No doubt Santa was very generous at Christmas and thousands of children found their own iPad under the tree. But before you let your child plonk themselves down in front of their new screen, keep these tips handy to make sure you keep your child as safe in the virtual world as you do in the real one.
When setting up mobile devices for your children you should ensure the correct safety settings for their age and maturity, says cyber safety expert and author Leonie Smith.
Sydney-based Leonie says, luckily, all Apple mobile devices have great parental controls.
“You can enable specific privacy and safety settings on each device so that your younger child can only use a few apps, from educational apps to drawing apps and age-appropriate games,” she says. “Or you can set up a device for an older child so that they are restricted only from adult content. The worst thing you can do is turn on the device and hand it over as is without checking the settings.”
Leonie advises not setting up devices through iTunes with a credit card linked to it to prevent your children running up huge bills. Redeeming iTunes gift cards for app purchases is a better idea.
Even better, Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it easy for parents to call the shots. By turning on the Ask to Buy button for children in the family, an alert is sent to a parent every time a child initiates a download. Mum or dad can approve or decline it right there on their own device. No more inappropriate apps, just like that.
There’s even a nifty Australian-designed app called Curbi that lets parents tap into their child’s mobile devices, no matter where they are. Parents, via their own iPhones, iPads or computers, can control and monitor their children’s internet use, block access to all or certain websites, and limit the amount of time they spend on their iPods, iPads or iPhones.
Some helpful tips from The Cyber Safety Lady include:
Turn off the explicit language setting so anything marked as containing explicit language or swearing will not be able to be viewed or downloaded.
Monitor location services
Turn it off for most apps and for photos, so that your child’s location can’t be tracked, protecting their privacy and guarding against bullying or stalking.
When your child downloads new apps, be sure to go into the General Settings, and scroll down until you see the app, and check its privacy and safety settings.
When you enable the restrictions, you will be asked for a four digit password. This should be a password that only you know, so that your child cannot get into the settings and change them back.
Skype and Snapchat
There are no charges for Skype To Skype calls, and children can make calls on their iPads to friends. Be sure you have the Skype privacy settings set up, so that your child doesn’t get approached by strangers. Check the privacy settings. The ‘disappearing’ concept of Snapchat means parents can’t go back and monitor the pictures or videos being uploaded, unlike Instagram or Facebook.
The Australian Government has experts guiding parents through basic cyber safety online, with video tutorials and step-by-step instructions and links.
In 2013 Australian teenagers were online for an average of 14 hours a week – with excessive time online leading to sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression. Osteopaths and chiropractors are increasingly seeing children with “iPosture syndrome”, a relatively new complaint linked to devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Australian parenting site Raising Children recommends developing healthy screen-time habits, such as using the ages of your children to set screen time guidelines; limiting your own screen time, so your children can follow your lead; and keeping electronic devices out of kids’ bedrooms.
The eSafety website says setting limits, encouraging other activities and staying involved in your child’s online world can – and will – make a difference.