Safer Surfing on the Web
Six tips on how to safely and sensibly guide your children in their discovery of the virtual world
What is it that my children take an interest in on the internet? What are the areas that they are competent in and where do they require assistance? How can I protect them from unsuitable content? These are the questions that many parents see themselves faced with when they allow their children to browse the internet. Statistics show that, on average, 57 percent of all children use the internet daily. The majority do so unsupervised and for a duration of up to two hours per session. “Numbers like this clearly underline the necessity to further the internet competence of children in order to ensure sensible and safe surfing”, says Verena Delius, CEO of goodbeans GmbH, Europe's leading provider of internet services suitable for children. “If parents take the time to introduce their children to the virtual world, the internet can serve as a fantastic and beneficial learning environment and parents can influence their children's development in a positive way.” In this spirit, the CEO, herself mother of two children, provides six tips on how to introduce children to the internet and protect them from potential dangers at the same time.
- Know How it Works - Browser, Pop Ups & Co.
An important prerequisite for sensible internet usage is the adequate handling of hardware and software, as well as an understanding of the most important terminology, functions and general possibilities within the online world. Parents should start at the beginning: How do I browse the internet? What is behind the various input boxes and symbols? It is advisable to elaborate on terms such as start page, link, bookmark, pop ups and the make up of web addresses. In order to be knowledgeable of web pages that are suitable for children and to be able to provide answers to potential questions that children might have, it is of equal importance to familiarise oneself with what is new on the internet every once in a while. Online services aimed at children often also provide information directed at parents, allowing parents to find out more about corporate specific goals and content. goodbeans's company website (www.goodbeans.com) may serve as an example for this.
- Safety First - Discover the Internet Together
Especially in the early stages, it is crucial to closely accompany children in their first exploration of the internet and to provide support and assistance. Let your child know they can ask questions when they're unsure about anything. The general recommendation is not to allow children under the age of 12 to surf the internet by themselves, but rather to discover the virtual world together with them, or at least check in on them in regular intervals while they are using the internet. Another recommendation is to set up a separate PC account for the child, adding a search engine designed for children as a browser start page and a filter software which blocks pages that are unsuitable for children. Dolphin Secure (www.dolphinsecure.com) for example provides a combination of a new type of child protection software and an online platform designed for children. For these services, the company guarantees an ad-free and protected environment.
- Safe Chat Models for Children
Children should conduct online conversation only in moderated chat rooms that have been set up especially for them and that feature an ignore function for unwanted user requests. It is essential to instruct children not to hand out personal information or photographs, not to agree to meetings with 'new' friends outside of the chat environment, to leave the chat if something seems suspicious and to turn to you as parents and the chat moderators for advice.
- Child-friendly Alternatives to Google, YouTube & Co.
In order for children to have more fun when surfing the internet and to ensure that they are making use of content that is suitable for them, it is advisable to keep tabs on services specifically directed at children. Search engines designed for children aid that goal by ensuring that only recommendations suitable for children appear in the search results.
- More Than Playing: Media Competence and Learning Progress
Especially in the area of games, parental discretion is advised, as games rank high among the online activities of children. It is important that games are free of violence and ideally also achieve learning. Please keep in mind that what your child sees and does in the virtual world always has consequences in reality. In reflection to the child's age and development it's good to stay aware of what they experience in the net. Within the online services of goodbeans (www.goodbeans.com), the needs of children regarding new media have top priority. Two of the services that goodbeans offers, the online children's worlds Panfu (www.panfu.com) and Oloko (www.oloko.com), exclusively feature content suitable for children and moderated chats. The use of avatars enables anonymous communication. Through the cooperation with Tivola's online learning portal www.lernerfolg.de, educational games suitable for primary school students have been integrated on Panfu, in order to combine fun and knowledge transfer on one platform.
- Clear Rules for Gaming on Computer, iPad & Co.
Time spent at the computer or in front of the iPad should, just like time spent in front of the TV, be limited. The younger the child, the shorter the gaming time should be. goodbeans recommends certain time frames to families: preschoolers should not exceed 10 minutes each spent on three days per week playing computer games, primary school students should spend a maximum of 30 minutes each on three to five days per week on these activities and older children should not spend more than one hour per day with any of these devices. If parents notice that their offspring choose to sit in front of a screen day after day, they should strive to find out the reasons for this behaviour and proactively introduce their children to different and creative possibilities to spend their free time.