It’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security of his/her kids be it in the real or virtual world. Today, kids are more inclined to using gadgets such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. They are even more tech-savvy than their parents. They know more about the internet compared to their parents. If this is the case, how will the parents ensure their kids’ security online? How will they be able to make sure that their kids are safe while using the internet?
Luckily, there are helpful guides for parents on how they can keep the internet safety of their kids. In this article, we will tackle the importance of the internet and internet safety especially to our little ones, the different ways on how to ensure the safety and security of our kids online and the possible threats they might encounter online if we leave them unsupervised.
Understanding the Importance of the Internet
Let us first discuss the importance of the internet. In the modern world, the important role of the internet is very evident in the lives of everyone, most especially for the students, workers and business establishments that rely mostly on technology and the internet. For students, like our kids, the internet is most commonly utilized for research purposes.
For teens, they use the internet for communication via different social media platforms. It is also widely used for entertainment purposes. It is undeniably important today especially because most school works, activities and research require the use of the internet. It makes their school work easier and more effective and it also enables them to connect and communicate with their peers and schoolmates.
The Importance of Internet Safety
It’s no secret that the internet poses inherent dangers to our children as much as they offer valuable help, information, and opportunities. As parents, we are responsible for protecting our kids from the threats of the online world. Internet is everywhere, which makes it easier for parents to understand its technicalities. Its dangers are as real as the benefits it supplies.
Internet safety is vital for everyone especially the younger users. Every day we see news stories about how technology impacts our daily lives. As an adult, technology, and the internet affect us personally, what more are the younger generations? What about its effect on our kids?
A study has shown that 85% of mothers use gadgets and technology to keep their kids busy. In connection to that, the age of kids receiving their gadgets and internet-capable device are getting younger and younger. What’s alarming is the number of parents who never check the online activity of their kids. And that activity continues to increase every year.
Many children think that the virtual world is more real compared to the real world. It’s essential to the well-being of our children that we know and understand everything they see and encounter online. This includes the content of the internet if it is good or bad and its impact on their physical and emotional well-being. Truth be told, there’s no magic software or application that parents can use or install in their kids’ devices which can provide and assure 100% online safety.
The only key for the internet protection and safety of the younger people is parental knowledge. It minimizes the risks and dangers in the online world.
In short, internet safety is important because the physical and emotional well-being of our kids is at risk when they are exposed to the internet without proper supervision and guidance. Their online safety lies in our hands. We, as responsible parents, should make an effort to understand the online world for us to be able to guide them and assist them on how to properly use the internet.
The Dangers in the Internet
If we fail to guide our kids on how to safely use the internet, there will be a higher risk of them being exposed to its dangers and threats. If you are unaware of the possible dangers brought by the mobile world, here’s the list of online dangers faced by the younger generation and teens.
In simpler terms, cyber stalking is using the technology, the internet, in particular, to harass someone. The superficial use of different social media platforms to watch people does not seem superficial, especially if it becomes an obsessional or regular activity. Stalking, whether offline or online can leave a terrifying effect on the victim.
There are confusions between cyber stalking with cyber bullying. Cyber stalking, according to Kids Health, pertains to prosecutable cases involving an adult. On the other hand, cyber bullying commonly takes place with the peer group of a child.
Cyber bullying is one of the most common online dangers that a large number of kids and teens experience. It is at epidemic levels basing on the recent statistics of the NSPCC that shows one in three children have experienced being a direct victim of cyber bullying. It can be more than just casual teasing and often it results in something tragic like suicides. The number of suicide cases related to bullying continually increases and the most recent cases involve online element.
Usually, children or teens who are bullied online will never tell anything to their parents. This is why most children who experience bullying suffer from depression which often results in suicide. In these cases, it’s up to the parents to discuss and address this issue head-on. Parents should we watchful and should pay close attention to the online activities of their kids. It’s also a must for every parent to know the people that their kids encounter in the online world. Additionally, parents need to be mindful of the possibility that their children could be the bullies and not a victim.
