Every parent wants their child to take advantage of all the wonderful educational and enjoyable opportunities and experiences that are available to them on the Internet. At the same time, every parent is aware of the risks and dangers that may exist online if a child isn’t careful, and isn’t taught how to use the Internet safely.
We’ve put together some of the top internet safety advice and tips for parents to follow that will not only help children navigate the Internet safely, but avoid many of the online scams and illegal activity that can tarnish their experience. Most parents agree that there are perils in letting their children use the Internet, but surprisingly only 50% of parents actually check on their child’s browser history, and only 46% limit their child’s access to certain websites and apps.
When it comes to Internet safety for kids, it all comes down to the parents. Parents must set the ground rules and limits for Internet access for their children, because kids are curious and if left to their own devices will certainly explore websites and areas of the web that you wouldn’t want them to see. The earlier you have that discussion with your children, the safer they will be. And Internet safety is paramount for parents when it comes to their children!
Tip #1: Don’t let Children Surf the Internet by Themselves
If your child asked you whether or not they could go to the park by themselves, which is 3 blocks away, would you say, “yes?” Of course not. You would ensure their safety by going with them, so they could cross streets safely and once they arrive at the park, would have an enjoyable time because you are there protecting them.
It’s similar to the Internet. If they’re young and ask to go online by themselves, the answer should be, “no.” Instead, always answer, “we can go online together a little later.” Here’s why: cybercriminals are lurking online, just waiting to steal private data and information. Because kids are naive, they are more susceptible to giving up privacy data without even realizing that they’re doing it. Left alone, a child may come across a “free” offer like a video or children’s booklet, just by entering their name and other pertinent info. Once they enter it, it’s going to be used to hack into their device and find their password information. If you’re there with them, it won’t happen. This seems obvious but is still a bit of internet safety advice that needs to be said.
Tip # 2: Know who your Child is Communicating With
If a child has a tablet, computer or smartphone, chances are they’re using it for social media. Kids love to chat, text and talk with others. No question about it. Sometimes they’ll stumble on a site that looks innocent enough, and before you know it, they’re talking or texting with someone you don’t know.
Our top bit of internet safety advice on the best way to protect your child is to know who they’re communicating with. To do this, many parents use Nuwber, an online tool that will verify the true identity of the person your child is texting or talking to. By entering a phone number or email address, for example, Nuwber will reveal the true name and address of the individual in question. If it doesn’t match up with the information they’re providing, cut off all contact immediately.
Tip #3: Protect your Child’s Passwords
This seems like internet safety advice that doesn’t need to be said, and yet it does. You should work with your child to create a unique password that is his or hers exclusively. You should also teach them to never, ever reveal that password to anyone, and to report it to you if anyone is asking for their password. Don’t use birth dates or street addresses, as they’re too easy for hackers to figure out. Try to come up with a 10-digit password that includes letters and numbers, and have your child store it in a safe place. Here’s something else to consider: always change your child’s password every 3 months. The longer a password is used, the more likely it will be stolen.
Tip #4: Use Social Media Wisely
Kids love social media! (So do many adults!) Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, TicTok – they’re all favorites of kids, although Facebook tends to be used by older teens and young adults. THis is where your child can run into some problems, because kids tend to reveal more about themselves than they should. That includes their whereabouts, like where they’re going, what they’re doing, planned vacations and way too many facts about their locations. They also tend to be lax about protecting their personal information.
What may appear to be an innocent conversation on social media could simply be a cyber stalker, which puts your child in danger of more than just innocent cyberbullying. They lurk on social media sites just waiting for some innocent child to start posting things that the stalkers’ capture, and often strike up a conversation with the child using information posted by the child to engage them.
There are many other apps beside the well-known ones that kids like to use, and that’s where trouble comes in. For example, there’s MeetMee which encourages kids to connect with others in their same geographic location. Another app is Bumble, where the female makes the first contact, and there have been many stories of kids creating fake accounts and lying about their ages.
Other apps that have been known to cause problems include ASK FM, which is known for cyberbullying, HOLLA, which is a video chat app that has had complaints about racial slurs and adult content. In addition, Badboo is a dating app intended for adults, but kids tend to create fake accounts and use the app with a phony age. Finally, Calculator+ is an app that is designed to hide your child’s browser history, photos and video files, so if you see it on your kid’s phone or tablet, you know they’re visiting sites or using apps they shouldn’t be. This is one of our best pieces of internet safety advice.
Tip #5: Once it’s Posted, it’s for All to See
Kids need to know that once they post something, it can live on the Internet forever. You can’t take back a post, a tweet, a text or anything else that is posted on the net. And for the most part, on most social media sites nothing is private. Having a discussion with your child about the content they post is a good idea, because without realizing it many kids end up making what others consider are bullying or derogatory comments. The last thing a parent wants is a phone call from another parent complaining about what their child posted.
Children should be encouraged to use the Internet wisely. Our number one piece of internet safety advice? Have rules in place, and stick to them for your own peace-of-mind and for your child’s safety.