If you’re a parent or carer with young kids who are just starting their own online journey, the idea of online safety can seem daunting at first. Especially when you consider the sheer number of apps, games and platforms that are out there.
Is it safe? Is my child old enough? Who can contact my child? These are all common questions parents may have, and rightly so.
The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to help make your child’s online experience safer.
- Do some research
If your child mentions a new app, go online and check it out — read reviews from users or other parents. Encourage your child to do this with you and explain that just because someone recommends an app, doesn’t mean you should just start using it. Research can also help you uncover app functions or uses that are inappropriate for your child. For example, you might find discussions about poor behaviour of users or warnings about possible malware found in an app. Alternatively, you might find some tips and tricks for how to use it in a fun and safe way.
- Age rating and requirements
Review the information the app requests when a person first signs up. This will help you understand what kind of information is being collected and if you’re comfortable with that. Check if the app provides privacy protections for its users. Can you restrict who sees their profile? Who can find them in a search? And what information can people see about them? Make sure these privacy settings can be adjusted so their account is as secure as possible.
- Permissions and settings
Before installing an app, you should also consider what permissions an app requests. Does the app really need access to your microphone and video camera to perform its functions? Depending on the permissions requested, you may be giving away more information than necessary.
You should also look to see what the default settings are and if you need to change them. It may save you from a nasty surprise - for example, if you discover your child’s location is being broadcast to all users by default.
Most importantly, when looking into an app, does it appear to take user safety seriously? Can you report things in the app? If so, is the reporting process easy and clear? Are the reporting options limited or can you report a wide range of safety concerns? Can you report things as they happen? We know, there are a lot of questions to consider but it’s important to be vigilant especially with apps or games that allow users to interact with others via message, voice or video.
When it comes to online safety, eSafety is here to help support parents and carers and ensure that together, we keep children safer online.
More advice and information is available at eSafety parents.