Offensive and Obscene Content
Today, access to explicit porn is just a tap or click away on a phone, tablet or computer. Unlike the old days where the first experience of pornography is a VHS video or soft-core magazine that was secretly passed around our group of friends. Today is very different. Everything is just a tap, swipe, and click away.
Guard Child stated that 70% of children accidentally encounter online pornography while researching their homework. In this case, parents can protect their kids from those kinds of content with the use of parental control software and filters. But keep in mind that software or filters alone will not prevent kids from encountering pornography especially when they have access to tablets, smartphones, games console and smart TV.
Child Sex Offenders
The cases of child sex offenders are unfortunately more common that a person can expect. The statistics of sexual abuse published by the US Department of Justice shows the increasing number of sexual abuse cases involving the technology and internet. These numbers are enough to make a parent worry about their internet safety and their kids’ safety in the real world.
It’s a wake-up call to those parents who think their offspring will be safe from these online realities mainly because they send their kids to a high-end school and/or they live in a secured and safe area.
Posers and dummy account is rampant in the online world. One example is a pedophile using a profile of a child or posing as a teen in a chatroom. But according to a US study, only 5% of sexual predators hide under a different identity or lie about their age. Most of them openly tell their true intentions and reveal their real ages to impressionable teenagers.
Sextortion is the use of sexual material, usually the naked videos and photos that are shared privately, to extort sexual favors or money in exchange for not sharing the material to the public or other people. Many people think these cases are rare; however, over 10% of teenagers have shared their nude photos. With that being said, it means there’s a lot of pictures and a bigger number of sextortion cases. A detailed study conducted by Cyberbulying.org involving over 1600 cases of sextortion shows that over 50% involve teenagers and minors.
The best and simplest way to reduce the risk of your kid being a sextortion victim is to communicate with them. Inform that the things they share with other people online can be passed from one person to another. There is no assurance that those private photos can be kept private especially in the online world. Sadly, the modern world and the younger generation richly revered the “likes” and “follows”. And most of the time, the point of the parents can go against what the younger people believe in.
Technical Scams and Threats
Aside from the online issues that kids and teenagers face online, they are also prone to similar online concerns affecting adults like phishing attempts, malware, and online scams.
The younger generation is more susceptible to the given threats compared to adults. Of course, one of the main reasons is their critical thinking skills in their young age is not yet fully developed. Another reason is that they don’t have a source of income which often leads them to try different freebies, offers and illegal alternative from the internet to be able to buy movies, music, and games.
You can attest to this fact if you know how to check your kids’ computer. You will see that they download all sorts of things. This is the main reason why children’s computers are often riddled with malware from cracked games, torrented movies and many more!
Aside from the threats mentioned above, gadgets and technologies that can be connected to the internet can breach the privacy of the young users and their families.
One great example is the company behind CloudPets, which produces a connected cuddly toy. They suffered a security breach which exposed the login credentials of almost a million customers. It also made it easier for hackers to access a million recordings created by the said toys.
There are many other cases which show personal information from our logins hacked because of data and security breach. The risks of online privacy are higher for kids and teenagers since they’re the most common users of such internet toys. The best thing that parents can do is to talk to your kids and inform them to limit the personal data and information they share online. Also, remind our kids to be mindful of the setup steps and use very strong passwords. It’s also up to the parents to be updated to any security issues especially if their households might be affected.
How Can Parents Establish Internet Safety?
With the given internet threats, the majority of parents are now worried about the internet safety of their kids as well as the overall security of their households. Luckily there are many things that every parent can do to protect their kids online. Here are some of them;
1. Keeping YouTube Safe for Kids
YouTube is one of the most popular sites for everyone, especially for kids. It’s considered as the new kid’s TV. However, not all videos in this video sharing site are appropriate for the children. The good thing is, the site provides safety features which parents can take advantage.
Search for the “Restricted Mode” setting in the YouTube app or website. If your kids are using computers or laptops, you will see this setting on the bottom part of the site. For those using the app, click on the three dots located in the top right part then click Settings, go to General, then scroll down and look for the “Restricted Mode” option. This setting hides videos that contain inappropriate content.
