can also be deleted when resetting the Play Store app. Thus, these settings do not provide complete security. Younger children should only use this in the presence of their parents, if possible. Ad blocker apps can be used to prevent subscription traps disguised as ads, for example www.adblockplus.org.
Due to digitalization and the growing preoccupation with Internet-enabled devices, the Internet accompanies children and young people everywhere. Many parents are concerned with the question of how to make this medium safe for their children. With certain security settings, such as a parental control program and filter softwares, you can protect your children on the Internet. But despite all precautions, filters and safety settings can only support parental responsibility, not supplement it. The settings do not provide complete protection. For this reason, you should accompany your children in their Internet use and be a role model for them.