1. Are your children always on a tablet, smartphone or games console?
Do you know what they are watching or what games they are playing?
New studies suggest that parents grossly underestimate the number of hours their children are spending online and many don’t even know what sites they are visiting.
According to a recent report by Ofcom, the internet has overtaken television as the top media pastime for children in the UK.
Gone are the days of a limited children’s TV schedule, sandwiched by hours of board games and imaginative play.
Ofcom’s report Children and Parents: media use and attitudes concluded that digital content is central to children’s lives, and for the first time ever children aged 5-15 are spending more time online than watching TV.
Qualitative research in the study found that children were consuming a significant amount of content alone on their personal devices.
So how as parents do we monitor this?
2. Why you need to keep track of your child’s internet use
The internet offers our children (and us adults) incredible opportunities in education, communication and networking.
While most parents are happy that the internet is generally a safe environment, they also accept that children need to know how to navigate it in a safe and secure way.
The aforementioned report by Ofcom highlights the fact that as children get older the desire to fit in with peers or develop their own identify could make them less likely to critique information sources.
Keeping track of your child’s internet use, especially as they hit the teenage years is perhaps controversial, but keeping children safe online is definitely something that is on most parents’ minds.
If you want to keep ahead of cyber bullying, sexting, online predators and even identifying bad apples in your child’s friendship group, you may want to put safety ahead of concerns over privacy.
Protecting your child’s personal information and safeguarding their reputation is important.
Ofcom’s study found that a third of 12-15 year olds had seen some form of hate speech in their peer groups in the past year.
It’s a worrying trend and the struggle between respecting privacy and protecting our children is a difficult one.
3. How to keep track of your child’s internet use
It can feel sneaky checking your child’s internet use and by far the best approach is to have an open dialogue with your child about internet safety issues and what to do if things go wrong.
There are however things you can do to double check if the sites your child is visiting are appropriate.
Check browser history This is the most basic way to keep tabs on your child’s online footpath.
All internet browsers save a record of the sites that have been visited.
In Internet Explorer you can access the history via the Tools menu.
In Chrome you’ll need to click on the wrench button in the top right-hand corner and select history.
Use your wireless router Some wireless routers keep a log of what sites are visited via your home internet connection.
You’ll need to set up logging by typing your router IP address into the address bar on your browser.
To find out your IP address check the manufacturer’s documentation.
All routers come with a default static (fixed) IP address, so unless you‘ve bothered to go in and change it, you should be able to locate it fairly easily.
Otherwise, if you’re running Windows 10, enter ‘cmd’ in the search field and click the top result to access the Command Prompt.
When in the command prompt window type in ‘ipconfig’ to bring up information on your network connection.
The default gateway shows the IP address of the router you are connected to.
Alternatively, if you’re on a MacOS, the information can be found in system preferences.
Go to Network and select the tab that corresponds to your connection.
Click on Advanced and then click on the TCP/IP tab.
Here you’ll find the IP address either as ‘Router’ or ‘Default Gateway.’ Now you have your IP address type it into the browser bar on your computer.
You may be prompted to enter a password.
If you’ve never set one the default username and password can be found on the packaging your router came in or you’ll find it on the manufacturer’s website.
Once you have accessed your router, click on Logs to view activity.
You can set up site blocking here too.
Use software to monitor internet usage Parental control software is a good place to start, especially when your children are younger.
An uncensored internet is a huge playground for kids and just as we protect them at the park, there’s no reason why you can’t put in place parental controls online as well.
While software can’t do everything, it can at least enable you to set rules, schedules and block unsuitable content.
There are lots of great free software options offering parental control tools.
Check out Qustodio, OpenDNS Family Shield, Kidlogger, Spyrix Free Keylogger and Zoodles.
Remember when it comes to your child’s internet usage, a policy of proper education, mutual trust and respect is the best way to handle the issue of safety.
There’s a fine line between protecting your child and spying on them.