How can I protect my kids from looking at illegal, inappropriate, or harmful content online?
Parents used to worry about the stash of magazines hidden under the bed. Now it’s the browser history. And all that gossip and drama in the schoolyard now plays out online.

Luckily, there are simple tools that help you manage the content your children are able to see. It’s also wise to make sure young people understand that they need to be careful about clicking on links in emails or opening email attachments from people they don’t know.

“”“If there is one thing he loves more than Minecraft its watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. Recently he started getting nightmares and when we looked at his YouTube history we discovered why. He had been clicking on recommended videos and had started watching Minecraft video that had swearing and graphic content. We turned on Safety Mode on YouTube, but we also talked to him about the kind of videos we did and didn’t want him to watch.” – Paul
Of course, as they get older, they need to know how to use the internet wisely even when they’re on their own. And as digi-savvy parents, that means equipping our kids with the skills they need to navigate online safely and responsibly. We can’t put a Policeman in every website. But we can put one inside every young person’s head!

Simple Safety Tips.
Just as you rely on TV parental guidelines and film ratings to help protect your child from unsuitable content in other media, make the most of online tools and set controls on Social Media and Smart Phones but remember there is no substitute for parental supervision!
With younger children, be aware of how they use the internet, then agree which websites they can use; with teens, discuss what is appropriate and what’s not.
Discuss the importance of age limits on social media, game sites and video-sharing websites (e.g. Facebook and YouTube is 13+) – these age limits are there to help protect younger children from unsuitable content. Use your judgement – you know your child best and will know when they are ready to have a social media account.
Explain why they shouldn’t click on links or open email attachments sent by people they don’t know, or respond to surveys or questionnaires.
Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable at any time, and reassure them that you won’t take away their internet access, mobile or games console.
If you’re concerned that something your child has seen online is inappropriate report it to your internet, mobile or games provider (go to the ‘Help’ or ‘Safety’ areas on their website to find out how) or report it to NetSafe.

Part Two: Understanding Cyber Security
Keeping people safe on the Internet might sound like a big job – but it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, doing things by the numbers can be remarkably easy. Speaking of numbers – here are a few you might want to check out:

A straightforward Five Step Family Security Setup you can use.
The Cyber Security tips – Our top cyber security tips for staying safe.
And the Big Six Cyber Scams – to know about and watch out for.
Ideally you’ll start by having your Internet-connected things under control, having secured your devices – but what about the people involved in using them? Here’s a hint: why not get them literally “involved”? Gather the team around and make everyone’s Internet experience more secure, together.
To start with, just like any other parenting situation, a few simple rules go a long way. But which rules? Try this:

Busy Parent’s Five Step Family Security Setup.
Make sure your family knows:
Never give out details without asking an adult first (including yourself!) – and make sure the whole family understands why.
Shop online with a friend – use reputable shopping sites, and/or have someone else check the sale before you hit “Buy Now”. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is – but we often need fresh eyes to help us see that.
Use debit cards instead of credit cards when online shopping – this limits your exposure. Call your bank and ask for help setting these up.
Call callers back – teach everyone to ask for a phone number and a name from anyone who calls you direct asking for information. And remember: your bank will NEVER call you to ask for your password.
Have an “ask amnesty” in place – so the kids know they can always ask for help if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
The Internet is such an amazing resource, with so much to enjoy. No need to waste minute to waste a minute getting out there amongst it – the occasional run through the steps above will have you set up with some solid ground rules, and taking a few seconds to learn three simple ways you can protect yourself should save you plenty in the long run.

