Online Safety and Parental Controls
Update - 30.06.18
Online Games - Fortnite & Roblox
Many children are now playing online games on their Xbox, PS4 or on a tablet or smartphone. Some of these games are designed for children over 12, but because they are free to download, a lot of parents are not aware of the risks and dangers associated with playing these games.
Online gaming means playing a game against other internet users, who could be complete strangers. In some cases, your child may be exposed to inappropriate language, bullying or people with ill intentions. It is essential that you do your research and decide - first of all -whether it is appropriate for your child to be playing that game at all. If you decide that they are mature enough for the content, you then need to consider restricting the voice and text chat functions so that they are not having conversations with people that they don't know.
Fortnite is a very popular new online game that is designed for users over the age of 12. It is a survival-action game in which players battle each other to the death. Despite it being designed for users over the age of 12, it has been celebrated for promoting teamwork and thoughtful collaboration, but ultimately it is still a game which contains guns and violence - even if the violence is presented in a cartoon-ish way in order to be more suitable for younger players. Parents need to decide for themselves whether they want their child to play a particular online game, but they need to be aware of the dangers and how to set parental controls and limit chat functions etc.
More guidance for parents on Fortnite can be found on Common Sense Media at the following link: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-fortnite
Roblox is another game designed to appeal to young people which can appear suitable for your child on the surface. Roblox has the potential to be a learning tool similar to Minecraft, but it has its downsides. Because all of its content is user-generated, children can be exposed to a range of material, including advertising and demands to buy in-game currency. Also, because of the game's chat functions, they could be exposed to predatory behaviour and sexually explicit content. However, Roblox offers account controls that let parents restrict how kids can interact on the site. You can control whether kids can be contacted, who can message them, and who can chat with them, and do a few other things in the contact settings. To enable these settings, you add your email address to your kid's account and create a PIN that prevents kids from changing the settings back. The account controls are optional; kids of any age can create an account on Roblox with no parental restrictions. On accounts of kids under 13, Roblox automatically defaults to stricter settings, but a kid could change these if there's no parent PIN.
More guidance on Roblox can be found via the following link: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-roblox
We all want our children to be safe online, and this can be a daunting task in today’s digital landscape. But with some good practice and some systems put in place, there is no reason your child shouldn’t be able to access those parts of the internet that are designed for them, and which will develop their skills and experience. A few things should be considered:
- 1) Find an appropriate website for your child to use.
Begin by using it together, becoming familiar with the content. This will then allow you to give them some more independence later on down the line, perhaps by being in the same room as them and regularly checking that they are using the website you agreed upon.
- 2) Use a child-friendly web browser.
A ‘web browser’ is merely the application we use to view webpages. You may currently use Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Internet Explorer. However, it is possible to download a web browser that is designed for families. These browsers will block certain websites deemed inappropriate. You can even block websites of your choosing, for example Youtube.com. Here is a link to a list of family-friendly web browsers:
Child-friendly Web Browsers
- 3) Block access to Youtube.
Youtube is fantastic - you can find almost anything on there. But it can also be troublesome - because you can find almost anything on there. It is user-generated content that is very hard to monitor. Someone may post a video which looks harmless, but they may be using a lot of inappropriate language on the audio. For these reasons, you may wish to remove access to Youtube by either deleting the app on your tablet/smartphone, or adding it to a block list on a child-friendly web browser (see point number 2). Here are some links that may help with limiting access to Youtube. The site explains how to limit access to Youtube, as well as how to stop your child from downloading it again.
How to Restrict Youtube in iPod touch and iPad
- 4) Limit Adult Content
There are many ways we access the internet nowadays. You may use a desktop PC, Mac, tablet or iPad. Each device will have its own function that allows you to restrict the content that is available to be viewed on it. We advise that you take the time to find the solution for your device. Often it is simply a short Google search to find the instructions to make your device safer for your child. Please remember however, that none of these methods can guarantee that inappropriate content won’t be accessible on the device. The technology used to decide what is inappropriate cannot be 100% successful, but it can go a long way to allowing your child to use and access the internet more safely.
- 5) Create a Separate Profile for your child
Most computers and devices will allow you to create a separate user profile for your child. You can then Limit the Adult Content of your child’s profile (for example, by deleting the Youtube App on their profile) but allow you, as the adult, to continue to access websites and apps that you would like to use. There are various steps to take to create a child profile, depending on the device.
Set up parental controls on Android smartphones and tablets
Set up parental controls on Google Play
Set up parental controls on Windows Vista & Windows 7
Set up parental controls on Windows 8
Set up parental controls on Windows 10
- 6) Monitor Social Media
You may not be aware, but there are age restrictions on the use of Social Media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. Usually these restrictions are part of the organisations terms and conditions, and therefore should be adhered to.
For example, you can only use the following services if you are over 13 years of age:
Please be aware that there is an obvious risk when children use social media platforms. They could be contacted by a complete stranger; have inappropriate communications with other children online; or be involved with cyber-bullying. Even at age 13, you still cannot control what appears on your child’s news feed, so you will want to be aware of which websites your child is using. Most of these websites require you to link the account to an active email address. Our advice would really be to prevent your children from using these services until they at least meet the age of the service’s terms and conditions.
More detailed information about social networking and children can be found at Net Aware.org.uk
- 7) Monitor Online Gaming
Has your child talked about Roblox or Fortnite? It is likely that your child plays games on their device or console - and it is become increasingly common that these games have an online element whereby your child will play with other players from around the world. There is now the risk that your child will be having conversations with complete strangers through voice or text chat, exposing them to inappropriate language and contact with people they don't know. It is essential that you make yourself aware of the risks, and that you read up on how to set parental controls to either limit or disable these voice and text chat functions.
Ultimately, you must decide which measures to put in place to ensure your child is safe online.
Over at Common Sense Media, they review games for children and give advice to parents for how their children can stay safe using those games, including how to turn off chat functions. You can simply use the search function to research a new game you are thinking of purchasing for your child.
If you go over to the Computing Corner page found in the Pupils section of the website, you will find a list of sites that you and your child can enjoy and use in an educational manner. I will add any new sites which I feel would be valuable for your child.
I hope you find this information helpful. Happy web surfing!