Teach your preschooler about online safety

Mrs Mario
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The internet may be one of the most exciting and versatile educational platforms in existence but it is still something of a security minefield. There are weirdoes and predators, viruses and malware, phishing and unsafe clicking to contend with.

Of course there aren’t predators lurking behind every firewall but the risks are not worth taking. They just aren’t. So before you unleash your children on the internet there are some things that you need to do to ensure that they are safe online.

Teach your children what to look out for. Show them what is and is not acceptable. Spend time with them online so you can see how they surf and what they do. Talk to them about what they think about these safety issues, ask them what they can do to help you keep them safe.

There are plenty of websites, many hosted by the government, dedicated to helping you keep your children safe and I strongly advise you visit them to get even more help and advice.

However, when the children are little, they won’t understand what you are asking them to do so you’ll need to control their environment for them. Set up the Parental Controls that are on your computer. Microsoft’s operating systems 7 and Vista both have inbuilt Parental Controls so you can monitor your child’s online usage, computer usage, and even programme the PC to shut down after a set period of time.

Parental Controls are useful for kids of all ages and can be used to check who they talk to online, what games they play and what websites they visit. All this may seem intrusive but, if it is handled well, it really isn’t. You wouldn’t drop your child off in a dodgy area of a big city at midnight so why would you let them loose online without any form of protection?

Other operating systems such as Ubuntu have the option for you to install parental controls for your kids so if you aren’t running Microsoft and prefer Open Source, there are safety measures out there for you too. Alternatively you can source parental control software, such as K9, that has been designed specifically with parents in mind.

Use the parental software to pre-set specific educational websites. This way children can’t navigate away from your selected websites and are kept to educational sites too.

With younger children, preschoolers, Reception and Key Stage 1, you are likely to be with them when you are on the computer. So use this time to teach them about passwords, what they mean, and why they are so important. Make creating a password into a game and tell them they have to keep it secret, not share it with anyone but mom and dad.

Compare passwords to the lock on your front door, or to other security systems you may have at home. Show them how these are there to keep them safe. Do the same with the rules you have chosen to implement with your parental controls. Explain why you have chosen those websites, allow them to choose some for themselves, and encourage them to let you know if anything happens that they are not comfortable with.

By helping your children to develop online savvy skills at a young age, you are giving them the right tools for the future, for when they are surfing the net without constant parental monitoring.

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