Protecting Kids Online
There’s no getting away from the fact the younger generations are hooked into the digital world. Kids play games, post on social media, download videos, and use a variety of messaging platforms. The problem is that being a parent you want to keep your kids safe online, yet you don’t want to come down too heavy-handed with rules and restrictions.
What can you teach your kids about how to be safe online, and what can you do to make their digital life as safe as possible? What follows is far from a comprehensive guide, but we believe it should help concerned parents understand how to increase the security of their kid’s online accounts.
Identity Theft and Kid-Friendly Passwords
Identity theft is very real and surprisingly common. While annoying for us adults, it can be more serious for kids. We suggest you sit down with your kids and explain what happens when an identity is hacked – but without scaring them too much. Usually, it’s used to make purchases and gain entry to chatrooms, for example, yet the perpetrators can be very nasty people.
Talk to them about the importance of having passwords that they can easily remember. Install and use a password manager app on the children’s devices. A determined hacker will get in but will be less willing to try when they find this protection in place. No two passwords the same, of course, but you can have fun making some up!
Social Media and Messaging
Social media and the various messaging platforms rank among the most dangerous of all the potential problems facing kids online. A couple of important points that you need to get through to your kids:
- Never accept unsolicited friend requests. Delete, block, and report.
- If someone invites you to join a group and you barely know them, decline.
- Do not talk about going on holiday on social media.
- Don’t give away any information that could be used to determine passwords.
- If someone starts harassing you then block them.
As a parent we suggest you vet your kids accounts once in a while for new users and check who they are. Also, don’t allow them to have more than one account on any one platform. This leads us to the next point.
Cyberbullying and Sexting
Cyberbullying is rife. Immediately a child is being bullied ensure they know that they must tell the parents. If the bully is a schoolmate, the school must be informed. Stories of children being bullied and committing suicide - or attempting to - are frequent. Your child must know that they can tell you without being judged. Talk to them about not getting involved in, for example, online disagreements between friends.
Sexting is also a big problem with teenagers. Explain to them that anyone asking for nude pictures is not doing so because they like them. If they are sent a sex picture, make sure they know they can tell their parents without being embarrassed. This is an instance where the police must be informed, especially if the children are underage.
Online Shopping and Streaming Games
If you allow your children to shop online insist that they show you the item they want to purchase before they go ahead. It is easy to be taken in by offers that are fraudulent. Better than anything is to put parental blocks on all shopping activities so that the child cannot purchase online. Online retail is one of the biggest areas for identity theft.
Your child will stream games, that’s a given, but you must know what games they are playing and with whom. Any you deem to be unsuitable can be blocked. Also, be aware that many games require in-game purchases to advance through stages. Either do not allow the child to buy these – they can rack up some serious charges – or apply a limit to their spending.
Scams and Phishing
Scams are all over the place in the digital world, and a young child will not know how to recognize them. There are some things you can explain to the youngster about how they may be tricked online.
We’ve already mentioned some such as not giving away too much information and blocking unsolicited friend requests. The younger child may be excited to have a new friend who wants to talk to them and needs to know what the dangers are.
For older children who may perhaps be shopping online they need to understand that a deal that looks to good to be true always is. You can also tell them how to identify fraudulent websites – look for the HTTPS symbol, which is a lock in the task bar before they press ‘buy’ button.
Phishing is also rife on social media. Explain to the child why those innocent-looking quizzes that ask you what your first pet’s name was, who your favorite teacher was, what your middle name is or what star sign you are should be avoided. They are almost always trying to get information from which they can attempt to crack a password.
Use parental controls where they will be most effective. Your 15-year-old child, for example, is likely more internet-savvy than you! They will know where the problems are and if you follow the above suggestions will be able to spot a fraud, a suspicious friend request, or other potentially dangerous transactions. Your 5-year-old, however, will not. You should restrict the younger child to only what is suitable.
One mistake parents make is to assume that parental controls and locks are fool proof. They are not, and a competent hacker will be able to get by them. It may annoy the older children especially but all you can do is keep a regular check on who they are talking to, what about, and where.
Children of all ages are extremely vulnerable to unscrupulous individuals online who recognize this. Use the above as inspiration and please research more about the dangers children face in the digital world.
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