Kids and Internet Safety
Date Published: Sep 13, 2023
The internet is a wonderful tool that allows you to learn, shop, connect with people, and so much more. Unfortunately though, there are those who have made the internet a place with hidden dangers like identity thieves, cyberbullies, and hackers who look to harm you and your family.
Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself and your family from these dangers, especially your kids. Kids tend to be more at risk, because they are less likely to think about the consequences of their actions, which can lead to them sharing too much information or not paying attention to the warning signs.
There are steps you can take as a parent to help make sure your child is safe as can be while they use the internet.
Teach Them General Internet Safety
The sooner you start to talk to your kids about internet safety the better. So, when you see them start to become active internet users, begin to talk to them about their internet use and the dangers that are on the internet. There is potential danger at every turn on the internet from more obvious ones like chat rooms, social networks, and file sharing networks to maybe less obvious ones such as computer games and email.
The first thing to cover is protecting their personal information. Hackers will use sneaky methods to gain personal information from just about anyone, but kids tend to be more likely to fall to online theft.
Aside from shopping and government websites, which you know are safe and legitimate, personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, and credit card should never be posted anywhere. So one big step is ensuring your kids never give out this information to anyone before coming to you.
Another thing to make kids aware of is downloads and “free” items like games or something to help them with homework. Downloads can act like school busses for malware and viruses delivering them right to your home and putting you and your family in trouble. Just like with personal information, make sure your kids understand to come to you before they download something and teach them the dangers of downloading. If any download looks suspicious to you, it’s best to stay clear of it.
Teach them the value of having strong passwords for emails and online accounts. The longer and more complex the password, such as a phrase or sentence instead of one word, the tougher it will be for hackers to get past. Avoid using personal information such as birthdays, names, and favorite things, things someone can find out about you easily. The biggest thing is to make sure they share their passwords with no one else except you.
Lastly, as the parent or guardian, learn as much as you possibly can about the internet so you can understand the risks and help your kids. Tell your kids to come to you if they ever come across a problem or something suspicious on the internet. You won’t be able to avoid all bad things on the internet, but you can know how to defend against it when you do.
While they are avoidable and have warning signs, things like malware, ransomware, and viruses run wild on the internet and any computer or person is at risk of them. Hackers are getting more and more sneaky every day, which is why installing antivirus software, like Norton, on your computer is a great safety net to have.
Computer systems such as Mac OS X (Apple) and Windows have user logins on the computer, which you log into when going to use your computer. These user accounts give you the option to add parental controls onto the accounts, to help keep an extra eye on kids. Parental controls allow you to set time limits, restrict access to certain websites, and control which computer applications can be opened. There are also parental control software that you can buy.
Search Engines for Kids
Majority of search engines like Google, depending on what is searched, can display websites with inappropriate content. While these search engines may have filters set up, they can still give access to these sites with content that is not very kid friendly and can also increase the risk of running into internet dangers.
Luckily, there are kid-friendly search engines that exist such as KidTopia and KidRex.org. These search engines are made to only display kid-friendly results when something is searched on the site. Having these sites set up as the default search engines on your computer will help reduce online risks for your children.
Phishing is a tactic scam artists use by sending fake, but real looking, emails, websites pop-up messages, and text messages, to get personal information. They often will pose as legitimate companies to get you to enter and personal information and often their messages come with a sense of urgency.
Teaching your kids about these can be a big boost in their digital defenses. When you come across a phishing message, show your kids and teach them about why it is a phishing message so they know what to look for. Tell them not to follow links in messages that look suspicious or unexpected and don’t submit any personal information such as passwords. Be cautious about downloading or opening any attachments these messages may contain. When in doubt, throw it out.
Establishing open communications with your kids about social media, online activity, and really all things internet may be the biggest defense against internet dangers. All it takes is simply and casually asking your kids about apps they are using or websites they are visiting. Explain to them why a product they want to buy or a game they want to download looks suspicious.
If they come across something scary online or someone bullying or asking strange questions, make sure they know to come to you right away about it. This way they can understand and learn that people and items online are not always as they appear to be, and they can start to identify warning signs themselves.
Today’s World of the Internet
The internet should be a place people can learn, shop, and connect without any risks. Unfortunately scammers, hackers, bullies, and the like have made this wonderful world something to be cautious about. With the right education and training the internet doesn’t have to be as scary. With being informed about dangers comes power over them.
Teaching kids to treat others online the way they would want to be treated can be a big step in, not only helping them be safe online, but continuing a trend and a rule to live by online. If we continue to educate internet safety and teach this rule, perhaps one day the internet can go back to be the world it was always meant to be. Until then we must always keep an eye out for the latest dangers and share that knowledge with future generations to come.