Google is launching its Safety Centre in the UK. In an ever-changing world, families are navigating new technologies, gadgets and online services. Because of this, it can be really helpful to get some practical advice on how best to use technology within the family. At Google, we continuously talk to safety experts, parents, educators and communities, to help us understand how best to help with online safety. By Katie O’Donovan, Online Safety Public Policy manager
- Talk with your family about online safety
At the outset, it is a good idea to be clear about what your family’s rules and expectations around technology are, as well as what the consequences could be if tech is inappropriately used. Perhaps most importantly, it is good to ensure that your kids feel comfortable enough to ask for help when they encounter tough decisions online. This approach can help your family more confident when safe exploring the Internet and enables kids to know who to turn to when they have questions or if they feel like they need assistance.
- Use technology together
Using technology as a family together is a good, practical way to teach online safety first hand. In addition, it also creates an opportunity for you to be able to deal directly with online safety topics with your family as, and when, they come up.
- Discuss online services and sites
By discussing what kind of sites your family wishes to visit, you can deal with how appropriate these sites are for each family member. Also, your kids may visit these sites while out of the home, by using public or free Wi-Fi, for example. Make sure your family is aware that by using such public networks, there is a chance that their internet activity may be monitored. Help is at hand, though – if public or free Wi-Fi is your family’s only option, the Chrome browser will let you know in the address bar if your connection to a site is secure.
- Protect passwords
Protection of passwords is something you can help your kids to learn and is of critical importance to online safety. Always remind your kids to not give out their passwords. Suggest the creation of a long password, combined with numbers and symbols, as this is harder to guess. Also, using the same password to log in to multiple accounts, increases your family’s security risk. By creating a unique password for each account this keeps your family’s accounts more secure. Finally, make sure that your family is in the habit of signing out of their online accounts when they are on public computers outside of the home.
- Use privacy settings and sharing controls
The internet has a number of sites for sharing a variety of things, including thoughts, photos, videos, and status updates. Before posting such content, check the privacy settings and controls on these services, as that can help family members decide who they want to see their content. It can really help to talk to your kids about what they should and shouldn’t share publicly. Also, help them understand and respect the privacy of others by keeping personal details about family or friends private, and by not identifying people by name in publicly shared content.
- Check age restrictions
- Teach your family to communicate responsibly
A good piece of advice you can pass on to your children is if they wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, then they shouldn’t text it, email it, instant-message it, or post it as a comment on someone’s page. What your children say online and how it might make other people feel is a good talking point, and can help you to come up with further family guidelines about what kind of communication online is acceptable and appropriate.
- Talk to other adults
Opening up the online safety conversation to your friends, extended family, teachers, coaches and counsellors can be a great resource to help you decide what feels right for your family. This approach can be especially useful if you are dealing with an area of technology that you are unfamiliar with.
- Protect your devices and identity
Make sure your kids are using antivirus software and to update it regularly. In addition, to protect your family from security vulnerabilities, emphasise that each family member should be using up-to-date software across all devices.
Also, it is important to talk with your kids about the types of personal information that can be posted online. Things such as a national insurance number, phone number or home address should not be posted. In addition, teach your family not to accept files or to open email attachments from unknown people.
- Keep it going
Most crucially of all, it is important to understand that staying safe isn’t a one-time conversation. This is because as technology constantly evolves, so will the needs of your family.
Yet by keeping an ongoing dialogue, re-establishing your family’s ground rules, checking in on everyone’s progress, and setting aside time to talk at regular intervals, you can ensure online safety remains paramount in the minds of each member of your family.