Everywhere you go today, something is connected to the internet. The world wide web has access to your tv, watch, phone, car, and even thermostat. Kids are gaining internet access at younger ages. 41% of children use the internet by age five, with many starting as young as three years old.
As a parent, there are plenty of tools that can also help keep your child safe. When used properly, these tools can make the internet better for everyone, including adults. If you understand these options better and use them correctly, you and your child will have a safer internet experience.
Why Worry About Internet Safety?
The web can be an incredible tool when used correctly. However, with all this convenience, it can also be a dangerous place. Kids often have very little idea of what problems can lurk on the net.
You need to identify every place that your child uses the internet and discuss the problems and dangers that each situation can have. Children who don’t know the danger are much more likely to fall prey to online scams and predators. Understanding the devices you use and what they are capable of can help avoid many issues.
Laws for Child Safety Online
There have been attempts to help with online safety for children going back to 1998. It started with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. There have been changes and updates to these laws over time, but they are mostly ineffectual, as many internet users know. They are easily bypassed and often ignored, especially by the children they were supposed to protect.
Some parents believe that websites that adhere to these laws and are relatively safe for children can be bypassed for less reliable material online because it is quicker and easier to use. These added complications to safer sites can have negative consequences on your child’s computer use.
Getting Safe Information
There are many outreach and activity groups online that aim to help parents understand and protect children on the internet. These groups are sometimes government-sponsored, but private companies also help teach internet safety to people.
Unlike laws and restrictions, these organizations don’t affect personal usage on the internet, but instead, they provide information and resources to help parents. They tend to keep more updated on changes in internet usage.
Here is a list of some safe online information resources for parents and children:
- Department of Justice for Kids
- FBI for Kids
- The Federal Trade Commission for Kids
- The Office of Justice Youth Online Safety
Personal rules and settings created by parents will be much more effective and quicker to adapt to changing needs for internet safety and security. Parental controls and privacy settings are much more reliable for helping guide children on the internet. For the most part, online safety laws are not that useful in actually protecting kids.
Online Terms You Should Know
The internet has developed a language that uses unique terms. Many of these phrases have become part of daily conversations, but some still don’t know them. Understanding these words can help parents and children navigate the web easier. Here is a list of definitions that everyone should know online.
Malware is software whose primary purpose is to harm or gain access to your device. It may appear to have other functions, like games, tools, or chat functions, but its real job is to cause your device problems.
Phishing attempts to gain information from internet users by duplicitous means. These attempts include pretending to be authority figures like banks and government officials. These fake requests gather as much information as possible. They are sent in emails, phone calls, and messages.
Data Mining is the use of patterns to find out useful information about people. This information can include age, location, likes, dislikes, and family connections. This data can target users with specific ads and post to elicit the most significant responses.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPNs make internet activity more private and more secure. It creates login options that help keep the users’ data and information private. VPNs can help hide users’ locations and IP addresses. It also encrypts data making it harder to understand information even if it is accessed.
Cyberbullying consists of attacks online. They can sometimes, but not always, be accompanied by bullying in real life. Though this is a new form of harassment, it can be very detrimental to the victim’s health.
Dangers Associated with Each Device
Every device has its safety concerns. Each one allows users to do different things that can create their unique problems. Some of the issues are universal and can be avoided on every internet-capable option. Some safety has to be used specifically with each device. Knowing the possible problems can help you, and your kids avoid situations before they become dangerous.
Desktops and laptops offer many useful features for children. As smartphones become more popular, fewer children use laptops and computers to access the internet. Kids can play games, write on forums, use social media, and access chat apps.
They can also search for almost any topic on the internet. These searches can expose them to themes like sex and violence that they are too young to consume.
From computers, kids can give out far too much information. They can do this directly on in-game and dedicated chats. They can also do this in the way of data mining by many different companies.
There are many stories about how quizzes and games on social media can collect users’ information. Learning about how to protect your personal data can help children for their whole life.
Kids can hold a fully-functional internet device in the palm of their hand. With a smartphone, kids can do almost everything they do on a computer or laptop, but it is harder for parents to see what they are doing.
