Keeping Kids Safe Online
Some very disturbing things have happened this week as kids in my state have started online learning. I will spare the ugly descriptions and details. Several classes in one district were exposed to pornographic videos and have temporarily shut down live learning. I emailed our principals last night to find out what preventative measures our district has taken to help keep kids safe online.
While these incidents happened inside Google Meets, I wanted to share some security measures you can take at home as kids are now required to be online for their education. (And by the way - why are we using Google Meets? And Zoom? How hasn't a safer platform come out in the last 6 months for education, like those used by medical professionals?)
First of all - nothing is fool-proof. And talking to our kids is SO important. You can't assume because you have security systems in place, that you don't need to worry about it. We had another talk with our kids about pornography and internet safety on Sunday, as we prepared for online learning this week.
I recommend doing all of the following:
Open DNS: This is free. Your internet provider may provide this service, or your can do it on your own. These are settings that are placed on your router, so any device using your wifi would be restricted to these settings. "OpenDNS Family Shield allows you to to all block adult content by changing the DNS server on your devices and/or router at home. ... If you want a little more control, you can set up an account for OpenDNS Home Internet Security and block adult content alongside things like malware and piracy sites." Here's a link on how you can do it yourself:
Macs, Mac Minis, Macbooks: Go to System Preferences > Screen Time > Content and Privacy Settings > Turn On Content and Privacy Restrictions > Select Limit Adult Websites > Unselect Allow Explicit Language in Siri and Dictionary. Then go to options and set up a screen time passcode so that no one can choose to ignore the setting. You can/should do this on ALL apple devices. Here is a link if you have an older system: https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/mac-software/set-up-parental-controls-mac-3780629/
PCs are a little trickier to figure out with a few more steps. Here's a good guide: https://www.windowscentral.com/how-protect-little-ones-windows-defender-and-parental-controls
Android Devices (we don't use these so I don't have experience, but this is a pretty comprehensive guide): https://www.online-tech-tips.com/smartphones/how-to-kid-proof-your-android-mobile-device/
You can also pay for internet security apps and software like Norton, install safe search engines on devices (Be sure to TURN OFF Safari, Google, etc if you do that) or use routers like Circle. Here is a link that reviews the pros and cons of some of the top programs: https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-parental-control-software
Just know there are work arounds to almost everything!! Kids can easily hack into screen time settings, or other security software. Also phones who are not using your wifi will not have your router's security settings.
I highly recommend taking multiple security measures. My heart aches for kids right now. They don't get to choose to learn online or in person, and the potential for them to be exposed to evil while doing school online is very real.
Please be proactive. Be present. Be aware. Talk to your kids about these things. And please pray with me that our kids will be safe online during this time. XOXOXO.