We live in a world where technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace – the modern home is full of numerous internet-enabled gadgets such as smartphones, smart TV’s, tablets, laptops, computers, and gaming consoles that were unheard of just a few years ago, all of which pose a potential threat to the safety of your child if left unchecked.  How do parents cope with this technology onslaught in their homes? How do you safeguard your children in the digital realm when they are often more tech-savvy than you are?  Mark Khury of Virtuenet shares some practical yet highly effective tips to get you started.

Protecting the Internet “Gateway” of Your Home

This is by far the most important step you can take towards ensuring a safe online environment for your family, and can be achieved by installing a physical “firewall” type device on your home network such as the Family Zone Box (www.familyzone.com). This will ensure that all devices connected to the home network are protected around the clock.

Off-Network Protection for Mobile Devices

As mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets are used outside of the home, steps must be taken to secure these devices as well. This typically involves a software app to be downloaded and installed on the phone. Some apps are only a Safe Browser while others can also block or allow specific apps or device features to be used. Again I recommend the Mobile Zone app by Family Zone which is an excellent fully-featured app with real-time alerts and they offer a fully integrated protection solution that protects your child no matter where they are – at school, at home, or anywhere between.

Parents often ask me – “which is the safest phone for my child?” Personally I would recommend Apple iPhone because it has built-in restrictions that can be enabled. These allow parents to disable to default browser (Safari) thereby forcing the use of the Safe Browser app, as well as blocking access to the App Store which prevents children from installing new apps that you are unaware of.

Another tip I give parents is to only allow apps that are absolutely necessary and that you approve of and block or uninstall everything else, as opposed to allowing your child to install a plethora of apps and then trying to figure out which ones could be potentially harmful. I also recommend that parents read the following books, “Tech-Savvy Parenting” by Nikki Bush and “Digital Cocaine” by Brad Huddleston. These will help educate and equip parents with regard to their children’s online safety.

We are also working with local Internet Service Providers whereby similar protection features as mentioned above will be linked to your home or mobile internet connection with the protection being offered at service provider level (and not requiring any devices or apps to be installed) – this should hopefully become available within the next few months and parents are welcome to contact me for more information.

Mark Khoury
E: markk@virtuenet.co.za
W: www.virtuenet.co.za

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