When you have a family, you need to protect them – and that means, among other things, taking steps to keep them safe from cyber threats. With so many hackers, scammers, and online predators lurking on the internet, it’s vital that you take steps to protect your kids.
For many parents, that means limiting the time kids can spend online, and what sites they can visit. But you can’t keep your kids off the internet forever, and you can’t always be there to look over their shoulders while they’re interacting with others online. Your kids are going to go online at school, at the library, or at their friends’ houses – and as they get older, their need to protect themselves will only grow. Here’s how to raise kids who will use the internet intelligently, and how to keep them safe from those dangers they may not be able to avoid.
1) Talk to Your Kids about Online Safety
According to a recent survey from AVG, just 43 percent of parents talk to their kids about their online behavior regularly. But data from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 40 percent of kids in fourth to eighth grade have talked to a stranger online, 53 percent of have given their phone number to someone online, 15 percent have tried to meet someone online, and six percent have given someone online their home address.
So if you haven’t spoken to your kids about online safety, you need to. Most kids these days have access to a connected device, so you need to start educating them while they’re still young. Talk to your kids regularly about the dangers of talking to strangers online, what information you should and shouldn’t give out, and how to interact safely on social media. Make it a conversation, not a lecture. Let your kids know you’re on their side and there for them when they have questions or concerns. They need to understand the dangers of malware, scammers, dangerous websites, and predators, but they also need to feel safe to come to you if they run into a problem.
2) Make Rules for and Supervise Kids’ Online Activity
You may not be able to keep your kids off the internet, but you can limit the time they spend on it. Make rules about where, when, and for how long kids can use connected gadgets and social media. Supervise young kids’ online activity by keeping computers and tablets in common areas of the home. Make internet time a family activity, and check kids’ browsing history regularly. Don’t give kids smart phones until you’re sure they’re old enough to use them safely.
Kids will also use computers, tablets, and smart phones at school, at the library, and at friends’ houses. Talk to your kids and find out where else they’re going online. Schools, and libraries shouldn’t present too much of a threat, since most institutions use firewalls and supervise activities. Talk to your children’s friends’ parents about their rules for supervising their own kids’ internet use, so you can talk to your kids about any threats that may crop up when they’re using the internet at a friend’s house.
3) Use an Antivirus Suite that Provides Parental Controls
If you have kids or teens going online from your home network, you need an antivirus protection suite that offers comprehensive protection and parental controls. The right antivirus suite will protect your network from malware, phishing scams, and hackers, as well as enabling you to block access to adult material and sites you don’t want your kids to use just yet.
4) Know Your Children’s Account Passwords
While older teens may want and need some privacy online, young kids still need to be protected in their internet activities. If your kids want to make accounts on social media, make them yourself so you can be sure that they’re not giving out details like their full name or phone number on their profile. This way, you’ll also be able to decide whether a particular site is too advanced for your young child, and you’ll have access to the login info.
5) Watch for Signs that Your Child May Have Caught the Attention of a Predator
Remind your kids regularly that strangers they meet online are not their friends. Talk to your kids about how bad people lie about their age online to trick kids, and that giving out personal information could help these people find them in real life. Tell your kids that they should never agree to meet someone online without your permission. Be vigilant for signs that your child has been drawn in by a predator, including:
- Secretive behavior
- Withdrawing from the family or other personality changes
- The appearance of new toys that you didn’t buy them
- Snail-mail letters or packages addressed to your child
If you think your kid has been targeted by a predator, call the police immediately. Don’t try to deal with it yourself; you’re not Batman. Be aware that yours or your child’s devices may have important evidence on them, so don’t tamper with them.
The world is full of dangers for your kids, and the internet no less so. But don’t despair – you can protect them, and let them learn to navigate the internet safely as they grow up.