BullGuard offers some tips and insight into how to keep children safe online to mark Safer Internet Day on 7 February.


Safer Internet Day is a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Its aim is to raise awareness about online issues that affect children whether its cyber bullying or the dangers of divulging too much information on social media platforms.
Schools across the world get involved in the activities and they are often joined by other organisations such as the police who give talks to children. The Safer Internet Day theme for 2017 is 'Be the change: unite for a better internet'.
With this in mind BullGuard has put together a few tips that can help children stay safe online while also generating a level of greater awareness about the dangers that children can face online. These are:

  • Unwanted advances from people who may wish to abuse, exploit or bully children
  • Exposure to inappropriate content such as sexually explicit, racist, violent, extremist or other harmful material
  • Giving out personal information such as addresses, mobile numbers and even personal financial information
  • Unwittingly downloading malware such as spyware, trojans and even ransomware
With these potential dangers in mind there are some basic steps that parents and guardians can take to protect children online:
  • Set some boundaries for your child such as limiting the amount of time they can spend online and only use computers when they are in a communal area so you can keep an eye on what they are doing
  • Talk to the children about what they like to do online, which games they play and why they like particular games or social media platforms. This engages with the children and helps keep them ‘onside’.
  • Discuss with your child what is safe and appropriate to post and share online. Explain that comments, photos and videos they post form part of their ‘digital footprint’ and this can be seen by anyone and is theoretically on the internet ‘forever’ even if material is later deleted
  • Talk about the kind of content they see online and whether they are looking for information that you can help them with
  • Keep in mind that platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have a minimum age limit of 13 for a reason.
  • Explain that being online doesn’t mean they are anonymous and that they shouldn’t do anything online that they wouldn’t do face-to-face.
  • Consider using web browser filters that allow you to block access to certain sites such as pornographic or violent material
You should also think about using parental controls such as those found in BullGuard Internet Security. These allow parents to block access to inappropriate content, put search filters in place, limit your kids’ time online, discreetly monitor their activity and even block certain applications. It helps to keep children safe from cyber bullying and stops them being exposed to inappropriate content.

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Smart devices

If you’ve got smart devices in your home you should also consider protection. Smart devices include internet connected TVs, thermostat, alarms, cameras, toys, baby monitors and more.
Because they are connected to the internet they are also vulnerable to exploitation. There is something like 6 billion smart devices in use today and some estimates say there will be 21 billion smart devices in use by 2020.
The important thing to remember about smart devices, and this includes baby monitors and smart toys, is that many of them have poor security, in some cases no security, or security that is far too complex for many consumers to manage. 
Here are some simple and effective tips to keep your children safe and lock out the bad guys:
  • Make sure any smart toy or device you have, or are planning to buy, has a password. The first thing you must then do is change the password before you put it online.
  • If you’ve got your eyes on a child’s smart device check that it is password protected and if so whether you can change it. Believe it or not some smart devices have passwords that can’t be changed. If it doesn’t have a password, don’t buy it. It would be like buying an external door without a lock.
  • When you change the default password replace it with a strong one. Ideally your password should include upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. It can be difficult to memorise strong passwords but there are many free password managers you can download onto your computer to help you do this.
  • Smart devices run on software. Check to see if software updates are available from the manufacturer and whether you can easily update this when upgrades become available.
  • Install security software on your mobile devices used to control smart devices. If attackers can access a smart device via a malicious smart phone app instead of by hacking the device directly, they will likely choose the app because it is easier.
  • Make sure your home wireless network is protected by a strong password. Your Wi-Fi network is a gateway to your home and all your connected devices. It will be password protected by a default password on your router. These default passwords are frighteningly easy to discover. If a hacker gains access to your home network by cracking the default password they can effectively control all your smart devices. Changing your Wi-Fi password is a simple process. Just follow the instructions on this Wikihow page: https://www.wikihow.com/Change-Your-Wi-Fi-Password
Finally, a quick and easy way to check if smart devices on your home network are secure is to run the IoT Scanner by BullGuard – it’s a great way to check if the steps you’ve worked through above have been successful.
Later this year a product that is exclusively dedicated to smart home and smart device protection is set to launch. Called Dojo by BullGuard, it provides ground breaking safeguards for the smart home and all smart devices.
Using machine learning and artificial intelligence it protects the privacy and security of your data, devices, home and family against cyber threats.
It’s the only product that offers deep levels of defence against all type of hacks, whether it’s someone attempting to hack a specific smart device or someone who has hacked the home network and is rooting around.
Importantly, it’s also incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require any technical knowledge.