The summer holidays are here!

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So the summer holidays are finally here! This means warmer weather, BBQ’s in the rain and the children almost at the end of another school year!

 If you are anything like us though the school summer holidays come with mixed feelings. For most of us the headline challenge (after paying for the family holiday) is arranging child cover. Increasingly this is achieved by us working from home or relying on our friends and parents.

With copious amount of physical and mental energy pent up from weeks without the constant company of 30 odd children in a learning environment; most of us are seeking ways to occupy our children in a safe happy environment without having to spend a fortune on days out.

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“Im Bored”

Although we at HomeHalo can’t actually help with the annual predicament of the “I’m bored!” cries, we can help you with the heavy task of ensuring that your children are safe when they’re attached to their favourite gadget. Whether that be an iThingy, PlayStation or Xbox, the HomeHalo will be your ‘eyes’ whilst your children are happily shooting or surfing …. Leaving you to juggle, work, home and a million other things!

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of parents that are lucky enough to have your own parents looking after your children during the summer then you have other issues. Not only do children suddenly live by grandparents rules of extra biscuits…they can baffle them with ‘tech speak’  and given that most of us don’t know how our kids technology works, what chance do our parents have?

Summer Holidays: HomeHalo to the rescue!

 This bit we can help with! We all know that parental control is something we really need to sort out, but let’s face it – it’s pretty boring and most of us have no idea how to achieve this anyway – so this is where HomeHalo comes into its own – 7 easy steps and you’re up and running… just don’t get your teenager to set it up!

 And imagine the fun you can have with our app, blocking your little angels or stroppy teenagers each time they step out of line! Head to www.homehalo.co.uk/buy/ to enlist your summer holiday guardian angel.

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HomeHalo win Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday award

Today we want to share some exciting news, in that HomeHalo is one of the lucky winners of the Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday award! International entrepreneur and star of BBC2’s Dragon’s Den, Theo Paphitis is the founder of the Small Business Sunday award (SBS).

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How does Small Business Sunday work?

Each Sunday thousands of small businesses apply to become an SBS winner. Applicants can enter by tweeting their business idea to Theo using the hashtag #SBS. Theo himself chooses his favorite businesses who instantly become part of the auspicious SBS Winners club!

Here’s what Theo has to say about SBS:

“I admire people who have passion and energy. If you cannot bore your friends to death about your own small business then something is seriously wrong. I was struck by the number of business owners on Twitter who wanted to tell me about their new products and services. Small Business Sunday was born so that people have a specific time slot to tweet and can pitch their ‘sell’ directly to me.”

 

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If you’ve seen Dragon’s Den before you’ll know how business savvy Theo Paphitis is, so it’s a fantastic honor to be recognized by such a revered businessman. Theo is also the brains behind some huge high-street brands, like Ryman, Robert Dyas and Red Letter Days.

Since we began the HomeHalo journey almost 5 years ago, we’ve been working hard to make our dream of a safer internet a reality and this is a great reminder of how important the mission is. We’ve had huge response on Twitter and we’d like to thank everybody who has showed their support. We would also like to thank Theo and his SBS team for this fantastic recognition and we’re looking forward to working with the SBS network in the future. To find out more about the award please visit http://theopaphitissbs.com/ You can also follow Theo on Twitter via @TheoPaphitis

To find out more about HomeHalo and how to join us on our journey visit www.homehalo.co.uk/products

Parental Control on Youtube

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With over 300 hours of new video being added every minute, YouTube is one of the most popular video sharing sites on the web. Since the first video was uploaded in 2005 the site has grown to have over 1 billion users, uploading clips of anything from music and games, to videos of their pets.

Whilst it can be a great source of entertainment for kids there’s a lot of content on there that you wouldn’t want your kids seeing. That’s why we created this guide, to help you setup secure parental control on YouTube.

 
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Parental Control on YouTube: Activating Safe Mode

 

When it comes to parental control on YouTube, the site provides a “safe mode” option which filters out videos which have been flagged as inappropriate. Whilst YouTube state that the safe search option is not 100% accurate, it’s a good place to start when safeguarding your kids against inappropriate videos.

Follow these simple steps to get Safe Mode set up and locked down:

1- Go to  youtube.com and scroll to the bottom of the Homepage.

2- Click on the button titled “Safety”.