On top of all that, smartphones give the users location at all times, enabling third parties to track your children. Locations can be very dangerous, especially if children are giving information to the wrong people.
There are also app purchasing sites that are tied to the phone. Many people stay logged into their shopping sites on their phones. Kids can make purchases, sometimes by accident, if their game and apps stores have payment systems without password protection.
Even if they can’t make cash purchases, kids can download apps and programs that can cause problems and introduce malware to phones. This malware can track children and collect data from them.
Tablets offer many of the same dangers that computers and smartphones offer. Because of the increased screen size and capability, they are a very useful mix of both devices. This versatility also makes them a mix of danger for kids.
Kids gain access to app stores, and many tablets can give away the user’s location like smartphones. With more advanced gaming and program options, they run into the problems with in-game chats that you have with computers and laptops.
Luckily parents can cover tablet safety very easily if they cover computer and smartphone safety. Tablet safety is a combination of safety steps used on the other two devices, so it is not a separate safety concern. Just follow the same steps, and you will be able to use your tablet and have fun.
Smart TVs offer kids the ability to find shows and content right from the internet. Kids can access shows, apps, and games right from the television. This usefulness gives children an incredible range of entertainment options.
However, kids can access many things they aren’t supposed to on these devices as well. Shows that are too mature for them, with themes like violence, sex, and language.
Smart TVs can also access many of the same apps that allow kids to chat and access social media. Though they can be more tedious to use, kids can post and browse these apps on the TV. They can also have cameras, which can be dangerous for privacy issues. Third parties can access these cameras and view your family while watching TV or just playing in the same room as the TV.
In the past, gaming consoles were stand-alone systems that needed cartridges or disks to be useful. Modern gaming consoles, though, connect directly to the internet. This connection allows players to interact more with each other.
You can also make purchases of games and services on the gaming consoles. They are also streaming devices, able to connect to multiple different streaming sources. There are often updates to these systems, and Xbox and Playstation are currently putting out updated systems.
Some of the most popular gaming systems include the following:
- Xbox 1 and Xbox Series X
- Playstation 4 and Playstation 5
- Nintendo Switch
- Nintendo 3DS
Using gaming consoles, children can chat with their friends and strangers as well. Added communication means that parents will have to pay attention to the gaming sessions their children are playing. To gain access to your child’s gaming session, they may not be allowed to use private headphones all the time. Hearing chats can alert parents to possible negative interactions.
Internet of Things Devices (IoT Devices)
IoT is all the other things in the house that connect to the internet. Today your thermostat, watch, fridge, car, and even coffee pot can connect to the internet. There are devices like Alexa and Google Home that allow your children to say a command and have a pony delivered to your backyard.
These devices can allow your kids to use the internet, and they may not even be aware that is what they are doing. When raised with all this accessibility, they may not consider that everything connects to the internet and, as such, could be giving out private information. Kids need to understand how these devices work and how they can be misused.
These devices can also be used to bypass punishments. Who needs a phone when you can stream youtube on the refrigerator?
Keep an eye on how your children use IoT devices. Watching your kids use these items can sometimes teach you how to use them better, and it can help you know what features you have to control with parental controls.
Activities for Children Online
For internet safety, every individual activity can bring new and unique sets of problems. There are specific safety concerns that can be managed for children. Kids can find themselves in danger on these different programs in very specific ways. Children can avoid these dangers if they understand the threats.
Parents can help control these dangers also. When you know what your kids are doing on their devices, it is easier to know what parental controls and privacy settings to employ to help keep your child safe.
Web Browsing is still a prevalent activity online. Kids are going to specific websites, searching for information, and enjoying these sites. Kids can spend a lot of time just cruising around the internet, looking at funny pictures, and learning cool facts. While browsing, kids can be exposed to mature content that they are not ready to see.
They can also share information and shop online. Shopping online can be very expensive for parents if they accidentally stay logged in. Some companies offer returns on accidental purchases, but it may be hard to get all of your money back. Kids can also sometimes enter fake contests. These offer amazing prizes in exchange for information that can access bank accounts or commit identity theft.
Kids use the internet to stream media in many different ways. They can stream movies, videos, podcasts, and music. Sometimes, kids are steaming from safe places with useful rating systems that make it easy to find material suitable for their age group.