The Cyber Security top tips
HTTPS: The “S” stands for Secure. When dealing with your bank, an auction site, Facebook or any other official website, make sure the address of the site starts with “https://” – this way your usage is encrypted, and you can be sure it’s not a fake site set up to look like one of the real ones.
Whitelists: You could try to “blacklist” malicious sites, dodgy email addresses and applications you don’t want the kids to download – but it might be quicker and more reliable to “whitelist” only the sites, applications and email addresses you trust. This means that you’re choosing what sites, apps and email addresses that your family can access, and any addresses or apps that anyone tries to load that aren’t on the list, access is denied. If you are setting up whitelists for your family for all the sites you use often, make sure you use secure https:// addresses if available, e.g.
Virus protection: Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date (and switched on!), and your device is backed up. They’ll do all the work for you, so you can enjoy the Internet with confidence.
One of the best ways to help keep your family “cyber safe” is also one of the simplest: stay informed. For example, the more you know about common scams, the better you’ll be able to recognise them, spot similar ones, and ideally avoid them altogether.

Know your Cyber Scams? How to spot The Big Six.
After a quick read here, you’ll be up with the play on six of the most common scam risks. Keep an eye out for these:

The Nigerian Scam: an email invitation to share in someone’s good or bad fortune. Millions are to be made if you’ll give your bank account details to the Nigerian Prince (or other such person) who is looking to shift his riches. Report these at The Orb.
Ransomware:A type of “Trojan Horse” attack, ransomware sneaks in on the back of a document or website visit, locks or encrypts your computer, and scams you into paying a ransom to unlock it again.
Phishing: Fake emails or websites are used to “fish” for personal information – tricking you into clicking through to an unsafe site, filling out a form, or logging in.
Social Engineering: Related to Phishing, this direct approach relies on trust to trick people into sharing personal details. It might be a phone call from “your bank”, or an unusual email from a friend asking for personal information.
Catfishing: A more insidious version of Social Engineering, Catfishing involves setting up fake online identities (and often complete social circles!) to lure people into emotional relationships, then leveraging that person’s trust.
Malware: Wikipedia defines Malware as “an umbrella term for any hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs.”
Like staying informed? There’s plenty more to read at the NZ Police email and Internet safety site, or at NetSafe.

Now you’re in the know, get out there and enjoy the Internet, safely – including visiting this site from time to time to remind yourself how to stay safe!

You might also be interested in our articles on How to: Set controls on Social Media and How to: Set controls on Smart Phones.

Part One: Secure Your Devices
There’s already plenty to do to keep the family running smoothly. The last thing you need is a second job as a Cyber Security Technician. But you can easily make your family’s Internet experience more secure with a simple checklist and a little up-front preparation – so you can get back to your day job. As well as your night job. And your morning and evening jobs.

The Busy Parent’s Five Minute Cyber Security Checklist:
Switch on lock screens for every device. This keeps your family’s information and identities out of the hands of thieves, opportunists and nosey classmates. You can do this in seconds on most devices.
Ensure laptops and computers are password protected. Laptops especially, in case of theft or loss – and home computers in case of burglary or unreliable visitors.
Check your WiFi & Router are password-protected. And check that you’ve changed them from the original admin passwords. This might take ten minutes, so pop it in your diary.
Install – and use – anti-virus protection. Do this on every device that needs it. It only takes a minute, but it could save you a whole lot of time down the track.
Make a plan to back it up. If anything does go wrong, you’ll at least have a copy of your precious data. Shop around for an affordable backup drive and use automated backup software, with reminders to make it happen.

How can I keep my kids safer online?
When it comes to online safety, it’s pretty simple and a little common sense goes a long way!
It helps to imagine the online world as a bigger version of the real world. Just like in a big city, there are good places, and not so good places – as well as laws (like the new Harmful Digital Communications Act) designed to help protect us all.

Digi-Savvy parents teach their kids the same rules online as they do in real life: avoid strangers, don’t give out personal information, and talk to a trusted adult if you see anything that makes you uncomfortable. And advice for parents is simple: don’t be afraid to say no! You wouldn’t let your kids watch an inappropriate movie or wander into a nightclub, so you should also set limits on which websites, games and apps are okay to use.