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3- If you select the “on” option a message will appear allowing you to lock safety mode. This will mean that your children cannot disable safe mode without having your username and password.parental-control-on-youtube-screenshot2

4- To do this, click “sign in” and you’ll be prompted to enter your YouTube login details.

5- Once you’ve entered your details simply click ‘Save’. Safe Mode will now be activated.

6- You are now free to sign out and safe mode will be locked on your browser.

Please note: This will only lock safe mode on the browser you are using. You will need to repeat this process for all the browsers on your device.

 

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Parental Control on YouTube: Setting time limits

 

Another thing to bear in mind is the amount of time your kids spend on YouTube. Recent news articles have reported that many children are missing out on sleep and having trouble focusing at school, as a result of spending too long on YouTube.  A recent BBC article reported that Minecraft videos have become the 2nd most searched for term on Youtube. Stating that some children’s Minecraft obsession can lead them to neglect their schoolwork and become irritated when not playing or watching the game.

So what can you do about it? With HomeHalo you can set up time limits for when your kids can access Youtube. Whether they use a tablet, smartphone or any other Wi-Fi gadget you can ensure they aren’t sneaking online after lights out. To find out more, you can watch our video here https://youtu.be/–s4o4_FqgQ

 

With a combination of HomeHalo parental control and Youtube safe mode you can get peace of mind that your kids are safe when they’re watching they’re favorite videos. If you’ve found this post useful you might also want to check out our post on Facebook and Twitter privacy settings: www.homehalo.co.uk/blog/privacy-settings/

 

 

Internet Safety: What are the real issues?

From adult websites to cyber bullying there’s plenty to worry about when it comes to our toddlers, tweens and teens on the internet. Our children use the net for a variety of reasons, including homework and talking to friends. As parents we don’t want to stifle their natural curiosity, but we do need to provide an internet safety halo to protect them whilst they’re learning. To help you make a start with internet safety we’ve prepared some handy info-graphics explaining some of the dangers of today’s online world and what you can do to protect your family.

Inappropriate sites

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42% of 7-16 year olds claim to have seen online porn. Often children come across inappropriate and sometimes upsetting websites by accidently clicking on links. After all, it’s not called the web without reason! Some websites will also use tracking ‘cookies’ to show adverts to their previous visitors as they move around the net. In real terms this could mean that they are invited back to a porn site as they view other perfectly harmless websites.

At HomeHalo we’ve categorized each website by appropriate age range. You can also choose additional websites that your kids can or can’t access.

Employers and internet safety

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Employers are using social media, more and more in order to recruit new employees. As a parent it’s important to talk your child about what they post on social media and make sure they know that anything they post could be there forever. After all, do they want a future employer seeing their tweets about how much they hate maths? The best way to avoid this is to get the right privacy settings in place. Check out our simple guide to privacy settings on Facebook & Twitter here.

Parental control

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Over half of the parents we recently interviewed about internet safety had no parental controls set up on their child’s PC, tablets, games consoles or laptops. The main reasons we found for this is that they’re too confused by the bewildering array parental control gadgets and software.

This is where we come in…

With HomeHalo we’ve made it simple. You can set up the device in 6 easy steps and then use our intuitive smartphone app to easily manage all your kids devices. You can even choose what they can and can’t see it, dependent on their age. Click here to find out more.

Apple Watch: The Parent’s Guide

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Apple-Watch

 

Last week the Apple Watch launched and with sales already reported at $1 billion, it’s bound to become the must have fashion accessory in schools across the country. Billed by experts as the ‘game changer’ for the wearable tech industry, it’s no doubt your kids have already started nagging you for one.

With alerts, information and notifications soon to become available from your children’s wrist, will the Apple Watch just mean another distraction in the classroom or another alert ringing out at the dinner table? If the hefty price tag hasn’t already put you off, we take a look at some of the implications of smart-watches on family life.

What does the Apple Watch do?

Apple opened up their WatchKit software last year and app developers across the world have already begun releasing their own Apple Watch offerings. Along with the usual suspects like Twitter and Instagram, other creators have started releasing more unique apps like Lifesum, an app which tracks your daily food intake and compares it with the amount of exercise you’ve had. Other apps include an alcohol breathalyser called ‘BACtrack’ and the innovative ‘Boiled Egg Timer’ which is set to revolutionize egg boiling i.e. it tells when you’re egg is ready! You’ll also be pleased to know that as well as tracking your heartbeat and managing your daily schedule, you can also use it to… guess what? tell the time!

