Keeping Safe on the Internet

There are many aspects of internet safety with an ever-evolving set of threats that need to guard against when using the internet. My understanding of internet safety has evolved both as the internet evolves and with my family using the internet. Parental controls are an area I have come to understand practically. It is well worth parents understanding them and properly setting them up even if can be a bit of extra work to deal with. Often parents fall into allowing their children to use parents accounts which bypasses control that will come with setting up children’s accounts under parental controls. Apple has controls that work well with their devices. Google with Android, which has really imporved over years with increease flexibility, with regards to YouTube for example.

Microsoft has Family Safety that works on both iOS and Android, as well as Windows PCs. These controls can include screentime as well as filtering. The option to each site visited to require approval for each child before being allowed under Microsoft Family Safety filters has proved useful. I was introduced to Microsoft / XBOX parental controls when it came to enabling my children to play Minecraft with friends online. For overcoming common issue with this see: I-m-Getting-an-Error-When-Trying-to-Play-Realms-with-a-Child-Account. There is a separate Xbox Family Settings app, which has additional options to review Xbox GamerTag friends.

It would help if Games Passes/software licences could be shared in a household between everybody set up with their own account, or at least transferred from parents to their children. Avoiding paying twice often cuts across some of the safeguards with child accounts.

Adverts on the internet often are not safe and should be blocked for children even more than adults. I recommend uBlock Origin within a browser for adblocking. Some VPNs include the option to block adverts along with malware filtering. Unfortunately, the free alternative DNS service from Cloudflare does not have the option to block adverts but does have malware and adult content filtering that needs to be actively enabled in options, and/or by choice of DNS server. You can use it on router with family filtering so covers all your devices connected, you can always enable on your own browser to only be malware filtering if you find the family filtering blocks a website you want such as medical sites, or derestrict YouTube. Adverts on YouTube can be blocked when accessing on a web browser using Enhancer for YouTube™.

Using Microsoft Family Safety has for now locked us into using Windows / Edge for kids on PCs, as well as Edge on mobile phone. Edge on mobile comes with an AdBlock but it is not fully enabled by default. To enable it click on three dots at bottom centre of screen, then click on the Settings cog, then Privacy and security, then Block ads, then use slider to right of Block ads so slides to right and turns blue, then click on Allow acceptable ads and then click on slider to right of Allow acceptable ads so slides to left and greys out, and should be done but when you return to browser via arrow at top left you can check enabled fully, by checking Allow acceptable ads if now Off.

I looked at what might work with GNU/Linux, especially. Found the link between DansGuardian web filtering and the company Smoothwall, which has an office in Leeds. What Smoothwall does for helping schools keep children safe is valuable and has caught my interest just now. They have moved beyond simple web filtering in their offering to schools and organisations.

Parental Controls can be a pain for example they have just changed those for Among Us and so I had to relook at them again and enabled option(s) not set before to allow my kids to use new friend list and also seems allow more open permissions on But even with extra hassle I think it is well worth having them, and I am prepared to take time to use them, welcoming there use. I just sometime wish they would give better messages to both kids and adults, that for example link to a tutorial on how to set them up with screenshots, but for started they could be more precise for the kids messages as to exactly why online play not allowed, is that xbox Gold run out or is parental controls, and then exactly which ones, or at least duplicate controls from Privacy settings in Family Parental Controls.

But tools can only go so far, we need to have conversations with our children about what they do online.

There are plenty of resources on the internet regarding using it safely. These include:

UK Safer Internet Centre

Get Safe Online

NSPPC Keeping Children Safe - Online Safety

Also see recent development and debate around the Online Safety Bill