It’s important for you as a parent to be up to speed so if anything does go wrong, you know how to give the right advice.
The safety issues we hear about most are sexting and cyber bullying. Sexting simply means exchanging images of a sexual nature. Often young people can feel pressured into sending images, and they don’t stop to consider the potential consequences. Cyber-bullying encompasses cruel or upsetting TXTs, emails or messages and are the online version of playground bullying. Kids need to know it’s not okay to be the target – or the bully. We’ve put together some expert tips on how to prevent and deal with cyber bullying here, or you can go straight to

And if you need more formal help, the new Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) specifically discusses children and teenagers as being susceptible to “harmful communications”. This act includes new measures to help victims, ways to simplify the process for getting harmful communications off the internet quickly and effectively, and new criminal offences to penalise the most serious perpetrators. You can read more about the HDCA here.

If you are concerned about a particular mobile number, Vodafone Blacklist is a free service available to all Vodafone customers that makes it easy to block unwanted TXT and PXT messages. You simply create a list of NZ mobile numbers you want to block. Find out more about Vodafone Blacklist here

Teaching in the digital age is full of exciting learning opportunities
As technology becomes more and more integrated into young people’s lives, it brings exciting new opportunities for schools. Teachers play a vital role in helping young people manage their digital spaces – so they are safe and responsible, as well as developing their academic ICT, media literacy, and social skills.
In recognition of the key role technology has come to play in delivering education, the Government has prioritised schools to receive ultra-fast broadband as it is being rolled out across New Zealand. Over 97% of schools will have received ultra-fast broadband capability by 2016.

If you’re a teacher, you might be interested in the Connected programme.
It was developed by Vodafone and The Parenting Place in collaboration with teachers to educate students on the positives and negatives of our online world and to encourage students to make good online decisions. The programme consists of student presentations, parent evenings, a student handbook, and teaching resources. For more information on the Connected programme for your school (years 7-8, and 9-13) contact The Parenting Place.
The team at NetSafe have also developed a Kit for Schools. This is a comprehensive programme design to build and support digital citizenship in schools.

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a Garbage Designer!”

From firefighting drones to the Khan Academy, the new world of tech and communications is playing havoc with our children’s dreams for what they’ll be when they grow up. In fact, according to a US study, 65% of today’s primary school kids will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

Think about it: even 10 years ago, the role of Social Media Manager, Sustainability Manager or Mobile Phone Applications Developer simply didn’t exist – but they’re hot properties today. So how do we set our children up for a future career, when we don’t know what kind of jobs will even be around?

Experts agree your kids are still going to need reading, writing and arithmetic – augmented by social skills, creativity, innovation, problem solving, tech skills and global awareness.

Here are some things you can do together, to help develop the right skills:

  1. Creativity & Innovation Creative problem solving with innovative ideas is an advantage in any line of work. Ignite creativity at home: ask for their help with solving common household problems, by engineering creative solutions – like how to get the back door to stop sticking, or how to keep the toothpaste flowing.
  2. Technology The march of technological development isn’t going to stop anytime soon.Get your kids building and coding from an early age. Tech Will Save Us is a great place to get what you need to get them started.
  3. Global Awareness Inspire children to be curious about the world and to be globally aware – appreciating, communicating and interacting with people across different cultures.

It’s impossible to see into the future with any real clarity. But it is possible, right now, to help your kids prepare for whatever’s coming. In a world where anyone can Google the same answers as anyone else, smart kids with problem solving skills will stand out.

And whatever your children end up doing when they’re big, there’s one thing we hope they’ll definitely “be” – and that’s happy.

Technology has the power to make learning fun.
Digital technology is encouraging children to tackle more challenging books, according to recent research from the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Following the reading habits of more than 426,000 children, the study found that children are discovering stories in multiple channels – like the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, which started as books, and became films, games and apps. This multi-channel approach is inspiring kids to try more difficult reads, too. The study found that five to ten year-olds were enjoying books 2.4 years above their reading age.
Gaming has secured a place as a powerful learning tool over the past few years. Many teachers are finding that using games in a learning situation can change young people’s attitudes towards what is being taught, focus their attention, and open up other avenues for creativity. Recently Microsoft has seen the learning potential of its popular game Minecraft, and has developed a version of its game for schools.

