Internet Safety for Kids: A Complete Online Security Guide for Modern Parents
From online food deliveries to booking cabs, we now depend on the internet more than ever, and so do our kids. Children tend to spend a substantial part of their day with gadgets also due to the global lockdown: for learning, socializing, streaming, and gaming. While you can’t completely ban the use of devices and the internet at home, you certainly take some quick steps to ensure internet safety for kids. Digital security is a legit concern, and you will have to show a proactive approach. To help you on your mission, digital experts at iProVPN have compiled a quick guide for parents. They have crafted this guide keeping in view the dynamics of modern parenting, the need for appropriate screentime, and the typical online hazards kids are exposed to in the current digital era.
Why Do Attackers Target Kids?
Hackers and cyber attackers target kids and their social media profiles for the following reasons.
- Kids are more likely to be a victim of phishing attempts by clicking on malicious links. They are curious by nature; most teens and tweens wish to surf adult content and end up introducing malware in their devices.
- It is somehow easier to threaten kids and obtain financial information that their parents won’t provide otherwise.
- Attackers attempt to create catfishing accounts. These are fake accounts that copy profile information and photographs from other real social media accounts.
- Most cybercriminals are interested in obtaining sensitive information about parents, elder siblings, and relatives. They create complex databases, including home addresses and email IDs, and later sell the data on the dark web and other platforms.
- Some attackers need users’ personal information for opening bank accounts and applying for loans. All they need is some legit information like a home address and social security number to register for a credit service.
- Some attackers track the online behavior of teens above 18, especially those who actively shop online. With one successful session hijacking attempt, they can take over the session on a shopping website, make hefty purchases, and subscribe to paid services.
It is ideal to discuss all the aforementioned pointers with kids. A healthy discussion will help them realize the depth of the issue and the seriousness of online scams.
Steps to Ensure Internet Safety for Kids
Roll up your sleeves and take 5 solid actions to reclaim internet safety for your kids:
Educate Your Kids About Internet Safety
Kids should know the causes and effects of maintaining a digital presence. Learn and school your kids about different cybersecurity threats and what they should do to avoid or report such problems.
We suggest parents not jump onto consequences first. The world is going digital and kids must learn to portray acceptable online behavior. Focusing too much on the consequences might affect their confidence and you may sound harsh or rude to them. This is the time when you need to be closer to your kids than ever. Your hyper emphasis on problems may create a communication gap and they may not reach out to you in case of emergencies.
Also, remember that your child may face serious financial damages or mental health issues if they keep tolerating such threats silently. Give them a forum where they can comfortably discuss any issues they face online, and that would happen with how you choose to approach the awareness sessions at home. Explain to them the nature of the issue, how these online scams are initiated, and what they should do to counter such scams.
Public Wi-Fi networks are weak in nature. Hackers can conveniently penetrate them to sniff sensitive data packets. Your kids might love to use free Wi-Fi service provided by the local coffee-shop or your town’s library and end up handing their sensitive information to intruders who later misuse the data to advance serious crimes.
Evil Twin Attack is a common online scam in which an attacker creates a dummy network access point. Even adults do connect to such networks without verifying the network SSID, and so it might get difficult for your children to distinguish between legit networks and fake ones.
To avoid these dangers of public Wi-Fi, tell your children to either avoid browsing on such networks or do so with a VPN. Also, tell them not to download third-party apps on their mobile devices or tablets when on public Wi-Fi. Hackers often create dummy webpages: the domain and interface might look similar to common social sites, but these are created to obtain user IDs and passwords. If they need to access sites that require login information, tell them to type in the website, rather than clicking suspicious links that might look similar.
Cyberbullying is the same as conventional bullying but performed online. Usually, kids’ own classmates, senior students, or friends in the neighborhood are involved in cyberbullying. Children often tend to bully other kids by passing derogatory remarks over physical appearance or disability, geographic or ethnic background, or a recent incident. While you teach your children to not tolerate cyberbullying, teach them to also not participate in such activities.
Cyberstalking is also a growing cybersecurity threat in which attackers attempt to engage with the victim through emails and social media profiles. While such engagement may appear normal and conventional in the beginning, cyberstalkers may soon start harassing their victims by sharing annoying and sensitive content. They can verbally or graphically threaten the victims to engage in voice and video calls, force them to share their personal information or photographs and even follow the victim in-person after work or school. Luckily, most nations now have anti-cyberstalking and anti-harassment laws in action. It is, however, important for you to gain an understanding of legal options; then teach your kids how those laws work and who they should approach for reinforcement of these laws.
