In an increasingly complex digital environment, it has never been more important for parents to understand and engage with their child’s online behaviour to ensure that everyone in the family can play, learn and create online, safely. (The post is part of a paid campaign about online safety, sponsored by Microsoft UK.)
There are wide variety of tools and strategies available to help parents navigate everything from screentime, gaming, social media and managing who your child speaks to online.
One aspect of smart parenting strategies for online safety is using the tools at your disposal. With Microsoft’s Windows 10, you can create a Family Account that plugs you into what your child is doing, seeing and spending (oh yes) and gives you control and confidence. You create a Family Account and invite your child to join, and then can apply a host of settings and tools. Read on for how to help your child explore their digital world safely and securely.
Here, with the help of the Windows 10 team, we outline 12 vital steps for keeping your child safe online and install good practices, and the tools that make that easier than ever.
- Set screentime rules
It’s difficult, right? Sometimes curtailing your child’s screentime can feel like a constant battle. Make your approach two-pronged: First, set firm screentime rules and discuss them with your child. Write them down and keep them handy – posted to the refrigerator or next to the family computer. This helps set up a framework for healthy online behaviour that’s clear to everyone.
Then, employ the screentime limits on Windows 10. We love that the screentime limits tool on the Parental Controls not only lets us set blocks of time when kids can be online for a stretch (say, afterschool when they are working on homework) but also allows us to establish time limits within a wider time frame — for example, you can specify that they get 4 hours on Saturday and they can do it anytime between 8am and 9pm.
Also be aware that your rules will need to change over time as your child grows, becomes more independent and develops new interests.
- Get involved with gaming
Online gaming is a big part of online fun for a lot of kids. You may not be able to beat them at the latest game. But by taking an interest in what your child likes to do online, you let them know their interests, just like their online safety, are important. Ask them what they like playing and listen. Do multi-player games with them if you fancy getting whooped.
Be aware too that games are another area where kids are exposed to others online. A big benefit when you play on Xbox or PC: You can direct how your children interact with others, managing who they communicate and play with, as well as restrict the activity and personal information others can view.
- Discuss what’s inappropriate
As your child becomes a tween then a teen, it’s vital to talk to them about the kind of images, language, conversations and videos they might come across online. The first step to limiting harmful content is talking to them about why you want them to avoid certain things, whether that’s sexual content, violent images, content that promotes practices like self-harm or anything else that might upset and confuse them.
The second step is to enlist filters for inappropriate content, by setting up the age-limited content filters on Windows 10. The easy pull-down menu lets you set parameters according to age restricted ratings (that is, the official guidance set by apps, TV, movie, music and book ratings). What’s more these ratings extend across browsers, apps, games and media. You can also block certain sites altogether.
We love that you can set up different age-limited filters, so that the 5-year-old in the house sees content aimed at them but a 12-year-old isn’t limited in the same way – surely a recipe for happier times at home.
- Address social networking head-on
Social networking happens not just on apps but on sites, on games and more, and it is constantly evolving. Talk about both the benefits and risks before children join sites and emphasize that any text, pictures, videos or audio that they share could be around forever and seen by anyone – their teachers, their friends’ parents, even future employers. Decide on whether they should only be online friends with people they know in real life.
Windows 10 Parental Controls helps support this philosophy by providing the ability to curate your child’s circle of approved friends or asking you for approval of their new contacts. You can even turn off the ability the chat altogether. Discuss the visibility of your child’s posts and go through the safety features of all social networking sites together and explain why you’re choosing the settings.
- Talk about privacy
Children can be unaware of how their information is gathered and used. Have a clear discussion about who they should and shouldn’t be sharing their information with, including their real name, address, school, name of friends, family information and other personal details.
With Windows 10 Parental Controls you can manage who is allowed to communicate and play with your child as well as restrict the activity and profile information that others can view, especially on Xbox.
- Install awareness about grooming
Grooming can feel insidious and hard to combat. Tackle it step-by-step from setting the proper privacy controls and knowing who your child’s online friends are to impressing on them that they should never arrange to meet an online friend without a parent. Remind them that if something makes them uncomfortable, they can always reach out for help from you, another adult or a resource like Childline.
- Talk about online spending
Opportunities to buy online can seem everywhere. Children may not even realise they are spending. Talk to children about how apps and sites operate, how many of them are designed to usher users into buying and that it pays to be a clued-up user. Then it’s important talk to children about when they can buy, in a way that’s right for your family. Children may get an allowance to spend online – in games or on retail sites – and this may change as the years go by. (You can actually control this with Windows 10!)
Finally, make sure you know when and how your child is spending money online. With Windows 10 Parental Controls, parents can customise how their children are permitted to purchase in the store app through a few different options: parents can choose to approve each purchase before it’s made, receive alerts after each purchase or set up an allowance online to allow children to buy through their Microsoft account with a set limit. Plus, parents can review everything their child buys.
- Instill best practices for ‘digital hygiene’
Just like we teach our children to regularly wash their hands, we need to remind them of the new rules about ‘digital hygiene’. Remind them to regularly change their passwords and not share them, to password protect their phone, to keep software and apps up to date and to not click on unknown email links or attachments. Maybe an opportunity to talk about Windows Hello and face log in?
- Encourage critical thinking
As your children get older, they’ll better understand the need to think critically about what they see and interact with online. Give them tips on how to critique the things they see. Talk about how to identify trustworthy news sources, how to be careful about ‘meeting’ strangers online, about how images and videos can be altered and how ‘deep fakes’ can look real. By instilling a healthy sense of skepticism, you give them tools for the rest of their lives.
- Be clear on the behaviour you expect from them
Talk to your child about bullying and good behaviour online and what that looks like. Ask them who they want to be online and talk about how our online self reflects who we are in the real world.
- Keep an eye on their activity
This isn’t a discussion we can have just once as parents. We should expect in the fast-changing digital world that our children will make mistakes as they learn. We need to be OK about that while also revisiting best practices, rules and conversations we’ve had before.
At the same time, we have to be OK about being the adults in the room, which means monitoring what they do. With Windows 10 Parental Controls you can keep an eye on their activity – apps, browsing, when they use a device, even what they search for. It’s a way to step in and help with they need it and let them learn and engage with the online world when they’re able.
- Listen to your children
One of the hardest things when confronting the complexities of online safety and our children is taking a breath and slowing down. Listen to them when they talk about their online activity and be alert to changes in their mood, temperament or online activity.
What are your biggest concerns about your child’s online safety? What have you done to help prepare them for what they come encounter online?
About Windows 10 Parental Controls
Windows 10 Parental Controls allows families to connect their Microsoft accounts and helps families keep children safe online and learn good digital practices.
How it works:
- You create a Microsoft account (if you don’t already have one – this is different from an Office 365 you might use for your email). https://account.microsoft.com/family/
- You then invite your child to create an account (you can help them do this!). Create one for each child in your family so you can tailor your online setting to their ages and needs.
- Choose the Family area on the main page and start getting connected to your child’s online life.
Go here to learn more about how to create and link your Microsoft Family Account and start using Parental Controls today!
About Jennifer Howze
Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.