Outside of games consoles, there has also been an explosion in learning and fun apps for smartphones and tablets. These apps enable children to explore and discover with their parents to build numeracy, literacy and creative thinking skills.

“”“I never thought I would say this but I actually really enjoy playing online games with my son. Our favourite at the moment is a spelling game where you are given 6 letters and have to create as many words as you can. He loves the competition, it’s nice to do something together with technology, and his spelling has also improved. It’s been a win, win… win.” – Shelly
But as with other aspects of Digi-Parenting, it’s about being involved in what your child is doing, being aware of how they’re using technology in the classroom, staying age appropriate, and setting limits so they can benefit from what they’re learning in the game and apply it other areas of their lives.

Draining brains – or training brains? How to use the Internet to extend education.
Ten years ago, Sir Ken Robinson brought an extraordinary (and sometimes hilarious) point of view to bear on education.

Video: Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on education

His take on teaching is still relevant today: Right now we have a problem. We’re educating our children for the future – but it’s a future that nobody really knows anything about. Some research even suggests 65% of children will work in roles that don’t exist yet!

Fortunately our education system is evolving towards teaching our kids ever more about how to think, not just what to think, so they’ll be ready to take on whatever challenges they come across as they grow up – especially with New Zealand’s new focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

“”Education is not the learning of facts, but training the mind to think.
– Albert Einstein
The really great thing is that as parents, we have an immensely powerful educational tool in our homes to support this way of learning.

It’s called the Internet.

Wait a minute, you might say – don’t kids just use the Internet to google the answers? Aren’t they simply copying whatever answer comes up first, and pasting it into their Google Docs project, then emailing that to their teacher – so they can get back to playing Minecraft online? That’s possible. But what if you helped your children’s natural curiosity to make the most of all that information?

Think about two ways you can leverage the Internet to support the way children learn:
Encourage “Critical Thinking”. There’s an opportunity in the superabundance of information at our kids’ fingertips. You can help them learn to ask questions, not just look for answers. Look at the first result. Is what you’re seeing really the truth? Is it the only point of view? Can you find an opposing point of view? What alternatives are there? Can you learn why you’re seeing what you’re seeing? Who published the content you’re looking at or thinking of using? Why? Think about what you’re seeing, and look beyond the surface.

Things you can do:

Google “critical thinking exercises”
Print a critical thinking checklist for the fridge
Teach yourself critical thinking here
Extend their education. New Zealand schools are generally world-class – but they can only cover so much in a day, and typically do that at the pace of the average student. If your kids are curious types, let their brains go for a run. First make sure you’re all set up for safety . Then go exploring your favourite topics together – from “how stuff works” to “how to” videos.

Things you can do:

Check out the extensive NZ TKI list of learning sites
Make a list of all the things anyone in your family has ever wanted to learn
Print out a star chart for stepping through lessons
Which sites are you finding most useful in helping your children train their brains? What challenges do you face with using the Internet as a surrogate teacher? Share your experiences – because the more we know, the better we get!

If your kids are using the Internet for homework already – you might be interested in how to get the most out of the web for homework, and how to start a conversation with your kids about copyright.

Up next in Learning & Fun
Great Apps for Kids
Fun and learning apps for kids.

Read on

From problem solving to strategic thinking, online gaming can help skills development.

Gone are the days of space invaders. Everyone from toddlers and teens to parents and grandparents are exploring the rich and diverse virtual worlds of gaming. And, played in moderation, it seems gaming isn’t bad for us either. A decade-long study of 11,000 UK children, published in the British Medical Journal, found that playing video games from as young as five years old did NOT lead to behavioural, attention or emotional problems later in life.

