Parental controls are software and tools that allow controls on internet use. They are a great way of helping prevent access to unsuitable content online. As a responsible parent we would expect that you have parental controls in place.

The discussion on parental controls centres on protecting children, especially those with learning difficulties who are vulnerable to online abuse. 

But what about the other end of the spectrum? Nearly 50% of over 65s are banking online and this figure is growing at 20% each year.

A shocking 43 per cent of older people – almost five million over-65s – believe they have been targeted by online scammers. Campaigners say those older people who live alone or suffer from dementia are at the greatest risk of being targeted.

As a responsible son or daughter, we would expect you to help them have the same parental controls in place.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls can be set up in several different ways. They can be configured at a network level (from your home hub), at a device level (on your mobile phone or laptop) or at the platform level (such as on google).

Controls fall in to three categories; filter, block or limit.  Filtering prevents access to sites that are considered harmful to view or may contain harmful or distressing content.  Blocking prevents access to your device to try and prevent “phishing” or virus/malware attacks.  Limiting is used to reduce “screen time”, allowing a set duration of access before blocking access to the internet.

The issue with parental controls

There are a lot of them depending upon the type of device, network and software you are using. Also, configuration of some of the controls requires a knowledge of network security and being able to access your router control and administration.

But the main issue with parental controls is they are the “second line” of defence and should be a fall-back option.

What is the first line of defence for cybersecurity?

The first line of defence in cybersecurity is talking to your children. Children are naturally curious and risk taking is part of normal development. Talking with children about their interests you can help them find suitable sites to visit and apps to use.

This sounds easier than it is as children may struggle to understand that a stranger may want to contact them and get them to do something which they would not normally want to do which could cause them emotional distress.

The same conversation needs to be had with the elderly and vulnerable in your family.  

Talking to parents and grandparents should be easier than children, right?

Since the elderly are usually not as savvy with handling emails and surfing the internet, they are easy targets for scammers. Victims have been tricked into downloading fake anti-virus software that allows scammers access to personal information on their computers. Pensioners might also respond to phishing emails sent by scammers asking them to update their bank or credit card information on a phony website.  

You may think that talking to parents and grandparents about the risks of cybercrime, but it may be harder than discussing it with your child.

My parents told me in no uncertain terms that they were not “daft” and could spot a scam a mile, that was until a friend of theirs lost their life savings to a phishing scam. Luckily, their bank refunded the stolen money.

The elderly may be more difficult to talk to because of their pride but sometimes they can a target of internet fraudsters who may threaten them and take advantage of their frailties.


Having a “first line of defence” conversation is always the best place to start with children and the elderly. Explain the same things in the same way and help them with the same tasks.

Always explain the positives of the internet and balance this with the potential risks. Understand what each does online, what for and who with and explain people may not always be who they say they are.  

Set a strong password for all applications that they can easily remember.

Don’t forget this is an ongoing conversation as their devices, applications or interests change, so does your involvement.

Parental controls are not just there for you as a parent to protect your children but to protect your whole family.