I just managed to completely freak myself out by glancing at my first grader's calendar, because exactly who authorized the last day of school to be in less than THREE WEEKS AWAY? Oh god, summer break's almost here. Sun, fun, and many hours of "YOU GUYS NEED TO PIPE DOWN I'M TRYING TO WORK!!!"
If this summer's anything like last year, we'll manage to figure out a precarious balance between activities and downtime and deadlines -- and I'm sure in addition to the wholesome outdoors and sunshine, my boys will be getting some screen time. They're not quite at the Internet-using age yet, but if your kids will be doing more than their usual amount of web surfing this summer, I've got 5 handy (and free!) Google tools specifically aimed at helping parents keep their kids safe while they're online.
YouTube's Safety Mode
Fact: kids love YouTube. If you want to make sure they don't bring up the non-semi-aquatic rodent sort of content when they search for "beaver" (ask me how I know about this!), scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and click the "Safety" button. You'll get a dialog that looks like this:
SafetyMode can be locked in your browser of choice in order to filter out videos with, ahem, mature content. Those videos won't even show up in search, related videos, playlists, and so on. SafetyMode is also intended to help hide objectionable comments, so yay for THAT.
You can apply the same "don't show me the pr0n" filter in Google's Image Search by visiting the Search Settings page at www.google.com/preferences.
If you happen to come across a YouTube clip that's violent, sexual, hateful, or just plain wrong in some creatively disturbing way, you can report it to Google by clicking the little flag just below the video player. Flagged videos don't automatically disappear, obviously, but they're reviewed by YouTube staff 24/7 to see if they violate community standards. You can flag content anonymously and choose the nature of its transgression:
(You can also flag abusive comments. Check out YouTube's policy and safety hub for a ton of info on what's allowed, what isn't, and safety practices.)
Teens who join Google+ have different default settings to help keep them safe, including increased privacy, limited communication with people outside their circles, and reminders about using Google+ responsibly.
This Google page sort of sounds like those old The More You Know! PSAs, but it's a handy one-stop-shop for privacy tools, safety tips, personal advice from parents at Google, information on preventing identity theft, suggestions for creating secure passwords, and lots more. Useful for parents ... and other carbon-based lifeforms.
Does your kid tend to get online more often during the summer break? How do you make sure they stay safe on the web?
Image via wfryer/Flickr