Friday, 19 February 2010

Children: 10 internet safety tips for parents & guardians

EU cyber-security agency ENISA have just published their suggested 10 internet safety tips for parents and guardians, to help preserve the security and privacy of children online.

Here they are in bold, with my notes added (in italics):

  1. Communicate with your child about his/her Internet experience. Discuss the importance of Internet safety and teach the basics
    1. See point 8 note 2, below.
  2. Set house Internet and mobile phone rules
    1. Note: see also ENISA's 17 golden rules on mobile privacy and security - not specific to kids, but still useful.
  3. Educate yourself on the latest threats facing children online and have a good understanding of how your child spend his/her time online
    1. Note: See Get Safe Online (UK), Stay Safe Online (US); and in more detail Ofcom's survey of online protection mechanisms
    2. The EU do have a Safer Internet Programme including assessments of social networking sites.
    3. Recently the EU assessed the child-safety of social networking sites against their Safer Social Networking Principles. You can read their summary and individual site-specific reports on the safety of individual social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook.
  4. Keep the computer and any other Internet-enables devices used by your child in a common room. Install firewall and antivirus software
    1. Note: on antivirus, etc, see some suggestions on free antivirus software & other software for online protection; and Microsoft have since released for free their Security Essentials antivirus.
  5. Ensure parental control, parental consent, age verification and content lock are activated. Ensure barring process and filtering are in place
    1. Note: it's a truism that many kids can easily get round these; nevertheless, they're worth considering. Thinkbroadband offers some brief info on parental controls etc; and see the more detailed Privacy Rights Clearinghouse guide.
    2. Be warned - it's one thing if a parent monitors their children's activities online, but quite another if the company selling filtering or monitoring software collects and harvests info on what your kids do on the internet, and sell it to marketers. And they've done that.
    3. Parental control software has also been known to block innocuous sites while letting unsafe sites through, and they may also censor sites based on the religious or political views of the software's proprietor.
    4. You can tell I'm not a big fan of parental control software. I say, teach your children critical evaluation skills, bring them up to be sensible off line and online, and let them explore and learn - see my notes to point 8, below.
  6. Analyse content providers’ policies and their compliance. Check contractual flexibility (e.g. how to delete an account) and use of automated moderation filters in conjunction with humans
    1. Note: hmm, this might be tough for non-lawyers to do given sites' (deliberately?) long and obscure terms and policies!
    2. It would be good if a site were to analyse policies etc and publicise the summaries. Rather like what the EU have done, see point 3 note 3, but on an ongoing basis. Anyone? Parents might be willing to subscribe.
  7. Check your child’s page or profile on a regular basis. Track your child’s spending online carefully
  8. Tell your child to never use full names and share passwords. Prevent your child from sharing personally identifiable information (e.g. address, telephone number, name of school, sport club).
    1. Note: that should be "or" share passwords, shurely.
    2. Child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron produced an excellent review for the UK government on children's use of the internet and videogames. From a 2008 speech of hers:
      "Kids socialise via technology. Our culture is now so risk averse we don't let kids out into the streets - the radius for children has reduced by 80% since 1977. They can't go outside so they go online. They're tech savvy but haven't got the skills of critical evaluation to keep themselves safe…
      Policing is pointless: Australia tried to set up blocking at ISP level, and within 24 hours a 14 year old boy had got round it by guessing his mother's password! It's not about prying, or even warning kids about predators online (in fact cyberbullying is their biggest fear); it's about supervision and thought.
      Parenting is an online not just offline task. Parents need to talk to their children, make sure that they think, that they know who they're talking to: prepare their children to understand the risks, give them the tools and critical evaluation skills to check the reliability of sources and that people are who they say they are."
  9. Ensure your child understand what it means to post photographs and any other content on Internet
    1. Note: see note 2 to 8 above.
  10. Educate your child by explaining never to arrange to meet in person someone he/she first met online. Warn your child about expressing emotions to strangers directly online.
    1. Again, see note 2 to 8 above. It's really about good parenting, not installing software.


Sarah said...

These are great tips, thanks. Although parental control software is a great help, it's still really important that parents realise they can't just rely on this alone to sort out what their children are up to online. The software is best used to support parents who educate children about the dangers of the internet.

Daniel said...

I totally agree with your first point, parents need to talk with their kids about the web and it's dangers. Some parents might not know where to start but there are examples every where, here is a great example.