She may only be 10 but your youngest is already using your mobile to chat to her friends on WhatsApp, playing online with her friends from your tablet and watching videos on YouTube on an old laptop.
However hard you try to keep an eye on her online activities, you have to admit that the sheer number of devices is making it hard to keep up... And yet, adopting a few new habits will give you the peace of mind you need.
It is important that you know what applications your children are using, what data they collect and for what purpose.
The Better Internet for Kids portal lists the Apps that are popular with younger kids and tells you more about how they work. The harsh reality is that a simple game downloaded from a dangerous website can serve as a gateway for cybercriminals, who can then know your location in real time, retrieve your personal data, subscribe you to a premium SMS service, and more.
Consider installing a device that limits your child's access to only certain games and applications.
There are also tools, that must be installed on each device your child uses, to control the sites they can access according to their age. One of the most popular is Qustodio, which allows you to block inappropriate content by defining your filters: pornography, violence, gambling....
The tool also allows you to authorise access to the Internet or Apps at certain times of the day to cut down on screen time. It even allows you to receive a daily or weekly report of your child's activity on the configured devices.
A 2012 study on the use of the Internet in France found that searching for new friends is one of the most popular online activities among children. 43% admit to have already added strangers to their list of friends. And 12% say they have already sent one of their photos or videos to someone they had never met.
It is therefore necessary to make your child aware of the risk of chatting with strangers on the Internet or publishing personal information.
For example, you can start off by asking them questions, in the course of a casual conversation, about what they like doing on the Internet. The important thing is to be as aware as possible of what they are up to, so that you can react quickly if necessary.
It is also worth talking to them about the consequences of certain types of behaviour that have become rife: publication of photos taken in class, derogatory comments, etc. It is important for them to know that they can talk to an adult about it if they witness online bullying or become a victim themselves. One good source of advice is the Belgian foundation Child Focus who can help you instigate this talk and ask the right questions.
Don't hesitate to give your child useful tips to keep them safe. For example, on gaming platforms, help them choose their identifiers carefully so that they never reveal their name, address or gender (especially for girls).
Explain how social network privacy settings work and the importance of using them properly. For example, some personal data must remain private in order to avoid any risk of identity theft. Similarly, some posts (about your child’s location or relationship status, etc.) should remain limited to friends to avoid attracting people who are up to no good.
No control or filtering system will ever replace the education and trust that is essential to make your child a responsible surfer.
Also consider taking out E-protection insurance that secures your digital life and compensates you in the event of fraudulent purchases or identity theft.
This cover also protects your child if they become a victim of cyberbullying (publication of compromising photos, insults, etc.) by preserving reputation thanks to a service of drowning harmful content.