Many times though, these sites do not offer easy ways to distinguish safe material. Places like Youtube take community created videos that can vary widely in range and topics.
There are options to stream on kid-friendly services like Youtube Kids, Netflix Kids, and other safe streaming options. These apps do their best to put age ranges on their content, but parents still have to be vigilant. Unsafe material still makes its way onto these apps that can expose children to harsh material.
Streaming media can also sometimes end in accidental purchases, especially if PayPal or app stores remain logged in on the children’s device. You can usually return these purchases when you find them, but it could be difficult and time-consuming.
Social media is a great tool for your child to stay connected to grandma and their cousins. However, these connected networks can introduce your kids to dangers that include privacy concerns, scammers, and predators when used incorrectly. Below is the list of major social media sites on the net.
Facebook has many tools and options that can get users in trouble. Posts on this social media giant can range from fake news to outright scams. They were part of a giant scandal in 2018 when it was discovered that some of their quiz sites were collecting data. This platform can give away a ton of your child’s information with just a few misinformed clicks.
Youtube is well known for its ability to stream videos, but some forget it is a social media site. Account-holders can post their own videos, comment on other people’s videos, and engage in live streams with real-time chat. All of this is easily exploited by potential predators and scammers.
The extremely visual nature of Instagram appeals to many younger kids and teens. It is rife with targeted marketing, data collection, and harassment. It is one of the most accessible social media apps for even young children to use.
Snapchat allows users to post short videos. There is a belief that these videos can’t be recorded or kept for a long time. However, many people have figured out ways around this. Stored videos have led to bullying and harassment for some users.
Twitter allows users to express almost any topic in a small number of characters. The platform can give users detailed news about very specific topics. The site’s instant nature can lead to people posting in anger with less consideration about what they are sharing. The platform can promote fake news stories and scammers who are mining data and information.
TikTok allows users to post short videos. These videos can cause users to give a lot of personal information. It has also been in the news that TikTok was gathering information off of users’ phones, tablets, and computers. Passive collection of data could make your whole device more vulnerable.
The New Hot Network
Often by the time parents start to learn about a social media network, it has become old news, and a newer option has sprung up that children are downloading and using. New unknown social media apps make having a general set of rules and restrictions for your children’s social network activities even more important.
You may not know what program they are using at any given time but, your children can still learn to navigate them safely.
Games have changed so much since the early days of Pong, Pac-man, and Mario Bros. At one time, the most community you saw when playing a game was the other kids at the arcade or whoever happened to sit down and plug-in player two. Now kids play massive multiplayer online games (MMOs). These games have multiple ways to create and communicate with players and communities.
Parents have to know what features to look for to help their children navigate the gaming world safely. It is essential to know how much communication is available in the game and what players can do on these platforms. Many games allow you to block chat or limit interactions. Changing settings can be helpful to keep your children safe.
Many games now offer in-game chats. These can range from canned questions and responses that don’t allow much information, all the way to full audio sharing where players can carry on long conversations over headsets. Knowing how much players can communicate allows you to understand what your children are doing.
You can make a friends list of players. These lists often allow more personal communication, information about when players log on, when players are available, and what players are doing. All of this extra information can be used to keep closer tabs on players. It can also lead to a ton of personal information being exchanged.
Alliances, Guilds, and Teams
Players can make or join teams. This teaming often creates in-game bonuses and extras for the players. There are usually even missions that encourage you to join alliances and guilds in games. These teams can increase friends, add more personalized communion options, and relax chat restrictions. It can also lead to more information sharing, which can cause problems for kids.
Kids can use messengers to stay in touch with friends and family, especially on devices without phone services. These chat apps allow users to send videos, voice chats, images, and text messages. Some give users virtual phone numbers so that they can call landlines from the device.
When used properly, these apps can be beneficial. However, these apps allow your children to get in contact and communicate with almost anyone. They can fall prey to scammers and predators who gain sensitive information about the kids, including schedules that can put them in dangerous situations. They can also be put into situations that are too adult for them.
There are hundreds of chat apps available, ranging from chat room hubs to personal communication systems. Some of the most popular messenger apps available are the following.
