How To Protect Your Children Online

Aug 28, 2017 |

Happy parents looking at son using digital tablet

The internet can be a fantastic tool for your child’s education and entertainment, but it also presents numerous risks. Thankfully, more parents are recognizing the web’s potential dangers—which is the first step toward averting them. According to a national poll, adults named cyber safety as one of the top health issues kids face today, ranking it just below drug abuse.1

We know you want to help your children stay safe online, but with technology evolving rapidly, it’s hard to keep pace with the latest cyber threats. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, offering you a wealth of internet safety information all in one place. You’ll learn the most common hazards children can encounter online and get actionable tips for avoiding them. We’ve also included a list of internet safety dos and don’ts designed to help you start the discussion about online safety with your little ones.

Cyberbullying

What you should know:

Cyberbullying is a frighteningly common occurrence. The Cyberbullying Research Center reports more than 27% of children surveyed say they’ve been bullied online.2 Sadly, only one in ten victims tells a parent or other trusted adult about the incident, and cyberbully victims are two to nine times more likely to contemplate suicide.3

What you can do:

  • Report Harassment
    Remind your child to tell you about any hurtful or offensive messages they encounter, and let them know they’re not alone. Keep a record of the harassment and report the problem to your local law enforcement agency if necessary.
  • Block Bullies
    If your child is harassed through instant messaging, social media, or email, block the cyberbully immediately and strengthen the account’s privacy settings. Explore the resources on StopBullying.gov to learn more about how you and your child can help avoid and prevent cyberbullying.

Identity Theft

What you should know:

Kids are the victims of identity theft more often than most parents realize. Children are prime targets because they have clean credit records and tend to post a lot of personal identifying information online. Plus, most parents don’t check their kid’s credit report, which means criminals may be able to use the child’s identity for years unnoticed.

What you can do:

  • Keep Information Private
    Don’t allow your child to post things like their full name, complete address, date of birth, or any information that can be used alone—or with other information—to steal their identity. Remind your child never to give out personal information without checking with you first and caution them against taking online surveys or quizzes, as criminals can use information submitted through these formats to steal identities.
  • Check Credit Reports
    Learn the warning signs of identity theft and check your child’s credit report at least once per year. This will help alert you to possible fraud and give you time to make corrections to their credit before they try to apply for a student loan or get a credit card. We want you to know that identity theft and cyber scams often go hand in hand. If your child falls victim to a cyber scam (or you think they might have), file a complaint with the IC3.

Online Sexual Predators

What you should know:

Among parents who use the internet, 41% are concerned about their children communicating with dangerous strangers online4—a valid fear considering 20% of teens who regularly go online say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation through the internet.5 Sexual predators often use social media to learn about their victim’s likes and dislikes, find out where their victim lives and attends school, and even discover where their victim is at any given time.

What you can do:

  • Talk About the Issue
    Use language appropriate for your child’s age and development to explain the dangers of online sexual predators. Reassure your child it’s not their fault if someone they don’t know initiates inappropriate contact with them, and tell them they must make you aware of the situation immediately. Show your child how to set privacy controls on their social media accounts to help avoid dangerous contact.
  • Follow Their Online Activity
    Another way to help your child stay safe online is periodically checking their social media accounts and other online activity and talking to them about anything that concerns you. We recommend telling your child that you will monitor their activity and talking about your expectations. Consider using an app like TeenSafe to track your kid’s web history, phone calls, text messages, and GPS location.

Password Sharing and Hacking

What you should know:

Kids tend to be trusting, so it’s not surprising that they sometimes share their passwords with friends. Unfortunately, this can result in the child’s account being hacked. The hacker (an ex-friend or someone who steals the passwords from a legitimate friend) may pose as your child to post embarrassing or hurtful content on social media or to send disturbing emails—all of which appear to come from your young one.

What you can do:

  • Use Strong Passwords
    Help your child create hard-to-crack passwords and keep track of them using a SafeWise-reviewed password manager app like Dashlane. Remind your child not to share their passwords with anyone but you, and make sure their usernames aren’t easy to guess. For example, a combination of their name and birth year would be easy for hackers to surmise.
  • Keep Antivirus Protection Up to date
    It’s important that your child not share their passwords, but it’s also just as vital to install antivirus software and keep it up to date. Doing so is one of the best ways to help secure your family’s smartphones, laptops, and other devices against hackers and many other cyber threats.

 

Kids’ Guide to Online Dos and Don’ts

Internet safety for kids starts with a solid set of guidelines. Review these dos and don’ts with your child, ask them their thoughts, and listen carefully to what they say. Remember, open and honest communication can go a long way toward protecting your child.

Do let your parents know right away if you receive a message from a stranger.

Do keep your passwords a secret. Never give them to anyone other than your parents.

Do ask your parents before creating a social media account or downloading an app.

Do ask your parents before posting pictures of yourself or others online.

 

Don’t give out personal information such as your birthday, school name, or address.

Don’t bully, and tell your parents if someone bullies you.

Don’t meet someone in person who you “met” online.

Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

 

Today’s children are born into a technology-based society and learn how to access the internet at an astonishingly early age. As a parent, you are your child’s best protection against risks on the web. Start a conversation about internet safety with your child today, and share this useful guide on your social networks to help other parents keep their children safe.


1. S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, “Top 10 Child Health Concerns in 2016

2. Cyberbullying Research Center, “Summary of Our Cyberbullying Research (2004–2016)

3. NoBullying.com, “Cyber Bullying Facts

4. Statista, “Biggest Online Threats to Children according to Parent Internet Users Worldwide as of June 2015

5. GuardChild, “Internet Statistics

Written by Alexia Chianis

Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more

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