Tips to help keep your little ones safe online

Mum can I have a rabbit? Mum can I have a rabbit? Mum can I have a rabbit?”

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Do you remember the advert? It rings so many bells of familiarity, because that’s just what kids do. It is tempting to give in sometimes and give them what they want, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

For example, my kids keep asking me if they can have their own Google and Facebook accounts. The answer I always give them is no. There are of course reasons for saying no that aren’t simply, “Because I say so.”

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Reason number one is that both Google and Facebook state in their terms and conditions that a person must be aged 13 or more to create an account. If someone with an account is found to be in breach of those conditions, then they will very quickly find their account suspended.

Reason number two is that the age restriction is there to protect your children, because the content on those sites (generated by grown ups) is often adult in nature and not suitable for small children.

Reason number three, which applies to Google Play and Apple iTunes (also restricted to age 13 and above) is that they both require bank card details before you can use their services, even if you want to install something that is free. I personally don’t relish the thought that my children could download and install something potentially harmful or expensive and I am sure you will feel the same!

So what can you do to mollify the little ones? Explain the reasons for saying no for a start. You’d be surprised at how accepting they are when told there is an age restriction.

If you have a device that supports it, set up restricted profiles for your children. Tesco’s hudl tablets can do it and so can many others. In the case of the hudl, the parent grants permission to use specific apps. The restricted profile is also prevented from signing in to a separate Google account, thus protecting your child and preventing them from spending all of your money.

There are of course age appropriate apps available for children. Google released a new app not too long ago called YouTube Kids. If it is available for your device (sadly it doesn’t work on any of mine!), you could use that. Similarly, apps like Demand 5 (Channel 5’s on demand app) include the ability to restrict content using a passcode.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that your little ones won’t stay little for long. Soon they’ll be tagging you in embarrassing photos on Facebook like the rest of us.