- Facebook Messenger
If you notice a chat app that you didn’t know your child was using, talk to them about why they downloaded it. Make sure you get their login information and join the chat app yourself to understand how your child can use each specific app.
Live Streaming Apps
There are many different ways that kids can live stream from their devices now. Some social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube allow you to create live streams that offer specific and different concerns.
There are also apps like Periscope that create random live streaming options for kids. Lives streams have placed children in danger because they give away information about their location and activities. All the information makes them easier to track. It is likely better for children to limit or completely avoid creating live streams to stay safe.
Today more than ever before, kids are using their devices for school work. Right now, this can even include going to virtual classrooms for lectures and learning activities. The internet can be an amazing research tool for projects. However, recently it has become so much more vital for education.
It is important to find out what exactly is expected of your child during these changing education times. Are they required to be on camera with teachers? Do they have to have a camera and mic access available in the classroom? These are questions that didn’t occur before but are now becoming regular parts of children’s education.
Discuss with the child’s teacher what is expected of them if they are involved in virtual classrooms. Understand that these new educational requirements can be stressful for everyone involved. This situation is new for parents, students, and teachers. Sometimes kids will just have to watch and listen to activities. Other times they will have to be able to participate. Knowing what to expect will make online learning easier for your child and less stressful.
Ensure that you allow your child to access all the features they will need during these classroom sessions. You can change settings at different times to make it easier for them to work with teachers and other classmates and then put controls back during free time and breaks.
Kids are always being introduced to new apps and activities online. Whenever you discover a new app on your child’s device, it is smart to find out what it can do. New apps and programs are continuously developed, and knowing what your children are doing on a device is vital to help keep your kids safe online.
A major problem facing children today is cyberbullying. The simplest definition of cyberbullying is bullying that occurs online. Unlike conventional bullying, which involves direct contact with tormentors, cyberbullying can be conducted whenever people are on the internet. This constant barrage of attacks can often make victims feel like there is no safe space for them, and it can be taxing on their mental health.
Who is Bullied?
Statistics show that cyberbullying is most prevalent in children between 9-14. It is more likely to happen to girls. It is most often done by people the child knows online, rather than just strangers.
Cyberbullying is not just limited to social media. It also takes place on messaging apps and video games. The bullying in games tends to be the least personal, with most of it consisting of trash talk by other players in the game. It can still cause problems, but it tends to be less specific.
Bullying covers a range of topics. Bully’s pick on appearance, race, disability, religion, and sexual orientation. Bullying can fall into three major categories of abuse. These include harassment, flaming, and exclusion.
Harassment can use multiple different channels to attack victims for different reasons. Flaming is public shaming and humiliation online. Flaming can be in the form of pictures, videos, or posts. Exclusion is when events are discussed, and the victim’s exclusion becomes one of the events’ focuses.
Problems Associated with Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have many adverse effects on children. It increases anxiety and depression in victims. It also can cause trouble with focusing on schoolwork, which can cause lower grades. It can have negative effects on children’s confidence and cause issues with social behavior. It can even lead to physical disorders associated with stress.
This constant strain on the victim’s emotions can build up and express itself in many unfortunate and destructive ways. Everyone processes these problems differently, but cyberbullying has been shown to be the cause of some devastating behavior. It is not healthy for anyone involved.
How to Avoid Cyberbullying
The best way to keep a child from being cyberbullied is to keep children away from places where bullying can occur. Most social media sites give minimum age limits for those who can use their service. Video games offer age requirements for players. These are good guidelines that can give you an idea of what ages can deal with certain elements online.
You also have to discuss what cyberbullying is with your child. Learning the problems that can occur from cyberbullying can help kids avoid traps and triggers that can cause situations. The more your child understands the problem, the more capable they will be of handing them.
This information can include teaching kids how to block users that are abusive to other people. Not interacting with people who bully others will help them avoid getting bullied later.
What to Do If Your Child is Bullied?
Even when all the proper steps are taken to avoid the problem, sometimes it won’t be enough. If you find out that your child is being bullied online, it is important to talk to your child about the problem. Explain that you are on their side and that you want to change the problem. To do this, you have to learn where and how they are experiencing bullying.
