Setting boundaries

In the end, you are still the parent, and thus remain in charge. If you feel your child is ignoring warnings, or actively seeking out the wrong sites, then you can remove their internet privileges, or move them back into the centre of the house where you can observe their behaviour. While some software does allow you to monitor the internet activity of your children, we feel it would be best to tell them in advance that you are using these techniques. It could be quite damaging to the trust of a child to find out that you were secretly spying on their every conversation.

Again, and we really can’t stress this strongly enough, talk to your children rather than rely on a software solution. With all that being said, here are some ways in which you can use settings and applications to help you protect your young family.

How to make YouTube and Facebook safer for kids

Facebook

Two of the most popular websites for kids are YouTube and Facebook. Facebook is something of a mixed bag when it comes to content. There are no obvious filters that can restrict explicit content, although the friends you follow obviously have a great effect on the kind of material that appears in your newsfeed.

You can block individual users and apps in the settings options, but that’s about the extent of your controls. It’s worth remembering that the minimum age requirement of a Facebook account is thirteen years old, so it’s not really intended to be entirely child-friendly. Many of the family security software packages available now often include social media features, so if your child is a regular Facebook user then it would be worth investigating some of these.

YouTube

YouTube is another huge draw for younger users, especially due to the huge amount of music videos on the site.

Recently Google released the YouTube Kids app for Android and another for iPhone / iPad. This is free and should certainly be used instead of the main YouTube app. It has a simpler interface and uses algorithms to filter search results to videos suitable for kids.

YouTube Kids app

It isn't perfect of course, but it's far safer than handing over a phone or tablet and allowing them to use the full YouTube app. You can turn search on if you like, or turn it off and let them use the interface to discover new videos.

Unfortunately, this version of YouTube isn't available in a web browser. But Google does provide a safe mode option, and once applied it covers any instance of YouTube that logs in with the same account. On your PC all you need to do is navigate to the YouTube site, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on the ‘Safety:’ box. Here you’ll see an explanation of how it works, and the restrictions it applies.

Again, it’s not foolproof, but it will at least limit the amount of unsuitable material that might otherwise get through.

Child using Kindle Fire tablet

Microsoft Family Security in Windows 10

Back in Windows 8 Microsoft introduced family security settings. These allowed parents to create children’s accounts, restrict the type of content they could access, as well as set time limits for when the young ones could use the devices. These still exist in Windows 10 and offer a good starting point for securing your PC.

Creating a Child account in Windows

To set up a child account you’ll first need to open the Settings menu and select Accounts.

In the left-hand column of the next screen you’ll find the option for Family & other people. Select this and then click Add a family member.

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The pop-up box that appears has two options - Add a child, and Add an adult - select the first option and then click on the blue link labelled ‘The person who I want to add doesn’t have an email address’.

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You’ll now be asked to create an email address for your young charge, so enter the details into the relevant fields, click Next, then you’ll also need to add a phone number for security purposes.

The next screen is pretty bizarre, as it wants permission to serve targeted ads to your child. While this might be a wonderful idea for Microsoft, we recommend unticking both boxes before you click Next so the account doesn’t fill up with entreatments for Minecraft, Xboxes, and any other spamming ephemera.

With this done you’ll see that the account has now been created and that the security settings are set appropriate to the age of your child.

To view these settings go to account.microsoft.com/family, or simply return to the Settings>Accounts>Family & other users, where you should find the new account. The last part of the setup is to click on the account and then click the Allow button which appears. This will activate the account and mean that your child can log into Windows using the new ID.

Microsoft Family Security settings and features

Once the account is up and running you can begin refining access through the various options available. To find these click the Manage family settings online link that you’ll find just below the new account.

This takes you to the Microsoft webpage for your account and shows the current members of your family. To the right of each account is a list of options, these include Check recent activity, Purchases and spending, Screen time, and More. Clicking the latter will open up additional settings, including the Web browsing filter.

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Add Money

The Add money feature is quite clever in that it allows parents to put credit into the child’s account that they can then spend in the Windows store on games, apps, music, TV, movies, or devices. Essentially it’s a gift voucher applied to the account, so there’s no way for the child to incur additional expenses on your credit card. 

Screen Time

Another useful setting is Screen Time. As the name suggests, this is simply a way to control how long your child can use the PC on any given day. Once you’ve turned on the Set limits for when my child can use devices option you’ll be able to click on the grid below to set certain times each day that the account will allow access. The granular method means you can adjust it so that they have more, or less, time on the weekends, and what hour of the evening they have to stop in the week. How much screen time is healthy for kids?

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Web Browsing

This setting is a content filter that once enabled will protect your child from inappropriate sites and media. It also allows you to add a further level of control by choosing the Only websites on the allowed list option, where you can then enter which sites they are allowed to visit, and ones that are forbidden.  

Apps, Games & Media

Just like the web browsing setting, this one filters the content that the child can access in the Windows store. The general setting blocks adult content, while the Child can buy, then download or stream apps, games and media appropriate for: option allows you to set the specific age of content from a drop down menu. This means for example that a thirteen year old will be able to watch a PG-13 whereas a twelve year old won’t. 

Don't share too much

It’s all well and good changing the settings on devices, installing security software, and battening down the hatches on routers, but it can all be for nought if you then go and plaster pictures of your child all over Facebook.

In a recent study conducted by Nominet, the UK’s internet infrastructure specialists, is was revealed that, on average, parents share nearly 1500 pictures of their child by the time the little one reaches its fifth birthday.

This becomes more of an issue when it was also discovered that 85% of parents hadn’t checked their privacy settings in over a year, while only 10% were even confident of knowing how to do so.

When pictures are shared online it’s possible that they are not private, and even if they are there is of course the real chance that they could be reposted and shared by friends whose privacy settings might not be as rigid as your own. 

Once an image is online there is little chance that it ever truly disappears, so bear in mind that your child’s image becomes essentially public the moment you post it to social media. It might not seem a big issue now, but it’s worth remembering before you press Send.