With kids heading back to school, it’s an excellent time to review safety tips for children. Kids are especially vulnerable. They are more trusting and want the validation of adults and their peers. They also face plenty of online threats, everything from cyberbullying and sexting to phishing attempts and the theft of their laptops and other devices.
You can decrease the odds that they fall victim to online threats by watching for the most common online dangers and taking steps to protect your children against them.
Here’s a look at some of the most common online dangers your child might face and strategies you can use to keep your children safe.
1. Install anti-virus and firewall software on computers
The first step in keeping devices safe is to protect them with security software. This is the best tool to prevent your children from accidentally downloading malware or spyware on their computers.
2. Don’t forget their mobile devices too
Hackers can target the apps and programs on laptops and other devices to infect machines with viruses. These programs can be inviting targets for cybercriminals if they don’t have the latest protection against malware and viruses.
3. Have your kids use strong passwords
The best way for your children to keep hackers from accessing their gaming and social media accounts is to teach them the importance of strong, unique passwords.
Just like you, kids need passwords that include:
- A combination of lowercase and uppercase letters
Another option: Consider using a long passphrase that your child can remember but others would find difficult to guess. (i.e. NeverGiveOutYourPassword )
AND don’t let your children use the same passwords at multiple sites
4. Watch out for cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is when adults or children use the internet to threaten others. It is a real problem for children and one that school districts struggle with it all the time.
Talk to your kids about online bullying. Explain that hateful comments delivered online are never OK. Parents should tell their children to come to them immediately if they are victimized by cyberbullying.
If the bully goes to the same school as your child, contact the school or district office. If the bully is threatening to harm your children, report the cyberbullying to your police department.
5. Make sure your kids know about phishing
Adults aren’t the only ones who fall for these scams—so do kids.
Kids are likely to fall for phishing scams that appear to come from video game providers or retailers. They might quickly provide their own or their parent’s credit card information, for example, to what they think is a video game company threatening to shut down their gaming accounts.
6. No devices behind closed doors
Your children should never use devices at home behind closed doors.
Having your kids in the family room or dining room when using devices can make it easier for you to keep an eye on what they are doing and make it less likely to go to sites they should not be visiting.
7. Never leave laptops and smartphones unattended
It is easy to get distracted during the hustle and bustle of the school day or in the rush of after-school activities. Be sure to remind kids never to leave their devices unattended.
An unattended device is a perfect opportunity for thieves. Once thieves get them, they can often figure out how to access your child’s emails, files, and other personal information.
8. Make sure your children have lock screens on their phones
Criminals who steal your children’s phones can get a lot of information. It’s essential, then, to make sure lock screens protect your children’s phones. These screens require users to enter a password, code, or pattern before unlocking a phone and accessing its features. Biometric access is even more secure.
9. Watch for online predators
Kids spend time online during the school day and at home working on essays, reports, and other homework assignments. The more time they are online, the more they are at risk of encountering online predators.
It’s a good idea for parents to speak with their children about the dangers of online predators and about how they operate. That includes explaining to children that some adults pretend to be children online to befriend them.
10. Have a conversation about sexting
This will probably be uncomfortable for you and your kids, but it’s VERY important.
Kids text A LOT. For many, it’s the preferred form of communication. It’s natural. They are connecting with friends.
Make sure your kids know never to send inappropriate texts describing sex acts or containing nude or semi-nude photos to others. Explain clearly to them how doing this could result in long-lasting or severe consequences.