Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Keeping your children safe when surfing the internet

Two girls (5-6) at table using laptop
Two girls (5-6) at table using laptop

Help is at hand for parents who're struggling to protect their little 'digital natives' online as technology giant Microsoft launches its Safer Families initiative. Katie Wright reports.

Have you got the safety settings on your computer or phone activated to protect your children? If the answer is no, then you're not alone.

New research from Microsoft reveals that even though 98% of UK parents who have children at home agree that protecting their children's safety online is necessary – the biggest concerns being sexual content and cyberbullying – less than half have set up any safeguards on the devices their kids use.

That's why the tech company last week launched the Safer Families initiative.

Developed by Microsoft in collaboration with The Parent Zone (a parenting organisation that specialises in eSafety), the programme aims to turn parents on to the importance of online safety – and guide them through the necessary security steps.

Over the course of the next year, Microsoft will be bringing free sessions to workplaces around the country, starting with Argos, to talk to employees about both the benefits and the risks of internet use for kids.

If there isn't a workshop happening at your office, a series of videos – available at www.microsoft.com/uk/saferfamilies – give step-by-step instructions for getting your security settings up to scratch.

As you'd expect, the videos are Microsoft-focused, offering advice for Xbox (both One and 360 versions), Windows Phone and Windows 7 and 8 for PCs, but as Windows 7 is the world's most widely used operating system, millions of families can benefit.

For instance, learn how to block inappropriate websites or limit time on certain sites – a handy way to reduce procrastination on Facebook when there's school homework to be done, too – and prevent unsolicited friend requests on Skype.

These kind of restrictions are particularly important now that games consoles can be connected to the web and game-playing 'friends' made anywhere in the world.

The same goes for smart phones. Whether your child has their own, or you let them use yours, it's important to ensure phones are set up so they're safe for your little ones.

Even if you don't use Windows products, The Parent Zone's website – www.theparentzone.co.uk – has a wealth of advice on digital parenting.

As our children are 'digital natives', often more tech-savvy than their parents from a young age, it's more important than ever for mums and dads to go native too, by starting a conversation about online safety and making sure we're doing all we can to keep our kids safe online.

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