Once you have gathered information on the problem, many steps can be taken to help your child. Sometimes leaving specific online environments can rectify some of the problems. This solution is especially true with gaming bullying. Not playing the game will often stop the harassment. For chat and social media, though, it can be a little more complicated. Deleting these apps may help, but it can still cause problems if the issue is still spreading.
While talking and learning about your child’s problem, try to collect as much proof as possible about the bullying. Proof includes getting screenshots and images of harassment. This proof can help you show concrete examples of the problem, which can come in handy if someone tries to delete the interaction later.
Reporting Negative Behavior
You and your child can report the behavior to the parents of the children responsible and teachers. Sometimes parents are unaware of their children’s activities, and bringing it to the parent’s attention can help alleviate the problem. If teachers are made aware of situations, they can mediate the problem and help find solutions.
It is important to remember that you are not trying to get other people in trouble in cyberbullying situations. You are trying to stop the bullying. Open communication can sometimes be better than swift punishment. Try to keep a level head when talking to other parents and teachers. The conversations can be difficult, but they can have lasting results that help your children.
What to Do If Your Child is the Bully?
It can be extremely difficult to learn that your child is bullying someone else in any situation. If you find out that your child is involved in cyberbullying, your initial reaction may be punishment. Though that may have a place in the process, understanding why your child felt the need to bully someone may be more helpful.
Bullying can be a sign of other stresses and problems that your child is facing. Helping them with these problems could be very beneficial.
Even though cyberbullying takes place online, it is often best handled in the real world. Opening up communications between all the parties can help everyone involved. Parents and teachers can help make sure that underlying problems are addressed to make everyone’s life better.
What Do You Tell Your Kids About Internet Safety?
How can you make sure that your child is not learning about the majestic tree octopus, and that they are staying safe on the net? You want them to be aware of what the possible dangers are. Knowing what problems are possible can help them make decisions that avoid those pitfalls.
Setting up guidelines that they can follow at all times will help as well. An easy to follow set of internet rules can help your kids avoid bad situations. Keeping these rules as clear cut as possible makes it easier for kids to follow them.
Explain What the Dangers Are
It is hard sometimes to discuss in real-world terms what the dangers of the internet can be. It is far easier to overplay or underplay the possible problems you can run into from misusing the internet. The list of dangers will never be comprehensive, but understanding some of the most common perils can help your children know how to stay safe.
- Exposure to offensive material: Children can see images, videos, and language far too graphic for their age.
- Fake News: This term has been in the media a lot, and it has sometimes been misused. However, misinformation can be rampant online. Kids being able to find reliable sources for accurate information is vital to staying safe online.
- Scams and Phishing: People online can be offering great deals and rewards that don’t deliver. Instead, they steal your money and information.
- Data Mining: Children can give out more information than they intend to. This information can lead to data mining and information theft that can be used against them.
- Identity Theft: Information gathered from the internet can be used to steal identities. This theft can cause expensive and lasting harm to your reputation. It can ruin credit and cause you problems for a long time.
- CyberBullying: Personal attacks online that can affect your child negatively.
- Child Predators: People can use information from chats and other sources to target children.
Each one of these dangers can be seen online to varying degrees. In most situations, the more information you share online, the greater the danger that can occur. Limiting information is often the best way to help protect children.
It may be tempting to go straight to a worst-case scenario with your children. There are plenty of stories online about kids being harmed because of improper internet use. However, kids may ignore these warnings because they don’t seem realistic to them. Giving a range of consequences can make kids understand the real and present danger on the internet.
Create Family Rules for the Internet
Rules can keep you and your family safe on the internet. If you create an easy to follow set of rules, your kids will be able to stay out of negative situations that could cause them problems. Here are some basic rules that can help make your child’s internet use safer in every situation.
These rules can easily be scaled for different ages. As your kid gets older, they will need to be able to do more online. Internet danger doesn’t follow any specific age group.
Kids can use these rules even as they age, and they are good basic rules to follow even when they are making all their own decisions as they become young adults. Studies show that college students are one of the most vulnerable groups to phishing attacks currently.
You may learn some useful tips from these rules as parents too. It’s never too late to implement these ideas to protect your data.
