Computing is a core subject in the National Curriculum from the first year of school. This means it is not just important, but it is necessary for children to get to grips with it. Whilst this has many advantages for your child, it also comes with parental concerns for children’s safety.
How can you ensure your child is safe when they go online? How can you restrict what they can and cannot do or see, without shutting off their laptop or tablet completely? How can you limit the time they spend texting their friends or playing computer games after their bedtime? We believe we may have the answers to these questions with some of these handy apps.
An easy way to filter the content your child can access on the laptop or PC is to adjust your family settings.
On Windows 10 you can use the Microsoft Family Web Portal to manage family settings on your computer.
If your child has a user account on your laptop or PC, you will be able to manage this account through the portal. If they do not have an account, you can create one by going to Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & other users > Add a family member > Add a child
Sign in to your account on account.microsoft.com/family and then select your child. From here you can use the different controls to restrict the websites, apps and games your child can use, as well as limit the time they can spend on them. The portal also sends you weekly reports to help you monitor your child’s activity.
On Mac PCs and laptops, you can access family controls to restrict access to apps, games and internet content.
To set up restrictions, go to Apple Menu > System Preferences > Parental Controls. If your child has a user account, you can select their name then click Enable Parental Controls. If they do not have an account, you can create one by clicking on the + symbol.
Once you have enabled parental controls, you can select your child’s account from the parental controls menu and then specify the restrictions you would like to make on apps, web, stores, time, privacy and other functions.
Macs also give you the helpful feature to manage the computer from other Macs, making it perfect if you have multiple devices in the household.
Customise your router
Some routers have built-in parental controls. If this is the case, you will be able to set boundaries and block content directly from the router’s configuration page. This will work across all devices that are connected to your network, including smartphones, tablets and game consoles.
Parental control, location tracking and screen time management apps
Available on iOS and Android.
FamilyTime is a free app that allows you to restrict content on your child’s device, including apps and websites. You can use it to set daily usage limits on individual apps such as Youtube, Whatsapp and SnapChat, as well as locking their screens during certain hours and monitoring their text messages. You can also create recurring schedules for different times of day when you would like restrictions to be automatically applied e.g. bedtime, dinner time, during school hours or when your child is working on their homework.
FamilyTime works with GPS, and can be paired with your child’s smartphone so you can keep track of their location when they leave the house. You can set up the app to send you notifications when your child reaches their destination or when they arrive home safely. Its ‘Geofencing’ feature also allows you to set boundaries on a map, notifying you if your child crosses those boundaries.
Additional features that your child may find helpful are the ‘SOS’ button and ‘Pick Me Up’ button which will send a notification directly to your device when they need your attention.
Talk to your child
Whilst there are lots of resources to help you manage and control what your child can access online, the best way to keep your child safe is to have a discussion with them about it. Make sure you agree on what is okay and what is not okay for them to access, and let them know they can come to you if they see anything online that makes them uncomfortable. If you’re not sure where to start, there are lots of good resources out there which can give you and your child guidance on staying safe online. NSPCC offers tips and advice on online safety. SafetyNetKids is a great source for younger children.