Research suggests video games can be a force for good – improving kids’ spatial awareness and problem-solving skills, as well as boosting their creativity and encouraging collaboration. And their potential applications as educational tools are attracting serious interest from schools. Educators recognise that games create engagement, allowing students to absorb more information, faster.

The open-world gaming phenomenon Minecraft, for example, has no obvious goal other than using 3D blocks to build structures. You can build something in Minecraft just like you would with Lego. Gamers have used it to recreate (in painstaking detail!) everything from the continent of Westeros from Game of Thrones to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These games provide kids with opportunities to practice problem-solving, working in teams, as well as honing their spatial awareness.

“”“My son loves games and so do I so sometimes we play together. In a way it is just like going on an adventure together but virtually. He will chat away with me as we decide on where to go and explore, what to open and what we need to do to advance. By being involved with him occasionally in his games I can also see what he is up to, make sure there are no chat rooms linked to the games and he loves that I am interested in what he is doing.” – Hannah

Outside of games consoles, there has also been an explosion in educational apps for smartphones and tablets. These apps enable children to explore and discover with their parents to build crucial numeracy, literacy and creative skills.

If you’ve ever sat down to watch your favourite team or a new movie, only to be told it’s time to go do something else, you’ll have some idea of how tough it can be to be dragged out into the real world in the middle of a gaming session. That’s why agreeing in advance how you’re all going to handle game time is a good idea. You can even make an actual agreement that you can all sign, and refer back to.

Is your child is spending a lot of time gaming? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between healthy enthusiasm and excessive use. But as a general rule, if your child is coping with school, playing sport or other hobbies, has friends, doing their chores, treating you with respect and seems happy and healthy, you probably have the balance about right.
If, however, they seem to put gaming ahead of other aspects of life, and become irritated or anxious when they’re not able to play a game, it might be time to have a chat and set some ground rules before things get out of control.

Here’s Dave from The Parenting Place with some things to look out for if your child is spending a lot of time gaming, with some great tips on encouraging kids to do a range of activities as well as playing games.

Children don’t have to just be consumers of games – they can create them too. By using free programs like Scratch, young people are encouraged to explore creatively and make their own computer games that they can play and share with a global audience. Some schools in NZ are even using Scratch as a way in to discovering careers in the IT world.

As with all technology, games are not the only tool or the only answer. They should be used in moderation, alongside other tools for learning, and with parents or teachers exploring together with the children. Then everyone wins.
If you are worried about time your kids are spending playing games, read our article on setting game time limits

Check out our top game picks for learning and fun.
Do try these at home!

Is your child spending a lot of time gaming? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between healthy enthusiasm and excessive use. But as a general rule, if your child is coping with school, playing sport or other hobbies, has friends, and seems happy and healthy, you probably have the balance about right.

Watch our video with Dave from The Parenting Place recommending a few hints on what to look for your in your kids behaviour if you’re concerned about too much game time.

If, however, they seem to put gaming ahead of other aspects of life, and become irritated or anxious when they’re not able to play a game, it might be time to have a chat and set some ground rules before things get out of control.

Simple ways to keep gaming in check.

  1. Start by setting clear rules. Make an agreement about how many hours per day are allowed, what kinds of games can be played. Perhaps gaming is only allowed after homework and certain chores are done – or agree to go 50/50 on what needs to be done before games can be a reward: some chores, then some games, then homework, then games.
  2. Encourage them to spend time doing other activities – like sports, music, or clubs – to balance out their game time.
  3. Pay attention to how much time your child spends gaming. Is it increasing rapidly? Or interfering with their eating or sleeping?
  4. Recognise any underlying problems. Is your child stressed about something in another area of their life? Sometimes children may ‘escape’ into the world of gaming if they are having problems in their social life.
  5. Keep gaming technology in shared family spaces, rather than bedrooms. That way, they’ll be less tempted to sneak online and play games late into the night.