The internet, good as it may be, poses a lot of danger to kids and adults alike. The greater risk is however to kids who naturally don’t know much about the darker side of things, but only what makes them happy.
In this age, there’s just no way you can keep your kids away from the internet. After all, it also has so many wonderful things for kids. They can research school projects, stay in touch with teachers and other kids, as well as enjoy some interactive games online.
Along these good things also come dangers like online predators and scammers. It is therefore important for every parent to take the responsibility to ensure online privacy and security for their kids. In this detailed guide, we will explore various ways in which you can protect your kids from the various dangers posed by the internet.
Why the Emphasis on Kid’s Online Privacy and Safety?
Internet connectivity has become a usual thing in almost every household. Kids are learning about the internet at quite an early age. According to research, 78% of teens check their phones at least hourly. Most of these kids are already on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, etc.
Malicious people tend to take advantage of kids due to their naivety and exploit them. A predator can pose as another child or teen merely trying to make a new friend. They might then end up tricking the child to expose personal information such as address, phone numbers, etc.
Kids are also easy targets for scammers and identity thieves. When their details are stolen, they can be used for a crime that will only be detected years later when they are old enough to transact.
Kids also don’t know about viruses, phishing, or even social media etiquette.
These and other reasons make kid’s online privacy and security important to every parent.
The Common Dangers that Kids face online
Before you can protect them, it is essential to know the dangers that your kids face online. Here are some of the most common ones.
1. Inappropriate Content
This is always an enemy of the innocence that kids normally possess, and the internet is the number one bearer. Such content can be as a result of the kids googling it, or just stumbling on it accidentally. It can also be as a result of misleading ads.
With the internet age, bullies don’t even have to be physical, and cyberbullying is now a prevalent online threat to kids. Bullying always affects kids negatively, something which makes this a serious threat that you need to deal with.
3. Chat Room “Friends”
Online predators tend to pose as other kids who are just trying to make a friend. They then befriend your kid by pretending to be of the same age and having the same interests. They can then end up setting a meeting point.
4. Online Scams
Adults are not the only targets of online scams. Children are more vulnerable to such scams. When they get an email telling them that they’ve won some huge amount of money or a huge discount, they can be easily cheated.
Below, we will discuss various ways of dealing with the above threats to kids privacy and security.
What to do ensure your Kids Online Privacy and Safety
Though governments have tried to implement various acts that are meant to protect children and especially those under the age of 13, there are so many areas that are not covered. Most websites don’t even care about to implement these policies as they are way too costly. Even the few that do always have loopholes. Kids can just lie about their age, and there’s no way the website can know that they are dealing with a kid or teenager.
An excellent example is Facebook, where anybody can lie about their age without thinking about it, and create a fake account. This results to so many kids being in social media and gaming sites that are otherwise meant for older people.
That said, there are various ways parents can protect their kids from the dangers posed by the internet.
Get involved early on
One of the most important things to do is nurture your child concerning the internet. During their early years of knowing the internet, they will always come to try and learn from you. That is the time when you should start nurturing them on the things they should do and not do on the internet.
For example, tell them that the internet has both the good and bad, and one should always stay clear of the things that haven’t brought them there. Think of it like that time when you take your child for shopping and tell them that they can’t take everything there, only what they need. After some time, it will come to a point when you send them to the store alone. In between, they will see many things and meet strangers. However, you will have hope that the things you taught them when you were together will carry them through.
That is also the way it is with the internet. Before it comes a time to get them their smartphone, make sure that the information they already have can take care of some vulnerabilities.
Be the Role Model
As a rule of nature, kids will tend to do more of what their parents do than what they say. This means that when it comes to their internet habits, you have to show them. In this generation, there are so many complaints from kids about how sometimes their parents are always on their phones and computers and don’t show them the attention they seek.
Before you can teach your kids about their own security when on the internet, you have to teach them the right internet habits.When they always see you on your phone, soon you won’t be able to get them off their phones as well. After all, they always see you using yours!
Spending too much time on the internet will certainly affect your kids negatively. When they exhaust all the things that they wanted to do, they’ll definitely try to find new ones. Naturally, kids are always curious, but never cautious. During that time they can start talking to strangers all in the hope of making new friends. This can then end up being harmful to them.
As a parent, you are therefore the role model of how to balance between online life and real life.
Communication is always in every talk about good parenting, but it is super important when it comes to the online privacy and security of your kids. Right at the time that your kids start watching you when you use the internet, you should always emphasize on how they should ask for permission or verify anything of concern with you.
When they get an email, they should learn to ask for permission because you have already warned them of viruses that people can send over email. You should also communicate freely with them about any restrictions that you have placed on their internet usage, and how important it is for them to engage in other social and family activities during that time.
When you establish that nature of communication, your kids will always rush to you when they meet a suspicious person online or when somebody is trying to bully/ harass them.That will put you is a position that you can always know the dangers that your child is facing, and teach them how to deal with such.
Educate them about Online Dangers, Privacy, and Security
This is a crucial point and a lesson that should never end even when they are teens. There are so many dangers that your kids can face. The best way to deal with an issue is to understand it first.
