Our children have grown and our household has become more reliant on the internet and a large variety of connected devices - sound familiar? If so, here are a few FREE suggestions you can put in place to help your home be safer in this online world.
Let’s get some quick wins first, and yes in many cases these settings will be universal for both you and your children (a good thing, right?):
- Call a family meeting to discuss online expectations and the work you are going to do to keep your family safer. Be sure everyone understands that each click, each website, and every online interaction is likely recorded and forever stored. This is also a great time to assess how much time you are spending online and challenging your family to set limitations. Parents can help by being the example!
- Have an Alexa device? Just ask Alexa to “Block Explicit Songs” and she’ll take care of you. Well, that was easy!!
- Do the following for each computer, tablet, kindle, gaming device, smart TV, and smartphone (did I miss anything?!):
- Protect Searching >> Enable Google Safe Search by going to www.google.com/preferences and Turn on “Safe Search”. There is also an option to Lock it by requiring a login/password to turn it off. To gain more control over this feature check out Google Families. Now, identify what other browsers you use and check settings for each (Microsoft Explorer/Edge, Apple Safari, etc).
- Protect Video >> Enable YouTube Restricted Mode by going to www.youtube.com, clicking Settings at top right, and then toggling Restricted Mode to ON. On the YouTube App, click Settings>General and toggle Restricted Mode. Now, identify what other online video apps or content you use and check settings for each (Vimeo, TikTok, Netflix, Amazon Video, Roku, etc)
- Protect Music >> For Amazon Music, click on Settings and then “Block Explicit Songs”. Now, identify other music apps you use and check settings for each (Pandora, Spotify, etc).
- Finally, let’s get the rest of your home covered. Many times this can be done through your internet router or gateway, but I’ve found using OpenDNS to be extremely effective for our home:
- Click Here. Choose OpenDNS Family Shield to utilize OpenDNS preconfigured settings and easier set-up. Choose OpenDNS Home for custom filtering options
- Follow these directions for most routers by clicking Here. If you have issues, more specific router settings can be found Here.
- Test to be sure it is working by clicking Here and look for the great big check mark. You can also see what it looks like when a site is blocked (or not) by going to www.internetbadguys.com (don’t worry, this is a safe test site!).
That should get you started but technology is advancing every day with new ways to help you stay safe & secure, but also new ways to access unwanted, explicit, or even dangerous content.
Do your best to limit the amount of browsers and apps your family uses, and do your research when you are unsure about the latest, most popular, must-have online service, app, game, or movie. One online resource we highly recommend for research is Common Sense Media to review movies, TV shows, games, and even books.
Keep in mind that nothing will give you a 100% success rate and you will still find plenty of opportunity for ‘teaching moments’ when undesirable content is accessed by accident or on purpose. Check in and take interest in your family’s online activity - stay involved. Discuss what is appropriate and not appropriate and even ask your children what they think and why.
Finally, watch your children grow and start looking after themselves when they are outside the home or visiting friends who may not have the same boundaries.
Please share any other tips you might have for keeping your family safe in today’s online world! Looking forward to your feedback.