Today marks Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event that raises awareness about online safety and encourages everyone to help create a better internet. This year the theme is ‘Together for a better internet,’ with the aim to encourage all Australians to start the conversation about online safety issues and inspire positive change.

We’re proud to play our part in the cyber safety space, particularly when it comes to digital parenting. Recent research we conducted indicated that more than six out of ten parents are concerned about online bullying or their kids being exposed to inappropriate content and more than half are worried about stranger danger on the internet. So, as today marks Safer Internet Day, we thought we would offer some tips for keeping your kids smart and safe online.

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Do some eLearning

Before giving your kids a phone, it’s important to do some research and familiarise yourself with your child’s favourite sites or apps and take the time to understand how they work. This not only means you can more confidently chat to them about their online activities, but it also gives you some insight into how they might be interacting with other people.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is dedicated to keeping kids safe online and identify the key issues as cyberbullying, online pornography, time spent online, gaming and unwanted contact.

Each of these issues carry their own risks and dangers, and it’s important to familiarise yourself with the advice from the eSafety Commissioner. There’s never a one-size-fits-all safety net for your kids when they use the internet.

Be present

It almost goes without saying that the most effective way to make sure your kids aren’t interacting with content on the internet that could cause harm is to stay involved. There’s no need to be overbearing, but encourage kids to use their devices in communal areas of the home. That way, if they do come across something they weren’t looking for, they can let an adult know straight away.

Stay involved

Learning to browse the internet safely is like learning to walk or drive: it’s a process that needs careful supervision. Kids will learn best from your own understanding of online risks – scams, inappropriate content or predatory behaviour.

It is also important to set healthy boundaries with your kids. Using a guide like My First Mobile Agreement can be a great way to guide the discussion and get on the same page, while creating a safe space for them to learn. In this way you can help them make the most of their digital future.

Of course, with mobiles and tablets (and the reality of everyday life), you can’t always be there with your kids when they are online. There are a range of parental control tools to help families become more mindful about screen-time habits.

One of these is Telstra Mobile Protect – a free service with controls including time restrictions, which stop kids using their phones when they should be sleeping. Plus, with Telstra Broadband Protect, you’re able to set device usage levels across our home network, which make sure the whole family powers down even if they don’t have the willpower to do it themselves.

Apple – On Device Settings

Apple’s on device parental controls have a variety of options for parents. When it comes to managing screen time for example, you can remotely set “downtime” to lock your kids out of their phone for specific time periods – a good way to keep your family dinner phone-free (works for mum and dad as well!). You can also set time restrictions on specific apps as well in case you are happy with your kids spending time with educational ones but just want to limit games.

Apple’s latest parental controls also allow you to set up content restrictions for books, TV shows, movies and apps or choose whether your child may install new apps, delete apps or make in-app purchases. And all of these settings are flexible so as you kids get more and more responsible you can hand over more and more control – as appropriate.

You can find Apple’s own instructions for how to set this up on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch here.

Android + Family Link

You can find parental controls in most other phones as well but for Android-powered phones (including Samsung, Google Pixel, Huawei etc) Google has also produced a free app called Family Link.

The app is about setting “digital ground rules” to help your kids understand their boundaries while getting to know life online.

It gives parents full transparency over the sites being browsed and the apps being used. Like Apple’s tools, it also tells parents how long apps are being used for and allows for limits to be set. Moreover, parents have to approve new apps being installed on the device to ensure they’re not being hoodwinked.

Family Link isn’t just about restricting kids. It’s about educating them as well. Family Link can recommend apps that their teachers have given the thumbs up to, and they can be added directly to their device with a single click.

Breaks can also be mandated with the device locking features that force kids to take a break to run around outside, do homework or sleep. And when your kids are out of the house, Family Link also has a feature that allows you to keep a watchful eye on them with location tracking on the go.

Check out the features of Family Link and how to get it for yourself.

Third-party apps

Outside of Apple and Google there are other trusted names in security like Norton that have whole platforms dedicated to the task of keeping your kids safe online.

Norton’s Family Premier software not only sets time limits, but it also provides insights into how they’re using the internet they’ve been given. The software keeps you informed of the sites your kids are trying to access, keeping them away from harmful or inappropriate sites, and provides insights into search terms they’re using to keep track of potentially unsafe behaviour.

Family Premier from Norton also allows you to look at all of their behaviours in a detailed report sent to your inbox, so you can conveniently monitor the behaviour at a glance.

Getting your kid their first phone can be daunting, but being informed is the best way to stay on top of emerging threats that could be harmful. Sticking with them to learn and share information while they browse is key, along with a variety of tools at your disposal. You can also refer to our Smartphone Safety Hub for the latest tips and advice around kids and smartphone usage.