Let your kids know the kind of dangers they face when online so that when they see you being invasive, they can understand that you are trying to protect them. Tell them about people who steal others identity, fraudsters, hackers and the rest.
However, you should know that when you talk about malware and botnets to young kids, you’ll only be talking to yourself. The best way you can let them know is by buying comic books that explain the dangers facing kids and even adults on the internet.
Get more social with your Kids Online
Transparency is usually a key factor in any relationship. How you relate with your kids concerning online matters can make a huge difference. When kids have a social media account, they use it daily. This means that apart from their real life, they also have another online presence that they live day by day.
Normally, a parent would be reluctant to send their child a friend request, for example on Facebook. In most cases, some result to stalking their kids from a distance using a different account. However, that is not the right approach.
You should have an open online relationship right from the age they start knowing about social media. You should be keen to engage them early on before they start feeling a bit independent. At that time, it will even be fun for them to communicate with you via social media.
This way, your Kids will have a decent online behavior, knowing that their parents are watching. They will not post or engage in things that you might consider appropriate, which would put their privacy and security in danger. At that point, you will have won as a parent.
Teach them to Treat Online life just like Real Life
One valuable lesson to teach your kids is that ‘if you can’t do it face to face, don’t do it online.’
Due to the distance put in place between your kid and whoever they are communicating with, they may tend to feel secure. However, you should let them know that online life is like real life, just in another dimension.
Teach them to treat people with respect just like they do in real life. Tell them to avoid talking to strangers just like they do in real life. Teach them about the online threats that affect people in real life like fraud. You can even try to give them a more practical approach like telling them that a hacker is just like a thief who instead of breaking to your house through the window, breaks in using the computer.
This way, your kids will learn to put boundaries between what they can and can’t engage themselves in while online.
Teach them that the Internet never forgets
Well, you must have seen this one somewhere.You must have heard of a person being grilled over a tweet they sent even 5 years ago.
When people are being promoted or getting a new job, people try to find as much as they can about them. Social media is always one of the first places to do so.
Right from the point where your kids start using social media, you should let them know that the internet forgets nothing. Once you post a picture or a statement, it’s gone. This mostly applies when they are more grown up, and they post something that is considered controversial. People will always repost, and even screenshot it in case you think of deleting it someday. This may then come to haunt them later in life, which is something they don’t want. Despite the efforts of Google, the right to be forgotten doesn’t apply everywhere!
Monitor their Online Activities
Kids need to be watched every time they are alone, and this also applies to the internet. Taking care of their Privacy and security will always involve you knowing what they do when they are online. For this reason, you need to monitor everything they do starting from browser activity and social media messages.
To make this possible, various spy apps have been created for almost all major platforms to let parents monitor smartphones as well as PCs. This will help you know and understand your kids better. You will always know who they are texting with, and know if anyone is bullying them. You will then be able to intervene where necessary.
Get a household VPN
A VPN is one of the most important tools when it comes to privacy and security. In its functionality, the software encrypts all your traffic and then tunnels it to a secure VPN server in a location of your choice.
Through this process, you receive a new IP address and therefore a new online identity. This is very important as some parties try to trace your IP activity to know your online behavior. From there, they can try to launch coordinated attacks. By masking your real IP addresses, you will have secured your whole family, which includes your child. The extra security afforded by the VPN will also mean that no hackers can infiltrate your home’s network/ computers.
To help secure your whole family, you need to get a VPN that supports around 5 simultaneous connections (e.g. NordVPN, CyberGhost VPN, PrivateVPN, Private Internet Access or other good VPN providers). However, to best suit your kids, you can get a VPN router. This way, they won’t have to connect to a VPN, and your whole family will be secured with just a single connection.
Set up Parental Controls
Limiting what your child can do with their phone is always important in protecting their privacy and security. This can be done by setting up various parental controls on their phone. The controls you can set up depend on the type of phone that they are using.
On iOS (iPhones and iPads), doing that is super easy. Just navigate to General settings and choose the Restrictions option. You can then create a passcode. Now, you will have the ability to enable and disable various features and apps on the device.
On Android, you can also do the same from the Google Play Store. These controls can restrict what content can be downloaded or purchased from the store based on Maturity level. If you share your phone with your kids, you can also set up multiple levels. This can be done under Play Store Settings.
As for the computers, you can get some parental control software like Norton.
You can also set up ‘Kids’ modes’ on various internet resources. A good example is on YouTube where you can turn on ‘Restricted mode’ which hides some inappropriate video content.
Ads are quite common and can be foundon almost every website that your child visits. As their nature, ads are quite persuasive and can easily mislead your child into trying out stuff. They can then end up on a malicious site or one with inappropriate content for kids.
Luckily, this can be easily combated by using an ad-blocker. Ad-blockers and anti-tracking extensions are quite effective in blocking pop-ups and other ads on websites. They do this by removing part of the code that is meant to display ads.
The internet is vast with lots of possibilities, both positive and negative. For this reason, it can be quite challenging to keep your child safe from all the dangers. However, with the tips and guidelines given in this guide, you will be having a pretty good shot at protecting your kid’s online privacy and security.
Just remember that every good relationship starts with good communication, and that is the background of all security tools for your kids. Be proactive and transparent with your child, and most of the other issues will fall into place.