Our children are growing up in the Age of the Internet. Their adolescence is marked by the existence of the Internet and easy access to it. But while more children are accessing the Internet, so are cyber-attacks.
From malware attacks to scams to online predators, kids are in danger every second they’re online. So what risks do they face? And what can parents do to protect them?
3 Risks Facing Children Online
1. Online Predators
The Internet allows anyone to access sites, social media, and messaging services anonymously—without identification. This means that many criminals use it to commit crimes, including sexual predators.
According to a report by safewave.org, one in five U.S. teenagers reported to have received unwanted sexual solicitations and/or advances. Kids are never quite safe on the Internet due to the presence of these predators.
2. Online Scams
Kids don’t often understand the difference between true and fake. So, when they’re approached by an online scammer about a way to win free in-game currency, they’ll jump at the chance, not recognizing the offer as a scam.
Many scammers target young children due to their naivety and inexperience with scams.
3. Explicit Content
Traversing the Internet is a skill, a skill that people that aren’t born with. This means that kids have issues traversing the Internet, meaning they may end up on sites that they’re not meant to be on, such as porn sites.
Avoiding these sites require parental intervention, but parents aren’t always available in these situations.
5 Ways to Protect Your Children Online
The risks outlined above threaten any child with Internet access. So what can parents do to protect their children? What can you do to keep your child safe?
1. Enable Parental Controls
Most devices and online services these days contain an option for parental controls, settings that determine what a child can access and for how long.
For example, if you don’t want your child going on social media or limit their time on a certain social media app, you could go into the app’s settings and determine what your child can do on the app, and most devices allow parents to set apps to close after a certain amount of time.
2. Use Network Filters
However, parental controls aren’t always enough. Sometimes, you want to make sure your children can’t access sites entirely. For these situations, you can easily set up network filters.
Network filters determine what sites can and cannot be accessed on a network. Schools and workplaces use them all the time, and parents can opt to set one up on their home network if so desired.
3. Install a VPN On Your Children’s Device
Along with a network filter, you may want to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your children’s device. Why? Because VPNs anonymize the activity and mask the IP address of the device it’s installed on. Meaning, with a VPN, your child will be able to traverse the Internet privately, protected from hackers or sites tracking their location.
4. Keep Your Computer In a Safe Area of The House
Knowing what your children are up to—knowing what sites they’re visiting and what apps they’re installing—is key to making sure your child stays safe. And if your house has a “family computer”, a computer located in the house for anyone to use, it’d be a good idea to place that in a safe, often-populated part of the house.
This gives your child just enough privacy without isolating them entirely and let’s you check up on what they’re doing anytime you feel like you need to.
5. Teach Your Children Proper Cybersecurity Etiquette
It’s not enough to take reactive measures when it comes to your children’s safety. You need to take preventive measures—make sure you do your best to prevent your children from finding themselves on the wrong side of the Internet.
A big part of doing that is teaching your children basic cybersecurity etiquette and online etiquette. Emphasize the dangers that can be found on the Internet, explain that there are people online who don’t have their best interests in mind, and teach them how to navigate the Internet safely.