Don’t Post Personal Pictures
Depending on the child’s age, this rule can be made stricter, not allowing any post at all. Personal pictures can give people a lot of information about the child. Being able to see the child online can cause them to be directly targeted. The images with other information that can be gained can get children in trouble, especially with people who want to do them the most harm.
Think Before You Post
It is very easy to post things without thinking them through fully. People feel like they are hidden behind a mask on the internet and that anything they say and do is anonymous. Even if you are taking every precaution out there, people can still find out who posted something. There are plenty of stories about internet posts causing people problems years after they were made. Always make sure that you are willing to be tied to your post before you make them.
Don’t Discuss Personal Information
Giving out personal information like addresses, school information, and birth dates can cause problems online. Any location information can make children vulnerable to abduction. Other personal information can be used for identity thieves and data mining.
People won’t always come out and ask these questions directly. They will use leading questions, or they will try and use misdirection to gain this information. One of the most common social media methods is posting memes that ask you to comment on your special name of some kind. This use dates from your birthday, zodiac signs, and other information. People can easily collect this information and learn about your child.
Don’t Discuss Real-World Plans Online
Talking about your real-world plans online can accidentally give malicious people a lot of useful information. Talking about vacations tells criminals when your house will be empty. Talking about birthday parties can give away your birthday and location based on where the party is. People can learn your schedule and know when and where you will be, making it easy to harass or attack you.
Never Share Your Real Name
Screen names were created to help protect your anonymity. When you give out your name, you can tell people a lot of information about yourself. If they were able to gain other information about you, they could use your name for identity theft. Some apps, especially social media, already give your name, but if you are in a place with a screen name, only use it when talking.
Don’t Share Your Password
Your passwords help keep your accounts and information private. Only children and parents should have passwords. Never give your password to anyone else online, no matter what other people on the internet tell you. Scammers will try to gain access to your passwords to steal information and resources.
Creating good passwords that are safe and difficult to crack is important in online security. Longer passwords that mix in numbers and special characters are better. After making your password, it is private and should only be shared with your parents.
Don’t Download Anything Without Parental Consent
Get permission before you download anything. A lot of malware and tracking programs can appear to be fun games and useful apps at first. Just because a lot of other people use the app, it doesn’t make it safe. The malware works best when it attaches to fun apps that you want to add to your system.
Before you add any programs to your device, check with an adult to ensure they are safe. A little extra research about the app can help you keep your information and data protected. It can also save your device from slowing down due to viruses.
Don’t Make Online Purchases Without Parental Consent
Only make purchases if you get permission from your parents first. Often scams will try to entice you by offering incredible deals that aren’t real. Parents need to authorize any online purchase to make sure it is legitimate and needed. In most cases, online, you need a credit card to make the purchase. You will want to check before you ok any charges.
Don’t Agree to Meet in Person With Anyone
People online can tell you anything to make you think they are safe and trustworthy. They will lie to you to make you think they are trying to help you and be your friend. Many times strangers will try to get you to meet up with them in person. Never agree with this. If anyone asks to meet you in person, you should tell a parent.
Even if you know the person or think you know the person, you shouldn’t make plans to see them without parental approval and supervision. Sometimes people can gain access to real-life friends’ accounts. So while you’re thinking you’re going to meet your friend, it could be a stranger who plans to harm you. Letting your parents know about meetings makes it safer for you to meet up with your friends.
Don’t Respond to Angry, Threatening, or Scary Posts
Many times bullies and trolls online feed on reaction. People will post angry and threatening things to invoke reactions. Though it can be challenging, it is best to ignore these posts. However, it is still smart to report these kinds of posts to parents. You can gather proof of harassment and anger from users online to help you get the angry post to stop.
Tell a Parent About Any Online Interaction that Causes Unease
There can be plenty of online interactions that cause consternation and fear. Anytime you find an interaction online that doesn’t make you feel right, tell a parent. Parents want to know what problems you are facing, so they can help you navigate and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Parents, your child must understand that they aren’t responsible for other people’s actions. They can only be in control of their reactions to these actions. When they encounter bad behavior online, reporting it will not get them in trouble. It will only help change situations so that the children don’t have to deal with these situations. Make your children feel safe to come to you without having to fear punishment for stuff they can’t control.
