AS half-term approaches, many children will be looking forward to a week off school to play on the X-Box or playstation, download their favourite music and films and catch up on all the latest gossip with their friends on Facebook. But as the range of household web usage grows, online security is becoming an increasing concern for many parents.
Says a spokesperson for Simplifydigital: “According to Ofcom, over a third of children aged 12-to-15 have unsupervised web access in their bedrooms and over 60 per cent say they use the web ‘mostly on their own’. The same is true for younger age groups too, with one in five just eight-to-11 year-olds saying they have web access in their bedrooms and more than a third saying they go online ‘mostly on their own’.
“However, half of all those parents whose children use the internet at home do not currently have internet controls or filtering software in place. And the issue of parental controls is not limited to internet access at home via PCs and laptops. Research shows that a third of children aged 12-to-17 use their mobile phones to surf social networking sites.
“So, what sort of security should parents have in place and what questions should they be asking before choosing a broadband provider?
“Simplifydigital.com, the Ofcom-accredited broadband, home phone and digital TV comparison service (www.simplifydigital.com) tells you all you need to know.”
Simplifydigital.com’s five-step guide to improving your child’s safety online
1. Make sure you are involved with your children’s internet usage. Ask them what sort of sites are their favourites and what their friends like to do. Discuss with them that the internet contains ‘good”‘ and ‘bad’ stuff and they should take care where they go online.
2. Teach your children the basic ‘rules’ of internet use – they should never give out personal details such as their name, address, school and telephone numbers to online ‘friends’ they don’t know in person; and neither should they respond to junk email or open attachments that are from people they don’t know.
3. Stay aware of any changes in the way they use the internet, such as the amount of time they spend online.
4. Use the ‘history’ function on the internet browser from time to time, to check which websites your children have been using.
5. Choose a broadband package with suitable security and parental control features. If your broadband package does not come with these features, software can be bought off the shelf. It’s easy to install and allows you to filter chat and instant messaging; block web access at certain times; block access to certain sites, or conversely define a ‘walled garden”‘ of sites that are accessible; and track usage with an activity log.
Simplifydigital.com’s No 1 recommended broadband package for security: TalkTalk Essentials
TalkTalk has just launched HomeSafe, which is free to all TalkTalk customers and is understood to be the UK’s first ‘network-level broadband security service’.
Adds the Simplifydigital spokesperson: ‘It is clever in that it provides protection for every device in the home (not just your PC). It has three different features: Virus Alerts, to block web pages infected with malware, to protect users’ computers and other devices; KidsSafe parental controls – allows the account holder to block the content they don’t want to be accessed through their connection; and Homework Time – this is a nice feature which allows parents to block social networking sites like Facebook and online gaming during homework time.”
TalkTalk Essentials costs £3.25 per month (12 months half price) and £6.50 thereafter, excluding line rental. HomeSafe is free.
The best of the rest – our pick of other good broadband packages with security in mind
The other leading broadband providers charge for security, except in the case of their top packages:
Plusnet offers Plusnet Protect in association with McAfee. It is free for customers taking Plusnet’s Extra broadband package, but it costs £2 per month for customers taking Value broadband. Plusnet Protect offers website filtering that can be tailored to the age of the children and/or by the genre of the content that should be blocked. Similar to TalkTalk’s HomeSafe, a browsing schedule can be allocated in order to specify the amount of time spent on the internet.
Sky Broadband also offers an McAfee Internet Security Suite. It is free for 12 months for customers taking Unlimited broadband, but £3 per month for customers taking Broadband Everyday Lite after the first three months.
BT Family Protection (powered by McAfee) is free for all customers. Filtering is available by age/genre content and access for messenger services can also be set. A timetable for browsing can be set as well as notifications when blocked website access is attempted and when confidential information is posted.
Virgin Media (Cable): Virgin Media Security is available to download from a customer’s account page for as many computers as they need. Controls can be set to limit genre content as well as block the use of instant messaging tools such as MSN messenger. Both of these blocks can be combined with a schedule in order to schedule selected periods in which access is restricted.
Other good information sources about security and parental control online
- Ofcom (www.ofcom.org.uk) has a lot of helpful information on internet security
- Websites such as CEOP’s www.thinkuknow.co.uk or tel: 08700 0003344) and The UK Safer Internet Centre.
Understanding the dangers of cyberbullying will help you keep your child safe online. There’s help and support available at CyberMentors, tel: 0208 771 3377; ChildLine, tel: 0800 1111; and Childnet International, tel: 020 7639 6967.
Simplifydigital.com launched in January 2008 and offers a unique ‘Switching Support’ service, with friendly experts on-hand seven days a week to provide answer all your questions in plain English; find the best deal available at your address (from all the top UK providers); and be there to help make sure that the installation and set-up goes smoothly.
It is the only retailer of digital TV, broadband and home phone services in the UK to have been accredited by Ofcom as impartial and transparent and on average saves customers up to £408 pa by finding them better deals.
Customers call their London-based experts free on 0800 1388388 or use their online service at www.simplifydigital.com.
* Simplifydigital.com data based on 1,538 records between Jan 1st to Nov 8th 2010.
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