The internet is full of harmful content that teens, tweens, and school-aged children can see. Most of the time, kids accidentally encounter online threats. It is because they lack knowledge, the presence of malicious hackers and scammers, and less protection.
With the increase in mobile device users, you cannot ask your kids to stop using them. Also, with the ongoing pandemic, children are still staying at home and using devices to connect online to study and do their homework.
So, what are you to do then? How can you protect your child from threats lurking online?
You don’t have to worry. There are tips and tools you can use to protect your child from predators, scammers, and identity theft. But before learning about these tips, it is best to know what threats your children may face when left unsupervised when using the internet.
Common Threats Children Encounter Online
The internet is never designed for kids. It is full of inappropriate content such as sexually explicit content, acts of assault, drugs and alcohol use, and even pirated materials for download.
Sometimes even legitimate websites can be hacked by hackers and insert adult content that children may accidentally stumble on.
Let’s face it there are people online who know no boundaries. They target even children or the young and innocent. Most of the time, they are seen on social media or gaming sites. They pretend to be someone else.
They chat with kids, pretending to be the same age and offering them help if they need it. But in reality, these predators’ only aim is to exploit the innocence of a child. The worst case is when they invite your kids to meet up with them, which can be a scary and dangerous thing to think about.
Phishing or Online Scams
If you think adults are the only target by malicious hackers, think again. Children are more likely to fall for these tricks.
Most scammers offer something that kids want, like free or cheap games or prizes. Sometimes they send it via email, text, or on gaming websites. Kids find it difficult to resist them. They are unaware of how to distinguish a legitimate message from someone they know and a phishing email.
Also, cybercriminals use popular sites for children to find victims. They offer free items or prizes so the victim will provide them with the vital information they need like credit card numbers, login credentials, and so on.
Downloading of Malware
Malware is a malicious software program that gains access to a person’s device without its knowledge. It can perform harmful actions on the user’s computer. They can lock the owner out of their vital files or computer or steal personal information.
There are plenty of ways your child can accidentally download malware – malicious files in websites they visit, clicking on files and links, receiving malicious emails, and clicking pop-ups.
Cyberbullying is an aggressive and threatening activity online through email, text, social media, and more. Almost half of the young people admit to being bullied online, and most of them are girls.
Online bullying is similar in real life. It is a prevalent and serious issue to deal with. In fact, it is the most challenging threat online that children can experience.
Sharing Private Information
Children on social media or online are not aware of the importance of social boundaries and privacy. They might post content that accidentally gives away private information.
Images of IDs with personal data or vacation plans posted online can also lead to something dangerous in no time.
Previous Post Can Affect Your Child’s Future
Like posting images of personal information online, your kids may not also know the consequence of sharing pictures that could haunt them in the future.
They might post their views online, embarrassing photos, and more that they can’t take back. Although social media sites do have the option to delete content, there is still a chance that it has been shared with other sites. If that’s the case, there is no way you can delete it anymore.
These posts can affect your child’s future, like a potential job or a prospective mate.
With these threats hanging around your child’s online activities, how can it be possible for you, as a parent, to protect your child without crossing boundaries? How can you make their space online a pleasant and better place?
Here are tips for protecting children online.
How to Protect Your Child Online
Talk to Your Child
Openly talking to your kids can help their future selves and how they interact – online or in real life.
When your child starts to access the internet, educate them about what they might encounter. Inform them how they can stay away from these dangerous threats.
It is also vital to take note of the sites they visit and check on them.
Inform your kids of how they present themselves online and their reputation that could affect their future self.
But as you talk to your child, be open to what they say, and try to respect their ideas and privacy.
Keep Devices Where You Can Monitor Them
You can place the computer in a spot where you can easily see what your child is doing. This practice applies to younger children. You can check on their browser history to monitor their activities and protect your child.
For mobile devices, you can change the passcode every time they are done. It will limit their access online, or you will know when they are using the device.
For teenagers, monitoring their online activity is not as easy as for younger children. It is an invasion of privacy if you try to access their devices. Therefore, the best way to approach this is to go back to step one, talk to your child.
Use Tools to Manage and Monitor Your Child’s Internet Access
Even if you can see what your child is doing online, this doesn’t happen all the time. Also, they might learn to hide things from you by deleting their browser history. So, what better way to monitor their activities is by using software programs.
Parents can invest in an antivirus software program that can immediately block malicious websites. In this way, kids won’t accidentally download infected files. Also, antivirus software can detect phishing sites and emails.
There are plenty of antivirus programs you can use for your computer. Some companies like Avast security, Bitdefender, and AVG offer more than computer protection. They have mobile device access too. So now you can protect your child and the smartphone they use.
Another tool to give a try is Parental Control software.
Parental control software is a feature that’s part of most internet security programs. It comes in a bundle, like in Kaspersky Internet Security. You can manage how long your child can use the internet by limiting their screen time. Furthermore, you can block websites or programs so they can’t access them.
Some parental control can limit message content and track the location of a child.
Get to Know Who Your Kids Interact with Online
Kids can be naïve online. They talk to strangers when they feel comfortable enough. They even add them to their social media accounts without thinking of the harm it can cause.
Get to know your kid’s friends in real life and on social media. Tell them to avoid adding or talking to people they do not know.
As adults, protecting children online from predators is our responsibility. Inform them about these online threats so they will have an idea about the danger.
Of course, monitoring your teenager’s friends online is not easy. You don’t have access to who they talk to. It’s fine to give your children some privacy. You don’t have to go through your teenager’s phone to see what they are doing, but make sure to inform them of such threats.
Turn Off Location on All Devices
Geo-tagging has become common in almost all apps, particularly on social media. The best way to prevent potential stalkers from finding your home or your child’s location is to disable this feature.
Keeping your location private is vital for safety reasons.
Limit Screen Time
As your child grows, asking them to limit their screen time is not going to be easy. But it’s best to start while they are young.
In this day and age where kids, even 3-year olds, have a smartphone, you need to be cautious and vigilant when keeping your kids safe.
Change passwords on Wi-Fi or devices every time so they won’t access the internet without your knowledge. You can also negotiate the time they can use their device and how long they can use them.
Controlling your kids’ screen time not only keeps them stay safe from threats but make them more present, physically active, and mentally stable.
Keep Devices’ Software and System Updated
Keeping your child safe online not only means educating them and monitoring their activities. It means maintaining the devices too.
Outdated software and systems can be a gateway for hackers to enter your system. Any vulnerability in the system is an opportunity for cybercriminals. The best way to keep them away is by updating every software and your devices’ systems.
Updates help patch vulnerabilities, get rid of bugs, and offer new features.
You can set automatic updates or schedule them at your earliest convenience.
Learn everything that your kids do online or what young people do nowadays. By educating yourself, you can inform your child.
Teach them to keep things private online. Tell them to limit what they post online and never share any personal information. Remind them to only respond to people they know.
It is also vital to ask your child to report to you if they feel threatened or someone is bullying them. Encourage them to be open about the situation so you can immediately resolve the issue if one arises.
Make sure that they don’t bully others online too.
Your child’s online safety is always a priority. Keeping away from the mentioned threats can help you worry less about your child. Practicing online safety by using tools and limiting their access to sites can be helpful. However, you must give your child the right to privacy.
Although controlling your kids and respecting their privacy is a bit hard to balance, but it’s achievable. Your ultimate goal is to protect your child, not strip them of their rights.