Most children in the U.S. have access to the Internet, which allows them to play the games they like or stay connected with their friends, but they’re often more at risk of the dangers that lurk online. After all, kids are going to make some of their own decisions – and mistakes too – much like they do when they’re at the playground or school.
If you’re a concerned parent or guardian, you can help keep your children safe by teaching them about the different dangers on the Internet for kids, and talking about the steps that they can take to steer clear from them. In this guide, you’ll find all the information required for teaching your kids about online safety.
What is Internet Safety, Exactly?
Everybody talks about Internet safety and its importance for children in these digital times, but not many know what it means. To put it, Internet safety – also commonly referred to as online safety – is keeping your kids safe online while still giving them the freedom to use the Internet to its full potential.
As parents, it’s your responsibility to maintain a balance between Internet safety and allowing children to take advantage of all the online world has to offer. Since young people are becoming more and more reliant on the Internet to learn, play, engage, and socialize, they must know what they should and shouldn’t do online.
Understanding Internet Dangers for Kids
There’s so much that one can find and do on the Internet, but not all of it is appropriate for children to view or get indulged in. For this reason, you not only need to be aware of the potential dangers online but also communicate them to your kids in an effective manner, so they know what has to be avoided and how.
Here are some of the most common online dangers for kids:
1. Violent Content
Repeated exposure to violence – whether it’s in movies, games, or any other form of content for that matter – can and often leads to tragic incidents. Kids can be easily influenced by what they see and may perceive violence to be reasonable as opposed to something serious. As the adage goes, “violence breeds violence.”
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying affects approximately half of American teens. This form of bullying or harassment is mostly done through social media. It can result in tragic consequences for the victim, including low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, fear, and even suicide!
3. Identity Theft
Cases of identity theft are becoming more common in the U.S., especially among kids, as they have untouched credit records and tend to post a lot of personal information online. Identity thieves can use a minor’s Social Security Number to apply for loans fraudulently, obtain credit accounts, get government benefits, etc.
Internet Safety for Kids
So, you may be wondering, “How to protect my children on the Internet?” Although keeping your kids safe online can be challenging as they’re exposed to a variety of dangers in the digital world, it isn’t entirely impossible. It comes down to your understanding of the Internet and how your children use it.
Below are some Internet safety tips for kids that you can follow to ensure your children stay safe when they’re online:
1. Establish Internet ground rules
We believe that you shouldn’t wait until something bad happens to start creating Internet safety rules for your kids to follow. Establish rules about when and how long your children can be online, along with the dos and don’ts of using the Internet when you’re not around.
2. Set up parental controls
Parental controls allow you to restrict certain websites and services, schedule an Internet curfew in your home, view your children’s online activities, and more. Wouter is a next-generation Wi-Fi router that provides a large feature set, including parental controls, making it our recommended choice.
3. Emphasize on social media safety for kids
Ask your children to only share something on social media if they’re comfortable with everyone seeing it. If they are being harassed online, block the perpetrator right away and help them strengthen the privacy settings of their account.
4. Remind them only to use secure websites
Your children should be able to differentiate between secure and insecure websites. Tell them only to use sites marked with “HTTPS” as they encrypt information exchanged with the user. Sites marked with HTTP, on the other hand, aren’t safe for browsing, and the visitor can be affected by man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
5. Monitor what your child posts online
Once something goes on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to get it deleted. As such, you must ask them to be extra careful in terms of what they’re posting online. Of course, you’ll need to monitor this to ensure they are sharing nothing inappropriate. The key to avoiding conflict here is to be open and explain your reasons; this will go a long way in making your kids cooperative.
6. Set strict privacy settings
Talk to your children about the importance of becoming familiar with and using the privacy settings available on social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Similarly, web browsers – whether it’s Firefox, Chrome, or Explorer – come with settings to enhance their privacy online. Take a look at our ultimate browser security guide for more information on the settings you should be using.
7. Tell them to be careful of what they download
It doesn’t take much effort for cybercriminals to trick your children into downloading apps or programs that carry information-stealing malware. That’s why you must explain to them why they shouldn’t download suspicious files or attachments. Moreover, you must urge the need to download apps from official stores only, such as Google Play or App Store.
8. Protect your computer
Install a strong antivirus program on the computer used by your children and make sure it’s updated regularly. This will reduce the likelihood of your system, and consequently, your family’s private information being compromised by malicious actors.
9. Ask your children to keep personal information private
Sharing personal information on the Internet like home address, name, phone number, etc. should be prohibited at all costs. Help your kids understand the consequences of stolen identity and how they can keep their information protected.
10. Protect your kid’s identity
If your child has a Social Security Number, they too can be affected by identity theft. Since they have a clean slate, their personal information is precious to identity thieves who could use it to open credit accounts or obtain government benefits. For this reason, parents must learn what identity theft is and how to stay protected against it.
11. Explain why they shouldn’t meet online friends offline
You should have a conversation with your kids about how the Internet provides a certain degree of anonymity, and the friends they’ve befriended online may not necessarily be who they think they are. It can be dangerous to meet them in the real world because they could end up being kidnappers or even pedophiles. Parents also need to keep an eye on who the children are becoming friends online.
12. Create real-life scenarios
Parents should also consider presenting real-life scenarios for their children to talk about and learn from them. Think about it – wouldn’t tell a story to prove more effective than merely listing what they can or can’t do while browsing the web? You can also show them short clips to help them better understand the consequences of, let’s suppose, positing too much of their information online.
13. Help create uncrackable passwords
Passwords are often the first (and sometimes only) line of defense against unauthorized access. So, your children must use passwords that are difficult to crack. Ideally, they need to at least 12 characters long and mustn’t be reused across multiple sites. We’d advise you to go through our password security guide to learn the essentials of creating, managing, and securing strong passwords.
14. Make internet safety for kids fun
If you can make learning about Internet safety a fun activity for your children, they’ll be much more likely to follow suit. In these modern times, you’ll come across many different games and apps to help kids become more cyber smart, such as Nova Labs Cybersecurity Lab, Common Sense Media – Digital Compass, and Google Interland.
15. Talk about cyberbullying and online harassment
Around 59% of U.S. teens have fallen victim to bullying or harassment online, according to a recent survey. The cyberbullying kid is a growing problem, and it not only impacts the victim’s morale and self-esteem but can also potentially lead to conditions like depression and anxiety. There have also been cases of children ending their own lives, so you must know how to prevent cyberbullying.
16. Encourage your kids to talk to you when they face a problem
If your kid faces a problem online, you’d want them to talk to you about it rather than hiding it. Many online safety advocates agree that maintaining a constant dialog with kids about their online activity is the most effective way to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.
17. Keep all your profiles clean
Being parents, you must lead by example and maintain a clean presence on social media. Update the privacy settings of all your profiles to keep your personal information safe, and make sure they don’t contain any inappropriate photos or language. Otherwise, you’d be defeating the very purpose of teaching your kids Internet safety!
Cyber Safety for Kids Should Be Your Top Priority!
When it comes to online safety for kids, nothing is more important than parental guidance. It’s your job to teach your children about the dangers of the Internet and how they can protect themselves from them.
So, start a conversation about online safety today and equip yourself with the Internet safety tips for kids we’ve discussed above to ensure your children stay healthy and safe as they grow up in this digital age.