By following these easy rules, your child will control the amount of information they give out. These rules can help keep them safer, and they can avoid situations that can put them in direct danger. These are all easy to understand and concrete rules about behavior online. They are easy to learn and follow, which will help ensure that your kids obey them.
Tools to Help Keep Your Kids Safe
There are many tools available to parents online that can help keep children safe on the internet. These tools help limit the information that can be given out online by accident, and it can help limit sensitive material that the children can see. These tools, coupled with open discussion and rules for internet usage, will help keep your kids safe online.
VPNs (Virtual Private Network)
There are many advantages to VPNs for children’s safety. They help keep your location safe. It can limit the amount of access third parties can gain to your children’s devices. It also encrypts your data, making it more difficult for information to be gathered from internet use. VPNs can block phishing and malware attempts. These are advantages that every VPN has, but you can get more focused safety features as well.
Some VPNs offer parents extra controls to the content that is available to children. These controls add to enhanced privacy online. This extra control can allow parents to set up safe searches, limit what the children can download and access, and restrict internet browsing when using the network. These controls can help make the internet even more useful for kids.
Kid-Friendly Search Engines
Kids find a majority of inappropriate material while using search engines. This material can be on purpose, with children searching specific topics, or by accident with children seeing mature material while looking for other topics. Kid-friendly search engines can help kids avoid overly adult material that can get them in trouble.
Kiddle is a kid-safe internet search page that is powered by Google. It was created to help your children have a safe internet search page that shows plenty of useful information while clearing away negative results that can show mature images. Safer searches will limit the amount of sensitive material your kids may see online.
Antivirus software can help keep your device free from malware and viruses. This can help stop tracking apps, and it can keep your system free of spyware that collects information. Antivirus software can keep your device safer and help it run better.
Many different ad blockers can help your child avoid targeted ads that are meant to sell them products. It will also help them avoid scams and phishing ads that can steal information from users. There are sometimes safe sites with pornographic or oversexualized ads that can pop up and shock your children. Stopping these ads can help you better control what your children see online.
Some ads are developed to upload malware that can gather information and steal many different sensitive details from people that click on them or accidentally start a program from the popup. Blocking these can keep your computer and your information safer. There are many useful ad blockers you can choose from to stop ads.
Your geolocation setting could be giving third parties information on where you are and what you are doing. This information can be used to track your children. Predators can use this information to gain access to your children for any reason they may want. Controlling your kids’ geo-information is very important for safety.
Even without complex information, geolocation can be used to find kids. Location can be added to social media posts. This information can allow anyone who can view your child’s post to know where they are.
Predators who have friended your child on social media use these tags to find your children by just looking on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. There are stories of children being found after streaming live video from known locations. Giving any extra information on where they are can make children less safe online.
There are many different kinds of parental controls that you can use with your children. It breaks down into six categories of control.
- Limit and block what children can access: This can allow you to block websites, images, and words that your child can view.
- Block outgoing content: This stops your children from posting and sending out content. This content can include personal information, but it can also limit all communication on the device.
- Time limit: This time limit can help control how long a child can use the device. Time limits are useful for helping parents teach their children healthy internet usage.
- Monitoring tools: These are tools that tell you what your child is doing online. You can let your child know you are watching or do it without their knowledge. Parents can also get notifications if their children access specific types of material or information.
- Usage controls: Parents can set what the device allows children to do. This usage includes downloading, making purchases, messaging, and receiving calls.
- Location and Monitoring: Parents can use settings to locate their kids using the device’s GPS. This information can help find kids as long as they still have devices.
Using these settings and options can be a quick and easy way to ensure your child’s safety online. Learn what controls are available on your child’s devices and apps so that you can maximize their usage.
Privacy settings are available in devices and apps. There are presets on most of these settings, but parents can personalize them to keep their kids safer. These allow you to block what your kids can see, what others can see about your kids, and who can contact your kids. Privacy settings can help keep your kids’ information private.
Privacy settings change from device and app that you and your children are using. Learning the specific privacy option on each device and program could be helpful to parents. Making use of app-specific settings can give you quite a bit of influence on how your child interacts on that platform. Often the preset options are not the safest but the least intrusive.
