By Janice Miller, Safetytoday.org
The internet makes life easier for families in many ways. Your children can attend virtual classes online, for example, and use the web to do research for school projects. Online tools like video conferencing and chat apps are also great for staying in touch with friends and family who live far away. However, the internet also puts kids at risk—for example, by potentially exposing them to predators. As a parent, it’s your job to keep an eye on your
children’s internet activity and ensure that they’re being safe online. This guide covers some of the steps you can take to help your children enjoy the internet while protecting them. Understand the risks that kids face online
The first step in keeping kids safe is understanding the potential problems and risks they may face online. Do your research, keeping abreast of the latest headlines covering online threats. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, provides information about online scams and safety issues that middle schoolers and teens may face. So-called “sextortion” is one example. This occurs when kids are threatened or coerced by predators online to send them explicit images.
Other possible risks that have made the news in recent years include scams asking for money or gifts, such as Amazon gift cards, and sex trafficking rings.
Teach kids about online safety and boundaries
Be open and transparent with your kids about potential risks, including predators, cybercriminals, hackers, and scammers. Also, teach your kids basic skills like recognizing spam emails and fake virus warnings. For example, a fake virus alert may prompt someone to download a protective software—but that software will actually be harmful, carrying a trojan or keylogger, which can then be used to access sensitive data like passwords. Signs of such “scareware” include alerts or pop-ups regarding suspicious software, unfamiliar
websites advertising security scans, and prompts to remove harmful files.
Secure your home’s wi-fi system
Your home’s wifi allows the whole family to log onto the internet easily, including your kids. However, wifi systems can also be targeted by hackers and other cyber criminals hoping to gain access to sensitive data. Help make your Wi-Fi more secure by following some basic best practices. Start by changing your wifi’s default name and implementing a strong unique wireless network passcode. You should further enable network encryption and use a VPN and firewall. Also, consider updating your wireless router to one that will provide parental controls and firewall protection. If you have recently installed high-speed Internet service to your home, chances are that your router has these features Be sure to ask your service provider for instructions on how to use each of these features.
Implement parental controls on your child’s devices
Parental controls on your child’s tablet, phone, and computer can help block access to potentially hazardous sites. Parental controls can also help with practical matters. For example, they can be used to block paid downloads or in-app purchases. You probably don’t want your child using your credit card for mobile game purchases, for example. Educate yourself about how to implement parental controls on various devices, from smartphones to
gaming systems. There are also controls available for internet browsers, video streaming platforms, search engines, operating systems, and more.
Review games, apps, and social media sites before downloading
Your child has thousands of apps, social media sites, and games to choose from online. Help them make smart choices and review these software products before they’re downloaded to your child’s devices. You can also guide their interests, suggesting safe and age-appropriate options. For example, when it comes to games, investigate options like Angry Birds Space, Super Mario Run, and Rolling Sky. Always check age recommendations for
games too. For instance, Angry Birds Space is ideal for ages seven and up, while Roblox is recommended for ages ten and up.
Supervise your child’s internet activity
Even with the above precautions, it’s advisable to keep an eye on your little one’s internet activity. If possible, connect with your kids on their social media accounts and regularly check what they’re posting. Possible platforms to monitor include Tik Tok, YouTube, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. That said, lots of kids don’t want mom and dad peeking at their accounts. In this case, at least help kids set up a safe online presence. For example, make sure that they’ve set their accounts to private mode so that only their friends can see what they’re posting, not strangers.
Touch base with children about their internet use regularly
Ideally, your kids will be open about what they’re up to online. Make a point of talking to your kids about their internet activity. Ask questions about what websites they’re visiting or games they’re playing. Frame your line of questioning like it’s coming from a place of curiosity to avoid this feeling of interrogation. For example, if your child plays an online game with a ranking system, you can ask for regular updates on how they’re doing in the ranking. By generally establishing open communication about online topics at large, it will be easier to
address tougher topics like those mentioned above.
Help raise awareness about these topics
As a parent, your focus is on your own children’s safety. However, you can help create a safer space online for not only your kids but all children by raising awareness about internet
risks. By educating other parents, you can help them identify issues that impact all children on the internet. For example, CNN reveals that there are TikTok accounts of “watchdog
moms” who are raising awareness about the dangers of posting pictures of kids online. Social media is one way to help spread the news. Online parenting forums are another great resource and means of communicating with concerned moms and dads.
The internet opens many new opportunities for kids. When they go online, they can do schoolwork, play games, communicate with friends and family, and more. However, the internet is also home to potential dangers. By taking the steps above, you can do your part as a parent to help keep your child safe and secure.
For more content designed to help parents and children stay safe online, visit the A Wired