Advanced Strategies and Tools for Children’s Online Safety

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Identity Theft Prevention for Parents—Part 6

This is the sixth in a multi-part series by SafeWise expert advisor Pete Canavan, “The Safety Sensei.” Pete's expert tips and practical advice help you learn how to safeguard children's personal information and protect their credit.

Young boy on floor looking intently at a laptop.

Image: OGI75, iStock

One major threat that didn't exist when today's parents were growing up is social media. It's so entrenched in the daily lives of today's youth that it cannot be ignored. To ignore it is to do so at your own (and your kiddo's) peril. There are so many social media apps, and trying to monitor them all is difficult. While these platforms can be a great way to connect with friends and family, they also pose certain risks. Parents must have open conversations with children about the potential dangers of sharing personal information, displaying location or travel details, and posting photos and videos online.

With the rise of "deep fake" technologies, it is now possible to take a portrait of someone and digitally change it so that the person is doing or saying something they really didn't. The "deep fake" technology can essentially impersonate the victim by looking and sounding just like them by using this scary tech. It used to be that you could believe what you saw. Not so much anymore. How is anyone supposed to know whether or not something is real if we can't believe our own eyes and ears?

Managing the digital footprint

Emphasize the importance of privacy settings and the need to carefully select what information is shared publicly. Be sure to educate your children about the importance of staying mindful of their digital footprint.

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What is a digital footprint?

When you use the internet, you leave a data trail of information that's known as your digital footprint. It includes visited websites, sent emails, online submissions, and photos and videos you post. Your digital footprint grows along with your online activity, including things like subscribing to a newsletter, posting on social media, leaving a review, or shopping.

Help kids understand that what they post online can have long-lasting implications for their future, potentially affecting college admissions or job opportunities. Encourage them to think before they post and consider the potential consequences of their actions.

Once information, pictures or videos are posted, they're out there forever—there's no getting them back. A rule of thumb that I often use for this is to ask your kids to think about if they were to see what they posted on a billboard. What would the people who saw it think? It's a great way to get the conversation going about what to say and post online.

Safer online browsing

Encryption and secure browsing are great tools that you should use. Educate your children about the importance of using secure websites with HTTPS encryption and how to recognize them. Emphasize the significance of not entering personal information on websites that are not secure—this is especially crucial for teens and older kids who use the internet more independently.

Something to consider is installing browser extensions that provide additional security measures, like blocking malicious websites or warning against potential phishing attempts. These third-party tools access databases of malicious sites in real time, preventing you and your children from visiting compromised or suspicious sites. This one measure of protection can go a long way toward keeping your kids from either accidentally or purposefully visiting hacked sites containing malware, ransomware, or viruses.

Keeping devices and software up to date

Most of us should know this already, but I must bring it up because too many people ignore or put it off and do so at their own risk. What I'm referring to here is keeping all of your devices and software up to date. Regularly update your operating systems on your computers, tablets, and phones; keep your antivirus software up-to-date; and run regular scans—preferably weekly.

Be sure that the hardware firewall in your internet router is also updated with the latest security patches and protection against emerging threats. Encourage your children to do the same on their devices. If you need help with how to do this, reach out to a professional. It's a small investment that can provide you with the best possible protection from a hardware standpoint.

Parents can further protect their children from identity theft and online threats by implementing these advanced strategies and utilizing tools that enhance online safety and privacy. Stay proactive, stay informed, and foster open communication about responsible internet usage with your children.

Pete Canavan
Written by
As an author, host of the Safety Talk radio show, and personal safety expert, Pete has made it his mission to shore up people’s safety. His extensive experience over the last 20 years as an IT security consultant, self-defense instructor, and public safety professional allows him to provide practical, actionable solutions to threats that exist in both the digital and physical worlds. In addition to writing a book about self-defense, he's been quoted and written about in major publications including the New York Post, Washington Post, and USA Today.

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