The internet is a powerful resource for kids. It can help them with their homework, teach them about a vast array of topics, and it lets them communicate with friends and family more easily. But, unfortunately, the internet also has a dark side.
Stats published by the FBI in 2012 show that there were more than half a million online predators looking for child victims every day. Half of these victims were aged between 12 and 15, which is precisely the age when kids want their independence and are more likely to have computers in their bedrooms.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. Most kids will not come into contact with a dangerous online predator and although you might be concerned about the amount of time they spend online, they are probably safe. Nevertheless, it’s wise to take a few precautions. Top of the list is to teach your kids about online safety and privacy.
Have the Conversation
Questionable online content is available at the click of a mouse, so it’s foolish to pretend otherwise. It’s very important that parents talk to their kids about the dangers, even from a very early age. As soon as kids start to access online content from a smartphone, tablet or computer, you need to talk to them.
Discuss privacy, their online identity, who they talk to (and who they shouldn’t talk to). Keep any chats you have age-appropriate. Talk about peer pressure and make it clear you are there if they need to chat about anything.
Encourage them to Fact Check
People can adopt any kind of identity online, even if it’s nothing like who they are in real life. Shy kids find it much easier to communicate via a keyboard, but it’s also open season for trolls and predators.
Teach your kids how to fact check what online friends tell them. For example, they can use sites like Nuwber to verify a person is who they claim to be. By typing in a name, address, email address, etc., they can check whether such a person exists.
Educate Kids about Sharing Personal Information
Sharing personal information online is a scammer’s dream. Fraudsters use personal information to build a profile of you and your family, which will help them steal your identity, crack your online logins, and worse.
Kids are far more inclined to post personal information on social networking sites. They happily upload photos from family holidays and post when it’s their birthday or where they go to school. This is a huge mistake. Make sure you tell them why it’s vital to keep such information private.
Remind Kids to Review Data Privacy
Hot on the heels of oversharing is data privacy. Teach your kids about data privacy and how to lock down their social media profiles. Google their name so they can see how much information is freely available online.
And finally, parents should try to stay engaged with what their kids get up to online. Install the family computer in a communal space so you can keep an eye on what your kids do – and intervene if necessary. Talk to them about which sites they use and help them select the right online resources for their homework and hobbies. The more involved you are, the easier it will be to keep them safe.