In the past, when the grandchildren visited, they wanted to watch TV to pass the time.
Today, they usually head straight for the computer. They may want to play a game, chat to their friends on social media or watch something on YouTube.
These can all be perfectly innocent pastimes, but dangers do lurk online that they need to be aware of and protected from.
So how can you help?
Discussion and education
When your grandkids want to use your computer, they have to understand the rules and why you’ve put them in place.
Security experts recommend sitting down with children before you allow them to use the computer and discussing the very real dangers of internet use.
Some of the key points to discuss include:
• False friends: Many people pose as friends, but their real intentions are to take advantage of children’s trusting natures. They may want sensitive information in order to hack the computer or they might have even more sinister intentions.
• Security: Children and adults alike need to be aware of online security threats such as spam email and how hackers install malware. Take a look at our guide to cyber security to educate yourself and share what you’ve learned with your grandchildren.
• Privacy: Children and teenagers often say things online they wouldn’t say in public. They need to understand that what they write, say or do online is accessible to others long after they do it. Universities and employers often check applicants’ social media history to judge their suitability.
Children need to understand that computers and mobile devices do not shield them from the world.
If there is something they wouldn’t reveal to others face-to-face, they shouldn’t share it online.
Keeping children protected
Of course, just because you tell a child not to do something doesn’t mean they won’t do it. You also need to take measures to ensure your grandchildren don’t endanger themselves or you when they’re using the internet. Some added security measures you can take include:
• Password protecting your computer so they can’t log on in your absence.
• Using parental controls to keep them from accessing adult content and websites you don’t want them to visit.
• Monitoring their internet use. You don’t need to stand over their shoulder, but don’t let them use your computer or mobile device privately and make them aware you might pop over at any time to see what they’re doing. This is a good idea when they're watching videos on Youtube, because once one video finishes, Youtube might suggest a different one that's slightly age inappropriate, and if you let them continue to watch one after the other, it might snowball to something you would rather little eyes didn't see.
Many security experts recommend you make your grandchildren “friend” you on social media as a condition of using your computer (if you use the same social media sites).
While the kids may object, you’ll be doing them a favour because they will always be aware that someone who cares for their welfare is watching them online.
Many parents and grandparents hesitate to monitor kids online, thinking it’s an invasion of their privacy.
However, when anyone uses your computer, your privacy and security is at stake as much as theirs is. You have a right to set limits – for their sake and yours.