To counter cyberstalking, your kids should:
- Learn to identify cyberstalking behavior.
- Be vocal about cyberstalking; talk to you or another elder about cyberstalking behavior.
- Avoid over engaging with strangers or profiles they don’t know personally.
- Avoid following the instructions of profiles or cyberstalkers if they force to share addresses or personal photographs.
- Report and block the profiles.
Use Security and Privacy Tools
VPN and antivirus are software programs exclusively designed to provide network-level and device-level security to users. With the right tools on hand, you can ensure your children do not contribute to identity breaches and data leaks.
A VPN routes internet traffic through a secure tunnel so no intruders, internet service providers, and other online entities can view or access a user’s online activities. This way, your kids’ online behavior will remain private and confidential. It is, however, difficult to instill the cybersecurity attitude in young kids, and they might not always remember to activate a VPN before browsing. To counter this, you can choose to configure VPN credentials in your Wi-Fi router to provide overall internet security to your kids and other family members.
An antivirus monitors the device’s activities and notifies the user about malware or excessive battery and data consumption. Reliable antivirus programs test Wi-Fi networks for security and generate diagnostic reports when a user attempts to install a new app.
- Other than these tools, you should manually check your kids’ personal devices and examine which apps have access to their media storage and email accounts.
- If your child uses a personal email ID, make sure the security checklist is complete. Turn off ad-personalization and instruct your kids not to open spam emails, download attachments, or click links if the email is from an unknown sender.
Implement Healthy Social Media Etiquette
Social media also forms a substantial part of kids’ online activities. Unfortunately, major cybersecurity threats like cyberstalking and cyberbullying are executed through social platforms. Practice social media etiquette as an example for your children and teach them to do the same.
- Avoid oversharing information on social media. Teach your kids to never share personal information like their home and school address on social media profiles.
- Teach them not to engage with unknown profiles. Engagement includes likes, comments, and private messages.
- Set strict privacy settings. Your kids’ personal information, photographs, and other activities they perform on social media should be private and not accessible to an unknown audience.
- Ensure that your kids’ friends and followers list is set to private.
Set Strong Password Management Rules
An ideal password is a unique combination of alphanumeric and special characters. With this, also tell your kids to:
- avoid creating their passwords using personal information like birthdays or their friend’s name.
- not use the same passwords for different accounts.
- keep their passwords confidential. They should not share their passwords even with their classmates or best friends.
- change their passwords if they had accessed their email or social media accounts on shared devices, for example, a school’s computer or a friend’s tablet.
Review your Children’s Social Media Profiles
As mentioned earlier, attackers target young users to obtain sensitive information, plant malware or redirect them to explicit websites to generate traffic on sensitive platforms. To ensure internet safety for your kids, teach them not to participate in sensitive social media posts that aim to bully an individual or a group from a specific ethnic, political or geographic background. Similarly, keep a close eye on who engages with your children. In case you notice an unknown profile over-engaging, tell your child to report or block the person immediately.
Note for Parents
- If your kids are younger than 14, they can use Facebook and Instagram, but they need your supervision.
- If your kids are younger than 13, they are ‘underage’ to sign up or use Facebook and other social sites. They should not be allowed to use social media, or it will be a clear violation of policy.
- If your kids are deleting search history, they are probably viewing content they should not. While you can’t be strict, or else it will encourage them to practice the same again, you can politely ask your children not to delete search history.
- Make sure your browsers have ‘safe searches’ on. For streaming platforms like Youtube and Netflix, make sure your children use ‘Kids’ profiles and not the conventional ones.
- Use the device’s parental controls to restrict or allow certain actions, such as the installation of new apps.
Only lecturing about internet safety to kids might not suffice. As a parent, you have the responsibility and the legitimate right to monitor your children’s social activities until they reach a certain age. As an ending note, iProVPN suggests parents lead by example: establish healthy internet habits yourself, and kids will learn the same. Use necessary security and privacy tools, and kids will do the same. Avoid using public Wi-Fi without a VPN, and kids will follow the same.
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