2. Assist your Kids When Setting the Privacy Controls of their Social Media Accounts
Most kids are unaware of who can see the pictures, videos, and messages they share in their social media accounts. As parents, we can help then in setting the privacy of their posts, since almost all social media platforms have privacy settings that enable users to control who can see their posts, who can contact them and many more. You can assist, supervise and teach your kids on how to set their privacy so that they’ll know.
3. Opt for Anti-Virus Software for Your Mobile Devices and Computers
Just like the rest of us, children are also vulnerable, if not more so, to downloading malicious software and clicking on bad links. For effective protection against malware, install anti-virus software. AN anti-virus will protect the kid’s devices from bad links and viruses. If you’re looking for excellent free products from trustworthy brands, you can try the following; Avast, Avira and BitDefender.
4. Set up a Separate Account for Your Children If You're Sharing the Same Computer
If your kids are using the same device and computer that you use, it’s best that you set up a separate account or accounts for your kids. This will allow your kids to have their own home screen and a different selection of apps, features, and permission depending on the platform or device.
Doing so will ensure that your information is safe and out of reach from your kids. You will also be able to set up customized privacy and security settings for each of your kids.
5. Set up a Separate Account for Your Children If they're Using Your Mobile Device
Devices like smartphones and tablets also enable users to create multiple accounts in the same device. For android tablets, parents can create a restricted account for your children in which you can limit the apps they are allowed to use.
For Android phones, parents can create a new user account for your kids. However, the restriction is only limited to making phone calls and sending text messages. But you can still restrict your kids from inappropriate apps, movies, games, books, and music by restricting their Google Play account. All you have to do is go to Settings, search the Parental controls then turn them on.
The iPads and iPhones devices have controls for features, content, apps and private settings. All you have to do is to launch the Settings app, go to General, click Restrictions then tap the “Enable Restrictions”
6. Use Search Engines and Browsers that are Kid-Safe and Kid-Friendly
For more security and control, consider installing a kid-friendly and kid-safe web browser for your young ones. One example of a child-safe web browser is Zoodles. The premium version that costs $8 monthly will include a time limit, ad blocking, and other helpful features.
7. Teach and Ensure that your Children are Using Safe Chat Rooms Only
There are available kid-friendly platforms that provide safe chat rooms for kids to communicate with one another. Check and visit the sites first and make sure someone is monitoring the chat room. Additionally, teach your children to limit the information they share to these platforms and/or don’t use their real identities and use screen names instead.
8. Warn Your Children About Talking and Getting Close to Strangers
It’s best to talk to your kids and warn them about the risks of talking or getting too close to strangers, especially those they meet online. More often, predators will do their best to trick kids and teenagers into sharing photos, videos, and information, and making an unnecessary purchase. Warn them about these threats. It’s also a must that you know your kid’s online friends. For their offline friends, make sure to confirm their identities. It’ll be much better if you talk to those kid’s parents to make sure that they are true, “kids”.
9. Set a Time Limit on How Much Time Your Kids Can Spend Online
As early as possible, teach your kids about discipline in using internet and gadgets. Set a specific time when they can freely use their device and the internet. It’s also recommended to limit the use of gadgets during meals and before bedtime. You as a parent should also set a good example for them to follow.
10. Talk to Your Kids
The best way to protect your kids is by allowing them to communicate with you. Make them feel that you understand them. This way, they will be able to open up to you about the issues they might already be encountering online like cyberbullying, sextortion, and online predators.
Communicate with them as well. Warn them about the dangers of the internet as mentioned above. Give them tips and ideas on how to prevent such online dangers. Tell them the consequences of talking to strangers, giving too much personal information, and trusting someone you met online without confirming their real identity.
The key here is communication, proper parenting, and knowledge. Knowledge is indeed power. As a parent, we should also learn about the internet as much as our kid knows or more. In our hands lies their security on the online and real world. We should know how to keep them safe everywhere, especially online. We hope this simple guide was able to help you identify the internet threats your kids might encounter and the countermeasures to prevent them.