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Apple Watch: Set to revolutionize egg boiling!

Will the notifications ever end?

How many times have you had to tell your kids to put their phones away at the dinner table? Well now you’ll have to add watches to the list of distractions, as notifications start ringing out from their wrists at all hours. Teachers will also be on the receiving end of Watch pains, as they struggle with pupils who are supposedly “Just checking the time”.

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Dinnertime: Saying Grace or sending texts?

Will it take off?

When the iPad launched in 2010, everyone wondered why anyone who’s already got a smartphone and laptop would need a tablet device. Five years on and the iPad has become an integral part of many people’s lives. In fact, tablets appear to be the main concern that we hear from parents who’re worried about the amount of time their kids spend online. In many cases, parents feel that their kids are using their tablets too much to play games or watch Minecraft videos late into the night. Could the same soon be true for the Apple Watch? ….. Only time will tell.

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Have iPads replaced the television in the home?

How do you control devices?

Before you go running off to buy your kids a space-age timepiece, you might want to think about how you manage your children’s current devices. Research has shown that too much screen time can lead to depression and anxiety in young people. With HomeHalo you can set personalised time limits and content filters for each child and every device. You can control these from the palm of your hand using our app, and ensure that your kids aren’t becoming addicted or exposed to inappropriate content. To find out more about how HomeHalo can keep your family safe click HERE.

What do you think? Will the Apple Watch improve our lives, or is it just another distraction?

Revision Tips for Parents

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So the dreaded exam season will soon be upon us and we can already feel the stress starting to set in. From all night chemistry crams to last minute coursework printing panics, exams can be just as daunting for parents as they can be for kids. To help you avoid having a breakdown during this chaotic time we’ve prepared some top revision tips for parents.

Revision Tips

  1. Plan early. It’s best to find out the dates of your children’s exams and their coursework deadlines early. You can then start to draw up a revision plan and there’ll be no last minute surprises.
  2. Be flexible. Exam time can be a stressful period for the whole family. Try to relax the rules on household chores & jobs during exams.
  3. Be reassuring. On the day of an exam explain to your kids that failing is not the end of the world and that they just have to try their best.
  4. Eat brain food. Eating healthily during the exam period can give your kids the brain boost that they need. Whilst they might be tempted to fill up on caffeine and sweets, it’s best to stick to brain foods like: Fruit, fish & vegetables… and plenty of water.
  5. Avoid distractions. In today’s digital age a lot of revision has to be done online and it’s all too easy for kids to wander onto Netflix or YouTube when they’re supposed to be revising. With HomeHalo you can activate Homework Mode, which allows your kids to access the sites they need for work, whilst distractions like social media, movies & gaming are blocked.

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We wish your children all the best in their exams & hope these revision tips have helped. We don’t envy them, that’s for sure!

With HomeHalo you can not only help them avoid distractions, you can also set time limits on all their devices to make sure they switch off their screens and get some sleep in preparation for their exams. Click here to find out more – www.homehalo.co.uk

Feel free to share your own revision tips in the comments below:

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Staying safe on Skype

Over the years, Skype has risen to become one of the most popular video calling services in the world.  Naturally, youngsters have taken to the Platform too, as it provides an easy way to stay in touch with friends without having to worry about racking up a huge bill. Whilst this might be great for a teenager’s social life, it can leave parents concerned.

If you’ve ever wondered who your kids are actually talking to on Skype, or worried about whether they’re giving away too much personal info, then this post is for you. As well as giving you some handy tips for staying safe on Skype, we’ve also written a quick guide for setting up secure privacy settings for your kids.

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 Skype Safety Tips

  1. Use a secure password and keep it private. Avoid using dates of birth and family names. You should also ask your children not to share their passwords with friends.
  2. Don’t include personal info on your Skype profile.Info such as location, phone number and date of birth should be kept private.
  3. Never reply to people you don’t know. Don’t respond to messages, contacts, phone calls, video calls or screen sharing requests from people that you don’t know.
  4. Never reply to emails which request personal data, such as passwords or bank details. Skype themselves will never request any personal information via email, so report any emails that do.
  5. Be cautious of messages that insight urgency or panic. For example, if you receive a message saying “Your account will be closed unless you follow these instructions” do not click on it and then report it as spam.
  6. Don’t click on unknown URLs. If someone sends you a link, first check to see if you trust the sender and then check to see if the URL is a legitimate site i.e. www.skype.com or www.youtube.com. If you’re concerned that you’ve already clicked on a malicious link, please change your password immediately.
  7. Get the right privacy settings in place. To adjust privacy settings on a PC, open Skype and click Tools : Options : Privacy. To adjust them on a Mac go to Skype : Preferences : Privacy. Here you can set your preferences for receiving communications. For children we recommend selecting the following options:

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By default Skype will restrict the privacy settings on users under 16 years of age, however it’s always best to double check your children’s settings and the age they used when registering.

