Staying Safe On-line

With the timely reminder of Safer Internet Day we thought we’d offer our own take on the subject.

There’s been quite a bit in the news recently about MP’s and the Prime Minister making demands on all UK Internet Providers ( ISP’s ) to either block pornographic images or you have to register to view them.   

The simple fact is; it will not work, not in the way they think. In a nutshell, it’s just headline grabbing posturing by people who just don’t understand how the Internet works.

You have to remember that nothing is ever 100% secure but this article is all about taking real steps to protecting your children.

The Chinese Government has spent a huge amount of money, time and effort trying to sensor what their people see, known as ‘ The Great Firewall of China ’ but lo and behold they get round it.  In fact it’s so easy to get round these blocks it makes the whole exercise a joke.  As a perfect example; the U.K. courts ordered the blocking of the Pirate Bay ( that infamous website for downloading copyrighted material illegally ) but 10 minutes search on the internet or YouTube will tell you how to get round it. And no, we’re not going to tell you how to do it.

That’s another point, are you going to block websites that tell you how get round the blocks? Where does it end? Now, let’s be clear, we’re in full agreement that kids should be protected from seeing the bad or inappropriate things on the internet but the truth is it’s down to you to protect them.

Our junior staff members ( currently aged 3 and 5 ) have their own laptop but it’s monitored. Now, the stock answer you tend come across: “ The kids know more that I do. It’s too complicated. I don’t understand the Internet or computers.”

BT Parental Controls

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Virgin Parental Controls

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Sorry that’s just an excuse and a lazy one at that!

It’s the same as buying your children computer games or films that are marked as 18 and it’s quite clear that little Johnny ( or Janey ) is only 12. It happens all the time, we’ve seen it firsthand.  We do accept the point that it can be confusing and technology moves so fast. If you are confused on what to do, it’s quite simple; ask

There’s an army of geeks, nerds and computer anoraks out there, you must know at least one of them.  Grab one and spend a little bit of time doing some research on the internet ( of all places ) and you’ll find a mountain of advice and support.  A significant amount is from very well qualified or even government sources.

This site is a great starting point:

We don’t want you to be too worried, overall the Internet is a great thing that has radically changed all our lives and will continue to do so.  That being the case you need arm yourself with the right kind of information and it’s not as hard as you think. Ok, so to help you on your way we’re going to give you a couple of our tips.

  • Keep the computer in plain sight.  A communal computer in the living room much easier to keep an eye on. This is not a problem with small children, much harder with sulky teens, but we’ll come to that.
  • Talk to them. This can be a tricky subject, but kids have to realise that’s there’s good and bad on the internet and that they can come and talk to you.  The recent headlines of cyber bullying and the tragic stories of people taking their own lives over comments from vile people on the internet means that talking about this is more important than ever.  There are far better qualified resources out there on how to tackle this topic
  • One key message you can get across: Once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever. Post, tweets. pics, emails, images and anything you do electronically
  • Too many people are learning the hard way about ‘social media mistakes’ and it can come back to bite them.
  • Another key message; don’t believe everything you see on the Internet. It’s so easy to create fake email address, fake profiles / people and fake information.
  • If you do decide to let your teenagers use social media, make sure you read up on how to use all the privacy settings that particular platform uses. Create your own account and make sure you are linked to your kids account so you can see what’s going on.

Facebook is going to be the biggie, so learn how to use it. Create your own account and ‘follow’ them on Facebook ( or keep it handy as a punishment ). A quick search on ‘How to make Facebook safe’ turns up a huge number of videos that could help.

Install some monitoring / blocking software

Sky Parental Controls

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TalkTalk Parental Controls

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There’s quite a few different parental control packages out there but as a starting point you could go and have a look at:

We tried and like it a lot. It’s free for home users and you can set different levels of protection.   There’s version for PC, MAC and Apple & Android devices, so that means you can install it on phone’s too. Handy when said ‘sulky teens’ are out and about and using public WiFI. McDonald’s being a prime example.  

Now let’s get a bit Geeky, how about setting up filtering via your router? Not many people know this but many routers ( that’s the box with the flashy lights that handles your internet ) allow you to block websites or specified ‘trigger’ words.   The first thing to do is have a good quality router, the ‘free’ router most ISP’s provide are pretty poor.

Go out and buy a good quality one, between £ 40-90 depending on features. There’s also the potential cost of getting someone to come and install it correctly and show you how to use the security features, but once it’s done, that’s it.  Netgear routers in particular have had Parental Control features for a number of years. 

So, now that you’ve had this plumbed in what does it actually mean? Well, simply put, any device that is connected to that router is blocked from any specified website or any sites containing words or phrases you’ve listed. 

Let’s be honest, this blog only really scratches the surface. We haven’t even touched on other devices, such as:

  • Apple Mac
  • Games Consoles
  • Mobile Phones 
  • Tablets

but don’t worry, there are resources and help out there. As we said earlier: ASK 

We really hope that you’ve found this blog useful and that you will go out there and make your children’s Internet use fun but safe.