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advice
4 January 2017

Safe surfing for kids

Tablets and smartphones are part of kids' everyday lives - but don't hand one over without doing what you can to ensure your child is protected from risks.

At the start of a new school year, many kids will be thrilled to get their hands on their very own tablet. Or perhaps you've decided it's time your child has his or her own smartphone. There are incredible benefits to your child having a smart device - education, of course, and the safety of being able to call them when you're running late. 

But every parent knows the risks of unfettered internet access. Here's what you can do to ensure your child is as safe as possible.

1. Set parental controls

Vodacom offers a free opt-in/ opt-out service to help you protect your children from illegal and inappropriate adult content like gambling or violent and sexually based material. Vodacom’s Contract Protector lets you block adult content from being accessed through a cellphone on the Vodacom network. Enabling Vodacom Parental Control is easy: just dial *111*123# from your cellphone.

To unblock it, you’ll need to visit your nearest service provider and provide your ID to prove, in person, that you’re older than 18. 

Vodafone Guardian is a free protective app that gives parents the ability to safeguard their kids from inappropriate content. Choose what your kids use their smartphones for, when they use them and how much they spend. 

If you're planning to hand over your old phone, read about how to set it up for your kids here

2. Set a strong password

Kids can easily pick up your phone or tablet. Make sure they can't surf without your knowledge with a strong password. If you’re still trying to get by on p@ssword123, you’re asking for trouble. Follow these three basic rules for creating a strong password that hackers and pickpockets won’t be able to crack:

  • Don’t use personal information. Your birthday (which you’re probably already advertising on Facebook) is an easy four- or eight-digit code to remember, but also an easy code to crack.
  • Don’t use real words. According to IT security firm Norton, password cracking tools tend to be based on words that are in the dictionary. So ‘password’ is weak, but ‘1p@55w0rd2’ is better.
  • Do use mixed characters. Combine upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters to make your password uncrackable. Something like ‘V0d#c0M’ is easy enough to remember, but almost impossible to crack. 

3. Locate the phone with Look 4 Me  

Vodacom offers a handy service for locating a lost cellphone – and for checking on the whereabouts of your child or loved one.

The Vodacom Look 4 Me service allows you to track another person’s location (with their permission, of course) by using their mobile phone – which, if they’re like any other teenager, they’ll always have with them.

Unlike Apple’s ‘Find my iPad’ service (which requires the device to be in a Wi-Fi zone), Look 4 Me uses cellphone towers to triangulate the phone’s location and figure out where the phone – and your loved one – is. 

4. Limit in-app purchases

Whether the phone or tablet is yours or theirs, you’ll want to limit their access to in-app purchases. After all, nobody likes getting a R100 bill for bonus coins in Subway Surfers... and nobody likes paying for apps that a small child bought by accident after tapping on an in-app advertisement. 

Here’s how to do limit in-app purchases on Apple (iOS), Android and Windows Phone devices: 

IOS
1. Open Settings and select General.
2. Scroll down and select Restrictions.
3. Enable Restrictions and set a password. 
4. Enter the password twice, then select Allowed Content and put the In-App Purchases slider in the Off position.

ANDROID
1. Access the Google Play Store and select Settings.
2. Go to User Controls and tap on ‘Require password for purchases’.
3. Select the option you prefer.

Please note that while the apps mentioned may be free, the data you need to download them is not. Buying data bundles on Vodacom Online is quick, easy and affordable, and a surefire way to make sure you've got enough data on your smartphone. Simply log into My Vodacom to buy data bundles »