By Ben Taylor, May 2017 (www.bestvpn.com)
A well-considered set of technical “house rules” is a good starting point for families who want to work against the dangers presented by everyday technology. Different families will, no doubt, have different approaches, but here are ten possible house rules as a starting point.
- Keep computers in living areas
The best place for the family computer(s) is the living room or kitchen, where children know that a parent may look over their shoulder at any time. Children already have online chat acronyms for warning their friends when people are watching, such as “POS” (parent over shoulder). Making clear you understand these will help too, and this resource will help with that. As an example of one to look out for, “ASL?” means “Age / Sex / Location?” and is often used at the start of conversations with online strangers.
- Implement an “Internet embargo.”
You may wish to consider time-limiting Internet access to certain times of the day. Many routers even let you set the Wi-Fi network to disable itself after a certain time, say 9 pm. This may send shudders through many parents (myself included), but having such a policy is actually rather healthy for the adults in the household too!
- Agree that parents will “friend” children on their social networks
When the time comes for children to want their own social media presence (much more on that below), a good initial compromise is to insist that one or both parents is a fully-fledged “friend” on that platform, who’s able to see all the child’s activity.
- Give parents password access to all children’s devices
Children should not have devices that allow them to lock their activity away from their guardians’ reach. A parent should reserve the right to log in and see what’s been going on.
- Parents approve or veto use of new social networks
If a child wants to get involved in a new social network (and in youngsters’ circles, there’s always a new big thing), they should get parental approval first. The UK site, Net-Aware, offers a fabulous resource that helps parents learn about new social networks, what they do, and what ages they are suitable for.
- Children must tell parents before providing any personal information online
The idea here is to make handing over personal information online the exception, rather than the rule. Children should understand why it’s generally a bad idea to hand out addresses and phone numbers. In fairness, this is a reasonable stance for adults to take also.
- Children must only use online chat to people they talk to in real life
This should be a no-brainer, but GuardChild states that nearly 70% of teenagers are contacted by strangers online on a regular basis and don’t notify their parents. Constant reminders on this are therefore paramount.
- Web browsing histories should not be deleted
Youngsters (and adults!) who continually delete their web histories are generally looking at things they don’t want others to know about. You may, therefore, wish to make deleting browser histories a forbidden action for your children. The same applies to using “incognito” or private browsing modes, which don’t maintain any history.
I very quickly became aware of the non-existent browser history which made me instantly suspicious. At the time, Windows machines maintained a file (called INDEX.DAT) which allowed me to see all the visited websites despite the deleted history. If a child has spent hours browsing online and there’s no history to show for it, this should set off some alarm bells!
- Children must report any bullying or anything distressing they see online
This one may prove hard to police, especially when children become secretive teenagers. However, an ongoing open discussion about topics like cyber-bullying should go some way to making children feel comfortable in sharing these issues.
- Breaches mean a loss of privileges!
It’s almost inevitable that children will bend the rules at some point. As and when they do, it’s important for parents to follow up on their threatened sanctions – or nobody will take the rules seriously in the future.
You can read more of this article on Internet Safety: How to Keep Kids and Teens Safe Online