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This is the digital age where information is at everybody’s fingertips. Even young children these days have access to the internet via smartphones and tablets. They need to be made aware of the dangers of the internet and taught how to protect themselves from various online threats.
The internet is used by children as young as 5-year-olds these days. Kids go online to play games, watch movies or cartoons, interact with their peers on social media, and to do research for homework assignments or school projects. However, they may not be aware of the various dangers of the internet. Children have to be educated about online threats and internet safety. Speaking openly with them is very important. Parental supervision is also essential.
Importance of Internet Safety for Children
Children are very thrilled about going online to browse shopping sites, use social media, watch movies or do research for educational purposes. However, simple mistakes online can have dangerous repercussions.
Certain search terms may lead to explicit content, and children could get duped by online marketing or phishing scams. Kids may become victims of cyberbullies, identity thieves, paedophiles or even kidnappers. One wrong click on a pop-up could cause malware to download onto the device. It is, thus, very important to teach your kids about internet safety and ensure that their time online is supervised by an adult.
Internet Safety Tips for Children
Parents can make sure their children are safe while browsing online using the following tips:
1. Do Not Allow Kids to Browse Alone
Set a rule that the child should use the electronic device for browsing in the living room or in the presence of an adult. This way, the adults can ensure that the child does not view unsuitable content online, and also supervise the child’s online activities.
2. Teach Kids About Protecting Their Privacy
Teach your kids never to share personal information such as address, phone numbers, names, personal email addresses, siblings’ details, parents’ work details, etc. without the permission of parents.
3. Never Agree to Meet Online Friends
Teach the kids that the internet provides anonymity, and their online friends may not really be who they say they are. It is dangerous to go meet online friends as they could turn out to be paedophiles or kidnappers. Keep track of your kids’ online friends and report suspicious activities or people online to your local cyber-crime department.
4. Instruct Your Child Never to Click on Pop-ups or Subscribe to E-Newsletters
Clicking on pop-ups or ads could result in malware or viruses being downloaded into the device. They could also be an online scam to gather the user’s personal details. E-newsletters demand too many personal details, and it is unsafe for children to give out such details online. Teach your kids to avoid clicking on suspicious email attachments, pop-ups, ads and e-newsletters.
5. Use a Strong Password
Teach the kids the importance of using strong passwords online and why they should never disclose passwords to anyone. Passwords are tougher to crack if they are at least eight characters long, contain at least one number, one special character, one lower-case letter and one upper-case letter.
6. Set a Time Rule
Set a specific time limit for the online activities of your children. Whether it is for entertainment purposes or educational reasons, it is better to limit kids’ time online. Discuss this with your children and agree on a set time limit per day.
7. Monitor What Your Kids Post Online
Teach your children that once something is on the internet, it can never be deleted. Therefore, they should be very careful about what they post online. For example, teenagers may post pictures of themselves online or comment on social media. Make sure you monitor this and if you think a picture or post is inappropriate, ensure that it is taken down or never posted in the first place. Being open with your children and explaining your reasons will avoid conflict and make sure your children are cooperative.
8. Use Reliable Security Software
Make sure you install reliable security software on your device to prevent viruses, malware or spyware and ensure that you have firewalls turned on to prevent pop-ups and hackers. There are also several online protection tools that help you control your kids’ access to inappropriate content. Use these tools to ensure your child’s safety.
9. Do Not Allow Kids to Shop Online Unsupervised
Children should never be allowed to shop online unsupervised. They could enter credit card details on an unsecured website, causing vital financial data to fall into the hand of cybercriminals.
10. Privacy Settings
Teach your kids about the importance of using privacy settings on social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Also, teach them never to click on suspicious links and to always log out before going offline.
Word of Caution
Cyber safety for kids is of paramount importance. You need to set kids’ rules for online safety. Make sure your children do not interact with unknown people on social media or on online forums or chat rooms. These are places that child predators and cyberbullies frequent. Paedophiles often pose as children on social media and in chat rooms and encourage children to call or come and meet them. Make sure you warn your kids of such dangers and teach them never to call strangers or agree to meet anyone in person.
Invest in good online protection tools to track your children’s online activities and eliminate online threats. Internet security for kids is worth the investment. For younger children, encourage them to use child-friendly options such as Kiddle instead of Google search or YouTube Kids instead of regular YouTube.
Talk openly with your teenagers about the various online threats and tell them that you will be monitoring their activities in order to ensure their safety. Teach teenagers the dangers of posting their exact location online. Warn them about the dangers of unwelcome contacts online. This includes stalking, bullying, harassment, and grooming (making online friends for purposes of later sexual contact). Encourage teenagers to approach you if they encounter something online that makes them uncomfortable. Limit the time children spend online and prompt them to spend more time in the real world.
Although the internet is a plethora of information and entertainment, there are very real dangers lurking there. Internet protection for kids is imperative these days. There have been several incidents where a lack of online safety led to situations where children were in serious danger. Open communication is the key to online safety, especially with teenagers who are secretive and value privacy. Young children should have limited access to the internet and should always be supervised. Children should take advantage of the abundant information the internet offers without exposing themselves to danger. Parents can ensure this by being aware of their kids’ online activities and educating them about the dangers of the internet.