Internet & Device Safety Tips: How to Protect Your Family on Holiday
I have to be honest, I hadn’t given this topic a great deal of thought with a two-year-old and a five-year-old. But as their adeptness at negotiating a tablet improves, it won’t be too long before their skills outweigh mine! With my eldest now at school, and the power of social media ever growing, I realise that it would be prudent of me to start looking into how I can protect my children at home and on holiday.
Times have changed rapidly. As a child growing up in the UK, I had one of the last typewriting lessons just as ICT suites were being integrated into schools. Hardly any households owned a computer, and if they did it was in a central space where the whole family could use it. Now almost everyone has a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer of some sort which can be used anywhere. As children start to need tablets for homework, it becomes more difficult to ensure they visit appropriate websites and are not talking to strangers in the privacy of their bedroom.
Like many families, we have several devices and when a battery fails, the children will use my or my husband’s tablet or phone – meaning we need to think about security for all devices, not just the kids. Currently, we use different passwords and despite not telling the children what they are, my eldest has already worked out my husbands (he needs to get better at password security!).
Another concern of ours is how will we know who is contacting our daughters on social media and if they are who they say they are? Online grooming seems to raise its ugly head in the press every couple of months and frankly it scares me – it has to be very parent’s worst nightmare! Thankfully, the NSPCC has put pressure on the government, and police can now charge adults who send a sexual message to children in England and Wales. However, what about if you travel somewhere else or grooming begins on a holiday?
Laura Hitchcock from Have Kids, Can Travel touches on this too:
“We’re the opposite to most – totally unlimited screen time. We Home Educate, so it’s not just for their study, but it’s also their social lives and relaxing time too. Because of that we’re very careful about basic rules of safety and adjust parental controls according to their ages, but are very relaxed about tech usage. Obviously, they’re not at the screen from the minute they wake to the minute they sleep, but there are some days like that, mixed up with plenty of time outside and physical clubs/activities. There have been a few approaches by unsavoury sorts – my youngest (then 10-year-old son) was bought a £50 new release game by a random new ‘friend’ purporting to be a 12yr old boy. Another was when my then 7-year-old daughter figured out chat (before I realised), and spent an hour trading totally innocent (but easily misread) girly chat and song lyrics with what appeared to be a much older (and highly suspicious) person before I spotted it. However, she still stuck to the basic ground rules – no personal info was passed, no photographs (none of them had webcams at a young age for this reason) sent, and not added to any of her online accounts as a ‘friend’ without my permission. I’m a firm believer in them knowing the ground rules, knowing I’m the ultimate authority that can see what they’re doing online, and making it okay to chat to me, their dad or each other about everything that’s going on. And then it’s about trust and hope – much like the rest of their lives!”.
Suzy from Our Bucket List Lives shares similar concerns:
“It’s always on my mind as my boy gets older that he will want to be online more. Right now, I have him in a protective cocoon and he’s only allowed on learning apps and that’s it. It does worry me that he will want to go online more and more and one day join social channels. I really hope that there are more ways of protecting him by the time he gets to that age – I will have to set up security and parental control. Now he is learning to read and write so one day I will have to limit just what he can see. Even down to adult type posts on social channels.”
What about Wi-Fi?
When travelling, internet access is becoming more widely available on airplanes, which I’ve used. I am certainly guilty of picking up free Wi-Fi abroad too – but a niggle is … how secure is it? How secure is a hotel lobby’s internet and what information can they gain about me or my kids? What content will they be exposed to either by choice or by error? A further concern is purchasing of instore apps or other purchases. Again, we’ve all heard about young kids who racked up hundreds of pounds in bills without realising. At a young age, kids don’t really understand the concept and value of money, and no parent needs a frightful bill.
How can you protect your child online?
- Keep the lines of communication open. Schools will talk about internet safety too but make sure you reiterate that at home. Sarah Anthony from Savvy Surfer recommends “being honest with them about the dangers in an age-appropriate way, and teach them how to handle them”. With older children, show them how content can stay online forever, even if it is meant to be a temporary snap of life like Instagram Stories or Snapchat. She also adds, “teach them skills such as how to set up passwords and backup data – which all helps them to become tech-savvy”.
- Agree you need to be ‘friends’ on social media apps, not talking to random strangers. With younger children, be present in the same room and engage with the apps they are interacting with. Knowing how they work too can help you manage any future possible issues. Plus, some of the games are quite fun!
- Don’t announce detailed holiday plans on your social media, or communicate your home location. People are cunning and unless you have strict security settings on your posts, people can work out where you live from logos on school clothes, landmarks you visit frequently etc.
- If you have set a limit on the amount of time your kids are allowed on their devices, make sure that everyone knows the rules and expectations. When you are travelling, and if you relax these a bit, let them know this is an exception because they can’t go out and play outside.
- Another way to protect your devices is to use a product with extra security, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud. Up to 20 devices can be linked to the main account, with each customisable to your child’s age. Whether overseas or on the road locally, a secure VPN connection will be launched automatically if anything untoward is detected. You can also use the app to create alerts and be informed about your child’s internet usage – choosing to allow or deny access to websites. This links to my first point regarding lines of communication – knowing what safety or security issues crop up, means that you can tailor the conversation for your kids appropriately.
- Keri from Our Globetrotters suggests, “always check before you travel that kids iPads and devices are set to airplane mode to prevent accidental connection to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. And when you download new apps, test whether they are background refreshing or streaming off the internet – this saves nasty internet bill surprises or using up all your internet allowance in one hit! If your kids have discovered YouTube, make sure it’s YouTube Kids on their device. This comes with parental settings where you can set time limits, age and content restrictions – a much safer way to let them surf.”
Online security for kids is clearly an important topic, with risks that need to be discussed with our children too – so they can learn the dangers and how to avoid them too. Hopefully, these tips will help you be proactive and start thinking about what options are available to minimise risks at home and abroad. If you have any, please do let me know in the comments below.
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*This post is in collaboration with Kaspersky