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Gone are the days when a piece of paper and a rainbow set of crayons made kids giggle with glee. Your child may still get a kick from arts and crafts endeavours, but Smartphones and Tablets are oh-so-appealing when it comes to the activity du jour. But you worry about the bad stuff that’s out there; the mindless, time-wasting apps that are full of ads and in-app purchases; the YouTube videos with bad language and nasty images; the websites which are meant for adults, not kids. What can you do to make your device ‘kid-safe’ before you hand it over? Here are few tips we’ve learned over the years.
- Temper ‘parental controls’ with common sense. Ok, so putting parental controls on your smart phone or tablet is a no-brainer. You pick your favourite site-limiting software, add it to your tablet and boom – the kids are safe. Right? Maybe not. According to the Australian Government’s Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, even though parental controls help to protect your child from accessing inappropriate or offensive content, they aren’t 100% effective. Limiting online safety to a single control may still leave your little one at risk when online. What else can you do? To start with, you could …
- Turn on passwords. Typing in that pesky combination of letters, numbers, and symbols or remembering a completely nonsensical word every time you want to download an app is annoying. In order to avoid an extra 30 seconds of typing, you’ve probably changed your settings to remember your PIN or not require a password before purchasing (or downloading) an app. Put the password back. Right now! Don’t give it to your child. And, don’t use his name, his pet snake’s name or his birthday as your secret code. With password on, your 5-year-old can’t ‘accidentally’ download a dating app. If you need some help coming up with a strong password, use this password guide.
- Turn off In-app Purchases. You’ve heard the stories. A child, playing a free game, somehow spends thousands of dollars. It happened to Kanye West and dozens of others. A child asks you to download something then, within a specific timeframe, they press the buy button for more dinosaur food. This can be easily prevented through a setting. If you’re using an Apple device, open your ‘general settings’, choose ‘restrictions’ and turn off in-app purchases.
- Restrict Explicit Content. Don’t leave the restrictions settings just yet. Below the in-app purchase settings is a way to remove the ability to access explicit content. This setting will remove the ability to listen to explicit news, music and podcasts. This isn’t perfect because it is up to the content creator to flag their content as explicit. If the podcaster only occasionally swears on air, then he or she may not feel the need to call their work explicit.
- Use Restricted Accounts. Make yourself the primary user, and give your child a ‘restricted account’. If you’ve got an Android tablet, you can set the device to handle multiple accounts. Why try this tactic? It allows you to have full administrative control. From the ‘Settings’ page, you can decide just how much access your child can have. Not only does this limit what they can do (or use the tablet for), but you can create multiple profiles for multiple users. Genius! That is, if you don’t want your 10-year-old rolling his eyes at you just because he has the same setting restrictions that his 2-year-old brother does.
- Sit and guide your child. This is a bonus win-win way to up the safety factor of your child’s tablet. Not only are you monitoring what he’s doing online in real time (and real life!), but you’re sneaking in some together-time. And anyway, you deserve a break from answering work emails, responding to your play date group’s texts and sorting the washing out!
- Use a kid-friendly browser. The default browser that you use lets everything through. The scary sites, the gory ones and the ones that are just plain inappropriate. Using a search engine for children strikes out these sites and lets your child surf only ‘safe’ spaces. These aren’t filters or parental controls. These are search engines made for children’s use.
- Protect the tablet from damage. A tablet in kids’ hands must be protected. Screen protectors are a must have because who knows when the next Hot Wheels will take a trip across the screen. Cases are also required, not a standard one though – buy a heavy duty one like a Moko Kids Proof cover. When shopping for a cover, look for shock proof cases with excellent handles for their smaller hands.
Do you have a kid-proofing tablet tip? We’d love to hear from you. Share your favourite ways to keep your kid safe online!
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