How to Teach Children About Online Safety and Privacy

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Identity Theft Prevention for Parents—Part 5

This is the fifth 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.

Black mother watching her daughter's activity online. Sitting together on a couch with a laptop and a tablet.

Image: Prostock-Studio, iStock

Parents must educate their children about online safety, digital privacy, and responsible internet usage in today's digital age. The internet has become an integral part of our lives, and our children are growing up without knowing what the world was like before smartphones, tablets, computers, and the internet. With its countless benefits come potential risks that can impact our children's future. By equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills, parents can help protect their children from identity theft and other online threats from predators and cyberbullies as well.

Establish open communication

One of the first steps parents can take is establishing an open communication line with their children. Start by having age-appropriate conversations about internet safety, emphasizing the importance of not sharing personal information such as full names, addresses, or phone numbers with strangers online. Teach them about the potential consequences and risks involved in sharing such information.

Set boundaries

Although many parents shy away from this, setting clear boundaries and rules regarding internet usage is essential. Establish guidelines on how much time children can spend online, what websites or apps they can access, and what type of content is appropriate. Encourage them to think critically and question the validity of information they come across online. Teach them the importance of verifying sources and avoiding potential scams or phishing attempts by teaching them how to recognize them. Our Internet Safety Guide for Kids has tools and resources to help you educate your children.

Be smart about passwords

We mentioned how important it is to teach children about the significance of strong passwords, but we also must stress the importance of keeping them confidential. Explain the danger of using easily guessable passwords, such as birthdays, favorite foods, colors, movies, or pet names. First, passwords should never include any dictionary words; second, they should be at least 10-12 characters long. Once passwords become longer than 12 characters, they basically become uncrackable because it takes hackers too long and causes them to use too many computing resources to hack them. Password managers are an excellent tool for storing and generating strong passwords securely.

Monitor online activity and watch for cyberbullying

Some parents may object to this, citing privacy, but you need to know what your children do online—especially when they're young. It is entirely possible to monitor your children's online activities without invading their privacy. Utilize parental controls on devices and web browsers to restrict access to inappropriate content. Regularly check their social media accounts and discuss the importance of responsible digital behavior, including the risks associated with cyberbullying and the long-lasting implications it can have. Cyberbullying is a big problem with today's youth. It can get out of hand rapidly, and the ramifications can be dire.

Sometimes children resort to extreme measures with permanent consequences. Don't let cyberbullies victimize your child. Report it to the school and local law enforcement if necessary. Stay involved in your child's life. Talk to them and find out what is going on in their lives outside of the home. Things may be fine at home, but they may not be on the bus, in the classroom, on their sports team, etc.

Final thoughts

By empowering children with knowledge and fostering a culture of open communication, parents can significantly reduce the risks their kids could face online. However, it is crucial to remember that technology is ever-evolving, and it's essential to adapt and stay informed about current trends and potential threats. Stay up-to-date on the latest scams, technologies, and methods used to target kids and learn how to combat them. We must do everything we can to keep our children safe so that they can grow up to be confident, secure, responsible, and amazing adults who contribute positively to society.

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Coming Up Next

In our next installment, we'll delve deeper into advanced strategies and tools parents can utilize to further enhance their children's online safety and privacy. Stay tuned for more expert tips and practical advice on securing your children's future online.

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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