Friday, 28 December 2012 22:04

Sensible family Christmas IT advice from the Liberal Party


In the guise of their ongoing Online Safety Working Group, the Coalition is giving some free advice regarding children and technology - and it's definitely worth listening to.

Published just a couple of days before Christmas (and probably more important now that parents have actually delivered technology products to their children) the advice is worthy of close examination.

With bicycles, skateboards and surfboards, we teach our children how to use them in a way that keeps them safe. Technology is no different.

That is certainly true, but the problem is that the risks and dangers of all these modern technology products are both harder to identify and even more difficult to qualify. Sure we can demonstrate (at least figuratively) the danger of falling off a skateboard, but how good are we at clearly making a case for password hygiene and for safe surfing? And how do we assess the risk? However, none of these comments are intended to belittle the work done by the Coalition's Online Safety Working Group - any valid contribution is always welcome.

To assist parents this Christmas, the Coalition's Online Safety Working Group has developed an Online Safety for Parents Guide as well as Ten Tips for Parents to Keep Your Child Safe Online - including some of the best ideas we have picked up in talking with parents all around Australia.

These publications will help parents as they set appropriate limits on their child's use of devices depending on the child's age and maturity, as well as practical tips around such issues as password protection, internet filters on home computers and safety settings on search engines.

Our advice to parents is to learn about the item before they wrap the present. Play with it, find out what it can do, so that you can set the appropriate boundaries in place to protect your children.

On the next page, we share the Coalition's ten tips; all of which are entirely sensible advice to all parents, whether their children have received new devices for Christmas or whether they've had them for some time.

Ten Tips For Parents To Keep Your Child Safe Online

1. Install an internet filter on your home computer if used by children. Internet filters can be downloaded online, some for free.

2. Play with and get to know a new electronic device before you give it to your child. Activate the security and parental controls beforehand.

3. Familiarise yourself with safety settings on search engines (such as Google's SafeSearch.) Make sure these are set to the highest level on devices used by younger children.

4. Set limits based on your child's age and maturity. Sit down with your children to agree on acceptable use of the device, including time limits on screen time. Decide if your child is old enough to use social media (Facebook's minimum age is 13).

5. Set rules for accessing the internet when you're not around. Be aware that many stores offer free Wi-Fi which may allow your child to go online when there is no adult supervision.

6. When your child goes to bed, require the smartphone or other device to be left with you. Many families adopt a practice of leaving the devices in the kitchen to be charged overnight.

7. Password protect credit card purchases. If your children have the password for an itunes or similar account they may incur download charges.

8. Make sure apps are age appropriate. Apps will often indicate what ages they are suitable for.

9. Put your child's name into a search engine to see if they're using social media and have not set appropriate privacy settings.

10. Protect your child from risks on Facebook and other social media sites by selecting the highest privacy settings. And make sure your child:
• Declines friend requests from people they don't know.
• Doesn't give out personal information (such as home address).
• Doesn't post photographs that could embarrass them now or in the future.

All of which is excellent advice.  In fact, as someone once said, never post anything that you wouldn't say as part of your speech at your grandmother's 80th birthday party.

As a final thought, the document makes this comment: "There is no greater thrill for any parent or adult than watching children open presents at Christmas. Parents work extra shifts, they make sacrifices, so their children have the happiest Christmas memories. However, we all have to be smart and protect our children from online dangers."

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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