We hope you’ve found our “staying safe on skype” guide useful and that you’re already taking steps to keep your kids safe on Skype. If you’re worried about your children accessing inappropriate sites, or you’re just concerned that your kids are spending too long on social media, HomeHalo is here to help. With our router & smartphone combination you can set up age appropriate filters and time limits for all of your children’s devices. To find out more about how HomeHalo can keep your family safe go to: www.homehalo.co.uk

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Your digital footprint

There’s been a lot in the press recently about whether our security services are spying on our Facebook messages and Tweets, that I was reminded of my own experience with GCHQ.

Back in 1994, when having a fax machine was deemed ‘current’, I was asked if I would provide a personal reference to an old friend of mine as he was going for a promotion that required another level of security clearance. Now given that I was brought up in a part of the UK with a large number of military establishments and naval bases this request did not come as surprise. As an upstanding British citizen with nothing more than a couple of speeding tickets to my name I had been asked to do this on a couple of occasions.

This time however, they wanted to interview me. So at the given time, I opened my front door to a man who looked like he had arrived straight from the 19th century, clearly an ‘establishment fellow’, with the only thing missing being the bowler hat – a truly intimidating character.

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We sat down and he started to flick through the pages of a huge manila file, it had to be 3” thick. Trying to fill the silence I quipped “goodness me, you have a lot of information on Peter!” To which he responded, and to my amazement “Oh this isn’t Peter’s file my dear – it’s yours”

I wonder then, as we are now living in the digital age, how much information is available to organisations about our children?

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Eight years ago when I joined a global UK Telecoms company, the security checking took 6 weeks! These days companies can find a whole load of information online in seconds. Our children need to really think every time they post, tweet or snapchat, as anything they put ‘out there’, can and might be used against them!

As the next generation grows and matures they could find their past coming back to haunt them. Our kids often don’t think about the future, so we’ve set up a check list to help your teenagers keep a clean digital footprint:

Digital Footprint Tips

1. Keep it private... Make sure your children have secure privacy settings on their social media accounts. Avoid posting anything publicly and make sure only close friends and family can see their posts.

2. Think before posting... Explain to your children, that posts are often there forever & could affect them later on in life. Think: Would you want future employers or even future friends seeing that photo?

3. Online vs real life... Set clear ground rules for how to behave online. If you wouldn’t do it in real life don’t do it online!

4. Google yourself…. Try searching your name online and see what comes up! If there’s something you don’t like try contacting the site to see if they can take it down.

5. Have a spring clean… Make sure your kids remove any unused social media accounts and that they check through their social media photos regularly to delete any unwanted images.

For more info on how to set the right privacy settings for your children, check out our privacy settings guide: www.homehalo.co.uk/blog/privacy-settings/

With HomeHalo you can set time limits on each of your children’s devices to ensure they aren’t spending too long on social media. You can also set age appropriate blocks to ensure they don’t come across any inappropriate sites. Click here find out how HomeHalo can keep your family safe: www.homehalo.co.uk

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Privacy settings on Facebook & Twitter

Social media has become a central part of the lives of today’s digital youth, forming a platform for children to communicate with friends and learn about the world around them. In fact, research has shown that 59% of children have used a social network by age 10, and over half of all adolescents log on to a social networking site more than once a day.

As the time children spend on social media increases, so do the dangers they’re exposed to. In fact 12% of teens say that they witness cruel behaviour on social media frequently. Bullying, harassment & contact with strangers are just a few of these dangers and are a worry for most parents.

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As parents, the first thing you should do to protect your kids is to ensure they have the right privacy settings in place on their social media accounts. In this guide we’ll walk you through how to apply basic privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter.

Protecting you children’s Tweets

On twitter your children can select “protect my tweets”, so that only their approved followers can see their tweets. Simply follow the instructions below:

1.

