Do you know what your kids are doing online?

05 February 2013 - 16:56 By AFP Relaxnews

As children's online behavior evolves, parents need to do more to ensure their safety from cyberthreats.

The latest UK survey to underline the potential dangers children face when using the internet, released on the occasion of Safer Internet Day, reveals that just over one in five parents who have bought their child a computer, tablet or smartphone have made sure that it has adequate protection in place to block harmful online content but that 40% of parents failed to check if a device had any safety features or filters at the point of purchase.

The YouGov study of 2 227 adults, commissioned by credit services company Noddle, also found that many parents were in the dark when it came to knowing what sort of information their children shared when online. Only 14% knew their children shared their age, and only 6% knew if they shared their mobile phone or fixed line number with others.

Of the results, Tom Ilube, founder of Noddle, commented: "These figures are surprising to say the least as there are so many potential threats to children online. It's important for parents to enquire when purchasing an internet-enabled device what safety filters can be enabled. For those who already have a device with access to the internet my advice would be to enable all safety filters in order to safeguard both their children and their own personal data."

The survey follows an in-depth study from Ofcom -- the UK media regulator -- on internet usage in the UK which, when officially published in October revealed that the average 12- to 15-year-old spends 17 hours a week on the internet and has never met one in four of their "friends" on social networking websites such as Facebook. It also found that while over 80% of UK parents had strict rules in place regarding internet use in the home, less than 50% had enabled filtering or blocking features.

However, even with filters in place, the rapid growth of smartphone use among young people was found to be diluting parents' control. Ofcom found that 28% of five-to-15-year-olds now own a smartphone, rising to 62% for 12-15-year-olds. One-in-five eight-to-11-year-olds have a social media profile, as do 80% of 12-to-15-year-olds.

To help parents promote safer internet use, Noddle has produced a list of helpful tips:

1. To keep your child safe online get yourself savvy on the internet and online terminology, and most importantly, know how your child is using it -- understand what your child does online and know which websites they visit.

2. Put the computer where the whole family can see it, not out of sight in a bedroom.

3. Use filtering software to block inappropriate sites.

4. Always set your privacy and security settings on websites so only friends and family can see your pages. Speak to other parents (friends of your child) about any of their privacy settings which could affect you.

5. Use a nickname on micro-blogging websites such as Twitter.

6. Let your child know not to use your maiden name as a password -- choose something more difficult and ideally include capital letters, numbers and non alphanumeric characters e.g. #. %. And remind them to change their password regularly.

7. Advise your child to watch what they say online -- before posting anything get them to think carefully about what they want to say and how it could come across to others.

8. Let your child know not to post any personal information online -- like their address, email address or mobile number.

9. Be careful about which photos and videos they share on social media sites -- avoid photos of your home, school or places they're associated with. Remember, once they've put a picture online most people can see it and may be able to download it, it's not just theirs anymore.

10. Remind your child that not everyone online is who they say they are and they shouldn't meet up with people they've met online.