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.

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.

It would help if games passes/licences can 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.

Using Microsoft Family Safety has locked us into using Windows / Edge for kids on PCs. I looked at what might work with GNU/Linux. 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.

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