WAMBUGU: Keeping children away from digital alleys

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By SAM WAMBUGU
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The Internet is filled with websites that are inappropriate for anyone, especially children.

Young people get into trouble online all the time, even when they are not looking for it.

Misspelling a website’s address, writing the wrong search term, or clicking a wrong link can lead to some awkward sexual conversations.

Online bullying and predatory adults are a few other dangers that lurk on the wacky web.

Parents and people in authority cannot make the Internet fully safe.

But we can do something to light up the dark corners, lock or limit access to rooms with materials unpalatable for children or keep guard at the entrance of rooms where bad guys lure young minds.

One of the greatest challenges facing parents these days is how to ensure that their children remain safe online.

With so many children now having tablets, smartphones and PCs of their own, it’s increasingly difficult to know what content they access and who they’re meeting on the web.

The solution is to set up automatic controls. These parental controls and content filtering on computers, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets are easy to set up.

More important, these precautions empower your devices to protect children from digital dangers when you aren’t around to supervise.

Let us start with the use of common sense. Don’t allow children to use devices such as laptops, tablets or phones — in their own rooms.

Asking them to use them in a communal area should discourage most inappropriate activities, as it will be obvious what they’re up to even if you only glance in their direction.

In addition, encourage your children to tell you whenever they see anything that makes them uncomfortable or upsets them, or simply isn’t what they expected.

You can delete inappropriate websites from your browser’s history, and add the site’s address to a parental control filter list. If you can’t do this, ask someone with some reasonable IT knowledge to assist. It is not complicated.

Parental controls can filter the web and block inadvertent access to inappropriate websites. Most parental control tools include content filtering — the ability to block access to websites matching unwanted categories such as porn, violence and hate.

There are a variety of ways to do this, from configuring network-wide parental controls on your router to using the parental controls built into Windows or third-party software.

If you have a router at home, you can configure content filtering in it. Your router is the gateway to all the content that comes to all gadgets in the house that connect to the Internet through it.

Setting up parental controls here will allow you to perform web filtering for all the devices on your network — computers, smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles with built-in browsers.

In addition, you can set up Internet access schedules. Through this configuration, you can limit the days and times when your child accesses the Internet, even if they have smart gadgets.

You can, therefore, block Internet access during study times or when you (parent or guardian) are not at home.

These configurations may be difficult to implement on a tablet or a phone that uses data bundles instead of a router. A router in the house is the best line of defence. It is the place you can configure and control all gadgets.

With most parental control systems, you can opt to receive notification via text or email when your child tries to visit a blocked site, makes a post using suspicious language, or otherwise bends the rules.

It is difficult to control children on the Internet, but that is not an excuse to sit, stare and fail to intervene.

There are many tech tools you can use, besides regular counselling and guidance.

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