  • Sign in to Twitter
  • Click on your profile picture in the top right hand corner of your browser.
  • A drop down menu will then appear
  • Select the “settings” option.

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  • Next, select the “Security and privacy” option from the left hand menu

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2.

  • A menu will then appear offering various security and privacy options.
  • In the privacy settings we recommend that your kids check the box that’s says: “Protect my Tweets”. This will ensure that strangers and future employers will not be able to see their tweets.

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  • We also recommend that they select the box titled “do not allow anyone to tag me in photos” or “only allow people I follow to tag me in photos”. This will ensure they aren’t tagged in any unwanted or upsetting photos by strangers.
  • To further protect their privacy you should un-check the box titled “Add a location to my tweets”. From this menu you’ll also be able to delete any past location information that twitter has stored about you.

Setting privacy settings on Facebook

1.

  • Sign into your Facebook account.
  • Select the downwards arrow in the top right hand corner.
  • A drop down menu will appear.
  • Select “Settings” from the menu.

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2.

  • A new screen will appear.
  • In the left hand menu select the “privacy” option.
  • A screen will then appear to the right offering various Privacy options.

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3.

  • For children we recommend working through the list and selecting the strictest privacy settings.
  • In the “who can see my stuff?” section select “edit” and ensure that “friends” is selected. This will ensure that only approved friends can see your posts.

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4.

  • In this screen you can also select who can send your child friend requests. We recommend selecting “friends of Friends” for this.
  • We also recommend selecting “Strict Filtering” for messages. This means that messages from unconnected users will be filtered into your child’s ‘other’ inbox.
  • You can also select who can look you up using your email address & phone number, as well whether you want search engines to link to your timeline. We recommended selecting ‘no’ for this option.

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As parents we understand how difficult it can be to monitor your kids in the constantly changing world of social media. Hopefully this post has helped you make Facebook and Twitter a bit safer for your kids. With HomeHalo you’ll be able to limit social media use by setting time limits. You can also activate Homework Mode which lets your kids use the web for homework, whilst distractions like social media and gaming are blocked. To find out more about how HomeHalo can protect your kids’ online, click HERE.

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“Exam time – Do not disturb”

So for many of us in the UK, the long awaited February half term is over. Although the children have caught up with sleep, in many cases until lunchtime; the sibling rivalry has reached fever pitch and they are ready to go back to school; or so I would have thought.

Sunday, for our family, arrived with an air of panic about it, mainly because this year is GCSE year. The level of half term homework is at its highest with an average of 5 hours needed per day to complete and tweak coursework. Now, if you are lucky enough to have a teenager who writes up a revision plan and sticks to it, then lucky you! But for most us, our kids live by the philosophy of ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘maybe tomorrow’, which in my house meant a scurry of activity including rewrites, printing and an immense amount of paint dribbles all over my dining room table! Who would have thought that a Fine Art GCSE could create such mess?

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As I casually looked though Facebook, I see that it’s not only my children.  I’m fortunate enough to be ‘friends’ with a lot of my children’s friends, ranging from those taking A levels and GSCEs to Year 9 exams.  Their weekend posts all seem have a similar theme. One I particularly liked was “Devoted most of my half term to Netflix! Not much coursework done… oops!” No doubt her parents were less than impressed!

My own children, (when finally getting out of bed) seem to have spent the week ‘device hopping’ – imagine the scene, my daughter is sat in an armchair with her laptop on her lap (doing homework) on one arm of the chair is her phone constantly bleeping with Instagram/Snapchat messages. On the other arm is her iPad mini showing some kind of make-up video…..needless to say when I’m offered the final proof reading of her English essay, it makes very little sense and has to be done again.

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So what can we do about this? Well, you can join our product tester programme which will put you firmly back in control. With HomeHalo you’ll be able to activate Homework Mode, which lets your kids use the internet for work, whilst distracting sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked. As well as this you can limit the amount of time they spend on Netflix and block all the dodgy sites you wouldn’t want them to see anyway. It’s the easiest way to keep them focused over the all-important exam time.

You can do all of this and more for only £55! We’ll also provide 12 months service, which will see you safely through exam time, summer holidays and even Christmas. This really is a great opportunity to save some money, whilst getting peace of mind that your kids are safe online.

If you’re interested then give us a call or go to http://www.homehalo.co.uk/homehaloproducts

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