Homeschooling in times of the corona pandemic carries a not inconsiderable risk for learning children. Online classes and digital learning programs require constant access to the Internet – and all of the dangers that lurk in it. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON shows you how you can protect the children.
Until now, it was up to the parents to decide when and whether to give their children access to a laptop with Internet access, but such a device is practically compulsory in the event that schools are closed. How else are children supposed to take part in online lessons or do interactive learning exercises and watch instructional videos?
However, this makes it all the more important to ensure the security of the laptop. In addition, the question arises whether the children are allowed to browse the Internet themselves and play a game that has nothing to do with school. Windows and macOS offer parents many opportunities to set at least technical limits for children when using computers.
The right security settings
Both Windows 10 and macOS allow the creation of user accounts with lower access rights in their user settings. In general, children should not be given administrator rights; parents should set these up themselves. With such a restricted account, children can only install programs or change settings with the consent of their parents.
Apple makes it easy for users here. When setting up the account, users can choose the parental control option. A list can then be clicked to determine whether and for how long the Internet, App Store and games are available.
If you use Windows 10, you can use Microsoft’s family functions to create Microsoft accounts for your children that are linked to your own account. In this way one gains numerous possibilities to control computer activities – and to intervene if necessary. The advantage here: the settings then apply to every Windows 10 device that a child logs on to.
Make the browser child-proof
Using the family function, it is possible to make browsing the Internet safer. In Windows 10, after setting up the family account, parents can specify that only age-appropriate content can be found in the Edge browser. The option is located in the Microsoft account settings in the Family tab . In macOS, a similar option can be found in System Preferences under Screen Time .
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Set up time limits and filters
“A time limit is always good when a child is overwhelmed by non-stop engagement with the media,” says Kristin Langer, media trainer for the “Look! What your child does with Media”. Windows and macOS allow the creation of precise hourly periods during which a user account has access to the computer. In this way, bedtime times can also be set and enforced for individual days, explains the “Klicksafe.de” initiative.
Windows and macOS also allow individual programs and games to be released or blocked with restricted user accounts (macOS) or via the family controls (Windows 10). Here, parents can specify, for example, that their children are only allowed to start word processing, the Internet and age-appropriate games.
Not everything on the web is suitable for children. There is no one hundred percent protection against inappropriate content. But the operating systems offer filtering. macOS, for example, allows parents to create lists of approved websites. Then children can only access these pages. Such exclusion lists (blacklists) or release lists (whitelists) can also be created in the settings menus of many routers. Certain keywords can also be blocked.
Don’t monitor too much
Both Microsoft’s family options and the account management of macOS allow parents a fairly precise insight into what their children are doing with the computer: For example, looking through websites visited, usage times or started programs. There are also third-party developers offering similar functions on the market. Media trainer Kristin Langer doesn’t believe in so much control: “Hard control is a good basis for conflict-prone disputes,” she says.
Even the best technical barriers can be overcome. The older children get, the more resourceful they usually become when it comes to circumventing barriers. So you shouldn’t rely too much on it. For Kristin Langer, technology is only half the battle anyway. “Technical solutions are only a support.” They do not replace conversation and, above all, understanding of the need for certain rules.
“Sometimes such attitudes are common,” admits Langer. Instead of setting up barriers, she advocates always explaining to children why they may still be too young for some content. Clear appointments often worked. And: “If you keep talking to each other, you don’t need to be in control,” she says. “Because then the children report problems.”