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Keeping your children safe online

Written Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade - Nigeria

Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade
Security on the Internet is a growing concern. In a context where the Internet community is growing in leaps and several billion pages are uploaded to the web everyday, it is hard to keep track of everything that is happening out there. Protecting children online is a priority. Just like teaching a child to ride a bike or drive a car, we should be helping them to learn how to navigate the online world.

At Google, we know how important it is to protect and educate young people on using the Internet and want to provide all of our users with a safe experience. When it comes to family and child safety, we aim to provide parents and teachers with tools to help them choose what content their children see online; offer advice to families about how to stay safe online and work closely with organisations such as charities and government bodies dedicated to protecting young people.
We also build tools and controls into our products to help parents manage their families' online experience. Below are some easy steps to help protect children online and teach them how to surf the web responsibly.
Keep computers in a central place: This will make it easier to keep an eye on your children's activities.

Know where your children go online and help them search safely: If you have young children, you might use the Internet with them. For older ones, you can talk about what kinds of sites they like to visit and what is not appropriate for your family. You can also check where your kids have been by looking at the history in your browser menu.
A good option is to use filtering tools like Google SafeSearch, which is designed to screen sites that contain sexually explicit content and remove them from your search results. You can modify your computer's SafeSearch settings by clicking on search settings at the top right of the Google homepage as well as use a password-protected SafeSearch Lock. SafeSearch is also accessible on your phone.

Teach your children to communicate responsibly:
Take the following as a good rule of thumb: if you would not say it to someone's face, do not text it, email it, instant message it or post it as a comment on someone's page.
View all content critically: Just because you see it online, there is no guarantee it is true. Children should learn how to distinguish reliable sources from unreliable ones and how to verify information they find online. When they are working on school projects, make sure kids understand that cutting and pasting content directly from a website amounts to plagiarism.

Teach Internet safety:
It is impossible to monitor your child's online activity all the time. As they grow older, they need to know how to use the Internet safely and responsibly when they are on their own. Encourage kids to steer clear of cyber tricks and play safe online. Some of the tricks are posted for free on YouTube Safety Channel.

Flag inappropriate content and report abuses:
Many of today's most popular websites have easy-to-use tools that let users flag inappropriate content that others post online. It is important for kids to know how to flag such content when they encounter it. Teach your child how to flag inappropriate content on YouTube or any other site hosting user generated content.

On YouTube, simply click on the "Flag" link directly below the video. Additionally, opting for Safety Mode on YouTube means that videos with mature content or that have been age-restricted will not show up. While no filter is 100 per cent accurate, we use community flagging and porn-image detection to help identify and hide inappropriate content. It is also designed to hide objectionable comments. Also note that, like many sites hosting user generated content, YouTube is not intended for children under the age of 13.

Use privacy settings and sharing controls. Many sites that feature user-generated content, including YouTube, Blogger and social networking sites, have sharing controls that put users in charge of who sees personal blogs, photos, videos and profiles.

Using sharing control is particularly important when you or your children share personal information such as names, addresses or phone numbers on public sites. Teach your children to respect the privacy of friends and family by not identifying people by name in public profiles and pictures.
For mobile phone applications that incorporate geo-location features, be sure to adjust the privacy settings so that you can share as much or little as you want about your location.

Protect passwords:
It sounds obvious but remind your children not to give out their passwords. Make sure they make a habit of un-clicking "remember me" settings on public computers such as those at school or in the library. To be as safe as possible click the browser to a close when you leave.

Limit your contact:
Teach your children not to arrange in-person meetings with people they "meet" online and not to share personal information with online strangers because people may not be who they claim to be.

Help prevent virus:
Use antivirus software and update it regularly. Make sure your children avoid downloading from file-sharing websites. Also, they should not accept files or open email attachments from unknown people.

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