Keeping New Christmas Devices Safe Online

As teenagers get to grips with their new electronic Christmas presents, police are offering advice to parents to keep their children safe online.

Ipads, smart phones, laptops, game consoles and other electronic devices are often given as gifts and parents are sometimes in the dark about how to make them as secure as possible for their children.

Cleveland Police has compiled some useful tips that parents can follow to ensure that the devices are made safe.

Detective Superintendent Alastair Simpson said: “Whilst the internet has become an integral and valuable part of daily life for most young people, we want them and their parents to be aware of the dangers, and simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risks. There are people out there who use the internet to target vulnerable young people to groom them for their own gratification. It’s good for parents to know that there are things they can do to try to ensure that these people can’t contact their children online and to ensure that young people are aware as they can be of the dangers.

“Our general advice to parents is to show an interest in the applications and sites used by their children, to promote open and honest conversations about what is happening in their ‘online’ lives and to give their children the confidence to disclose anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

“The critical message for children and young people is to ensure that you only give access to personal profiles to people that you know and trust, to avoid sharing personal information with strangers and to report anything which makes you feel uncomfortable.

“Anyone who is concerned about online activity or anyone who is a victim of abuse is asked to contact Cleveland Police on 101, contact Barnardos or Childline or use the ‘report’ buttons on social networking applications. All information will be dealt with sensitively and professionally.”

Tips to follow:

1. Parental controls are designed to help protect children from inappropriate content online. You can set up filters through your internet provider or mobile operator.

2. Look through the manual which came with the new device. It may contain some information on how to install parental controls. If not, type the name of the device plus parental controls into a search engine. This can help you to find how-to guides and useful video tutorials.

3. Sites such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube have them also.

4. Encourage your children to come to you if anything online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.

5. If you are unsure about what an application is, research it on the internet. Most applications will have an explanation on sites to give people an overview of what it can do and how it can be used.

6. Come to an agreement with your children as to which sites / applications are permissible and which are not.

7. Talk with your child about the dangers of giving out personal information, in particular addresses, phone numbers, school details, passwords or pictures, as these can be used against them and put them at risk.

8. Messenger services, such as MSN or Yahoo, can be set up to save chat history. Ensure the settings are on to save chat and read through your child’s conversations periodically, paying particular interest to anyone who is keen to move your child onto another social website / application that would be for private conversation.

9. Passwords to any social media sites should be kept by yourself, with the understanding from your child that you will periodically check it.

10. Become members of the same site as your children and be a linked friend or contact. You could choose to have a pseudonym to save any potential embarrassment to your child or be completely overt and use your own details.

11. Talk to your child about putting in a heading along the lines of ‘My Mum / Dad sometimes come on as me to check…’ on any social media account.

12. Every few weeks log on as your child on their accounts, making it clear that you are not them and are there to check.

13. Seriously question and investigate any web cam chats or file sharing systems your child is considering to use. The users of these are only electronically verified and anyone can join, even if they state they are just for children, with a number of Chat facilities requiring no profiles and providing complete anonymity.

14. Consider limiting the amount of friends your child has on social media sites such as Facebook dependent on their age.

15. Consider limiting your child to a small number of social media sites / applications that have been pre-agreed between you and your child.

16. Never let or encourage your child to meet anyone in person they have met online without your consent and without a responsible adult present.