Children nowadays have constant access to the Internet. Most modern phones support Internet connectivity, school-owned laptops/tablets have become commonplace, and most research demands online resources.
But is the Internet safe enough for children? Well, no. At least, not without proper care and guidance. But what dangers does the Internet contain? And are there ways to keep your children safe online?
Risks Facing Children
Predators know that their identity—their activity—is anonymized while on the Internet. Knowing this, they prey on children in an attempt to groom them.
Many children have faced unwanted sexual advances from adults online, and the problem has only grown in the past decade. As a result, many sites are too unsafe for children, especially social media sites.
Scammers don’t discriminate by age. Whether their target is 13 or 33, they will attempt to scam them and steal their information, money, and whatever else they can get from their victim.
Children don’t know any better, and thus, make for easy targets. Remember, it’s not only older people being scammed—children are too.
Not every online threat comes from faceless strangers looking to groom or scam children. Some people take joy in bullying children online, antagonizing them, and sending hurtful comments their way.
Strangers, peers, friends: anyone can participate in cyberbullying, and it happens every day. No child is safe from cyberbullying.
5 Ways Parents Can Protect Their Children
1. Teach Proper Cybersecurity
Protecting your children requires you to take preventive measures. The first thing you should do is teach your children about the various dangers on the Internet and what they can do to keep themselves safe.
For example, they should be cautious about sharing their personal information and location on social media sites, since strangers might be able to access their information. Make sure they only download programs from official websites and never click on suspicious links they see on ads or messages.
However, children aren’t always 100% receptive, so you should take a few more preventive measures to protect your children.
2. Download a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an app you can download on your devices. When you turn it on, it creates a secure tunnel between your device and the internet. The tunnel encrypts the user’s activities and hides its IP address.
These features make VPNs a good security option, as it keeps your kid’s location and personal data from online predators.
You can also encourage them to turn on the app while they connect to public networks in cafes or at school. Public Wi-Fis are often unsecured, making it easy for hackers to spy on devices connected to the network. A VPN could keep all their traffic protected.
3. Move the Family Computer to a Public Area of the House
If your house contains a “family computer,” a computer that’s shared across the entire household, then make sure it’s in an easily-accessible area that experiences plenty of traffic.
Yes, it’s important to give your kids privacy. But there’s no telling what your kids are doing online. Hence, until they are old enough to know proper security awareness, keep their Internet activity in view for you to see and check in on often.
4. Enable Parental Controls
Parental controls allow you to decide what your child can do, what they can play and for how long, the videos and pictures they are allowed to view, and much more. Different devices have different sets of parental controls, but they are similar enough across platforms.
Take advantage of these whenever possible, at least until your kid is old enough not to need parental controls.
5. Limit What They Can Do Online
Piggybacking off parental controls, it may be a smart idea to limit the content your children can interact with. This can be done with Internet filters and certain apps, which allow you to block websites, track your kids’ location, or monitor their phones.
This may be an extreme measure, since your kids might feel they are not given enough privacy and freedom, or that they are not trusted. Sometimes these measures might backfire as kids might be more secretive when they know you are monitoring them. It is best to be open and have a conversation with your kids about the purposes of these controls.