Family safety basics
For busy parents, here are some quick suggestions for how to help keep your family safe online.
- Talk with your family about online safety. Be clear about your family’s rules and expectations around technology and consequences for inappropriate use. And most importantly, make sure that they feel comfortable enough to ask for guidance when they encounter tough decisions. This can help your family feel safe exploring the Internet on their own and to know who to turn to – you – when they have questions.
- Use technology together. It’s a good way to teach online safety, and it creates opportunities for you to address online safety topics with your family as they come up.
- Discuss online services and sites. Talk with your family about what kinds of sites they like to visit and what is appropriate for each family member.
- Protect passwords. Help your family learn how to set secure passwords online. Remind your family not to give out their passwords, except maybe to trusted adults, like a parent. Make sure that they make a habit of signing out of their online accounts when they are on public computers at school, in a café or at the library.
- Use privacy settings and sharing controls. There are many sites for sharing thoughts, photos, videos, status updates and more. Many of these services offer privacy settings and controls that help you decide who can see your content before you post it. Talk with your family about what they should and shouldn't share publicly. Help them respect the privacy of others by keeping the personal details about family or friends private, and by not identifying people by name in publicly shared content.
- Teach your family to communicate responsibly. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't say it to someone’s face, don’t text it, email it, instant-message it or post it as a comment on someone’s page. Talk about how what you say online might make other people feel and come up with family guidelines about what kind of communication is appropriate.
- Talk to other adults. Open the conversation to your friends, extended family, teachers, coaches and counsellors. Other parents and professionals who work with children can be a great resource to help you decide what feels right for your family, especially if you’re dealing with an area of technology that you are unfamiliar with.
- Protect your computer and identity. Use antivirus software and update it regularly, unless you have a Chromebook, which doesn't need antivirus software. Talk with your family about the types of personal information – like a National Insurance number, phone number or home address – that should not be posted online. Teach your family not to accept files or to open email attachments from unknown people.
- Keep it going. Staying safe isn't a one-time thing – technology evolves and so will the needs of your family. Make sure that you keep up an ongoing dialogue. Re-establish your family’s ground rules, check in on everyone’s progress and set aside time to talk at regular intervals.
Advice from our partners
For young people aged 10+ see the Tips from parents at Google page for general advice.
The basics for young children aged 2-9
There is a wealth of information on how to set up access for your young child in Info Island.
Your child may start using a mobile phone, online gaming console or the internet alongside their siblings or with you. How you set up and configure those devices can help establish a safe online learning and play environment for young children as they develop their critical thinking, knowledge and skills. You can:
- Put the computer in the main family room. This way, technology use is a part of family interaction from the very beginning. It is much easier to start with parental involvement and supervision than to try to introduce it later when children are ‘tweens’ or teenagers!
- Install the Hector’s World Safety Button™ and show your young child how to use it. The Safety Button is a child-activated safety tool which children can use if something on-screen upsets or worries them. If a child sees something on-screen which concerns them, they can click on the icon which the Button installs on the computer and bring up a screensaver. The screensaver contains a message commending the child for covering the screen and encouraging them to go tell someone about what happened.
- Create a Hector’s World® Webcam Cover with your child. This simple paper cover can prompt a valuable discussion about protecting a child’s privacy online and the whole family can participate.
- You can use parental control systems which come free with some operating systems. Using such parental controls, you can set time limits, and a ‘white list’ (a list of approved sites your child can visit), which can gradually expand to more open access.
- As administrator, you can create an account for every member of the family (with a strong password) so there is an understanding of accountability for use of the internet.
- If your young child has use of a mobile, check that the model of mobile phone is appropriate for your child. If the phone is primarily a safety device and an easy link to you, then internet access is not needed. Parental controls for phones are now becoming available as well.
- Be aware of the online capability of new devices or services, such as cable television and gaming consoles.
- Enlist the help of older children in the household to mentor younger ones, and to be mindful of the appropriateness of content they view with younger siblings.
The point when it is appropriate for a child to be online unsupervised at home is for you to decide, based on the readiness of your child for that responsibility. The access can be expanded or limited based on how your child handles growing autonomy. Research shows children who are not risk-takers offline, are generally conservative about risk online and handle the responsibility brilliantly. Given the number of places children can go online when they’re away from home (friends’ houses, libraries, cafes etc.), education is essential.
What are the risks for young children
Young children can potentially be exposed to the same range of risks online as older children. These risks can include:
- Loss of privacy or control over their own or their family’s personal information
- Exposure to inappropriate or harmful content
- Contact with someone who might bully, harass or sexually harm them
- Becoming a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour themselves
How to respond to a problem
How you deal with a problem that arises is worth thinking through before you talk to your child. The goal of the response needs to be about keeping the communication open, even if the situation alarms or upsets you as a parent. With young children in particular, it’s important they understand they won’t be blamed for the problem and the technology won’t be taken away if they raise a concern. This doesn’t mean, however, that technology use cannot be expanded, or temporarily limited, based on how the child handles the responsibility of access. Young children can end up places online they never intended to go, so working through those issues calmly is very important. After the problem is resolved, it may be worth reviewing the computer set-up, and perhaps helping your child develop their skills to avoid such issues in the future.
For more serious incidents: if someone online has inappropriately contacted your child, sent your child unsuitable material, cyberbullied, or threatened your child, go to The Orb for details on who to contact to report it.
Discover the Top 5 Google safety features designed to help you keep your family safe online.
Use Parental controls to filter apps by content rating
You can use Parental controls to restrict the content that can be downloaded or purchased on Google Play. This helps you find appropriate content for you and your family.
Set a filter to keep inappropriate content out
If you’d prefer not to see mature or age-restricted content as you browse YouTube, scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and enable Safety Mode. Safety Mode helps filter out potentially objectionable content from search, related videos, playlists, shows and films.
Control what your family sees on the Web
If you want to control which sites your family can visit on the Internet, you can use Supervised Users in Google Chrome. With Supervised Users you can see the pages your user has visited and block the sites that you don't want your user to see.
Limit access to just approved apps and games
Want to share your tablet without sharing all your stuff? On Android tablets running 4.3 and higher, you can create restricted profiles that limit the access that other users have to features and content on your tablet.
Get family-friendly results from Search
By enabling SafeSearch, you can filter out most of the mature content that you or your family may prefer to avoid. If an inappropriate result does sneak through, you can report it to Google. We're always working to improve our content filters, and this kind of feedback can help us make SafeSearch better for everyone.