Things You Can Do to Keep Your Kids Safe
On top of using all your tools and creating a list of rules to help your child navigate the perils of the internet, there are other things that you can do. These quick and easy internet ideas can help you learn what your child is doing online and how they are using the internet.
Limit Internet Use
Setting realistic time limits on screen time and internet use can help kids use the internet properly. Like all things, moderation can help keep the internet healthy. Often parents don’t count school and homework time against their child’s internet usage but make sure that your child is really doing homework when they say they are and not just attempting to gain a little more game and social media time.
Though parental controls can limit internet usage, it still helps if parents keep up with how much time their children are spending on all their devices combined. Kids are very tech-savvy, and there have been interesting stories about kids using connected fridges to gain access to social media. Watching your child’s usage time yourself can sometimes avoid larger problems with ease.
Know What Devices Your Child is Using
Know all the devices that are used to access the internet by your child. As devices get more complex, you can do more and more with every internet device. Knowing where your kids access the internet allows you to find information on what they are looking for and what they are doing online. If they have devices you don’t know about, they can hide activity.
It is also important to know if your child is gaining access to friends’ computers and devices. You can be doing everything right with your devices, and your child could still be accessing age-inappropriate material when they are at their friends’ house.
Monitor Your Accounts
Accidental purchases can happen if your children have access to your app store or PayPal accounts on their devices. Sometimes these transactions can be extremely small microtransactions.
The quicker you catch accidental charges, the easier it will be to reverse them. You can also quickly fix the problem by requiring a login each time you make a purchase on an app.
Check What Your Children Are Doing Online
Parents can look at what their child is using their devices for on the internet. Often devices keep information about time spent on specific apps and programs. Watching your child’s wall on social media and following them allows you to see what they are posting and interacting with on media platforms. Browsing history keeps information on what your child is looking at online.
It is also helpful to know and keep all of your child’s passwords. Accessing all of your child’s devices, apps, and networks can help you keep track of what they are doing online. Knowing this information can help you keep your child safe.
Sometimes kids will try to hide activity online. They can do this by keeping extra accounts on social media and deleting their internet history. If you notice that your child seems to be taking steps to hide their internet use, it is most likely a sign that they are doing something they consider wrong.
Talking to them about what they are trying to hide could be helpful. It will allow you to open a dialogue and learn about what they are doing.
A new trick that older kids are using is adding their own VPNs to their devices. Kids believe that these apps can make their internet usage invisible. It can help with privacy, but it doesn’t completely hide them online. Sometimes they do this to hide communications, web searches, or pirating activity.
If you find VPN software on your child’s device that you didn’t install, you will want to discuss why they are using these apps.
Use the Internet With Your Child
Having family internet time can help in two ways. The first is that you can witness your child’s internet skills and habits first hands. Watching how they use devices can give you an idea of what they are capable of doing, even when they are alone. Second, it can help kids learn some of the proper internet behaviors you use. For this to work, you have to make sure that you are using proper techniques for internet safety.
Watch for Changes in Your Child’s Behavior
Sometimes you will see problems from the internet manifest in your child in the real world. Cyberbullying and internet abuse can change how your child acts. If you see sudden or major changes in your child’s behavior, talking to them can help. Communication can find the root of the problem. If it turns out to be an internet problem, you can help make changes.
Next Steps for Keeping Kids Safe Online
Kids today see themselves connected to the internet all the time. When you spend so much time doing anything, you are going to discover problems and dangers. Though the methods used on the internet have changed over time, the overall danger has stayed the same.
Keeping an open dialogue with your children about the internet and safety will allow the best way to keep your child out of danger. Make sure they know they can always come to you and discuss any problems they are having online.
Help them understand the rules and tips to keep safe and limit the amount of information they give online. Use all the tools at your disposal to help keep children safe as much as possible. All of these steps will help create the safest internet experience available.
The internet can be immensely useful, and it has enriched our lives so much. Minimizing the dangers of online activity will help everyone in the family enjoy their time on the internet more. Staying safe goes hand in hand with having fun and should be seen as a tool to make the web a more exciting place.