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Every Parent's To-Do List to Protect Kids Online

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Reposted with permission from PC Liquidations.

Children use the internet for many reasons: to watch educational videos and materials, play games, and to interact with friends and family members.

Exposing kids to the internet and technology at an early age has been the subject of debate among parents, guardians, educators, and the general public. On the good side, kids pick up information and skills, given the wealth of learning resources. The not-so-good or dark side is that they can come across content inappropriate for their age, or they can get into bad company.

This guide aims to help parents identify risks associated with their children's internet usage and come up with effective and adequate solutions for the kids' safety and security in this virtual environment.

For this guide, children refers to individuals below 18 years of age.

The Problem: Scenarios and Risks

The internet is not an inherently bad thing. Still, dangers can lurk for unsuspecting or unsupervised kids treading in the boundless cyberspace, where accessing information or socializing is a few clicks or taps away.

Internet Safety and Children's Adoption of Technology

Internet safety is one topic parents need to have conversations with their kids about, even as young as kindergarten. According to Pew Research Center's "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens," 67 percent of parents said their child ages 11 or younger has interacted or used a tablet computer, followed by 60 percent for smartphones, and 44 percent for desktop or laptop computers and gaming devices.

  • Among those whose child has interacted with a smartphone, 60 percent said their child began using smartphones before they reached five years old.

  • Seventeen percent (17%) of parents have gotten their child a smartphone, and 51 percent of the said group had gotten the phone when the child was 9 to 11 years old.

The earlier children start using technology, the greater the need to teach them how to protect themselves against existing and emerging cybersecurity threats, as enumerated below. Teenagers may be savvier or more technologically inclined than their parents or younger siblings, but they can also be targeted for online crimes.

Online Dangers for Children

  • Cyberbullying happens when negative, harmful, false, or mean content about a person is posted, shared, or sent online or via text and email. Students who are reportedly bullied at school may also be bullied online, as noted in the Indicators of School Crime and Safety by the National Center of Education Statistics.

  • Online predators target young and older children. Some of these cyber predators use instant messages, chatrooms, and emails to interact and correspond with victims, while others pretend to be teens, according to an article on the American Psychologist.

  • Offensive and inappropriate content involving sex, violence, hate speech, and other disturbing themes is readily accessible to any curious child. It is confusing or difficult for them to make sense of what they saw and read online, and an added danger is not telling their parents about it.

  • Spyware is malware that steals users' sensitive information tied to financial accounts. Kids may have been tricked to download malicious software or happened to click a suspicious link containing other forms of malware.

  • Scams seek to defraud people of money or give out their personal information. One scheme entices teens to buy expensive gadgets for cheap; once the victim wires the payment, the scammer deactivates their account or blocks the victim. Another scam is notifying a user that they have won a phone and that they need to click the link and supply the details to claim the prize.

  • Child identity theft can use a child's social security number, name, etc. to commit fraudulent transactions. Visit or contact 877-ID-THEFT.

What To Do: Solutions and Interventions

Parenting is hard enough, and the existence of the internet makes the job tougher. However, parents and guardians can guide their young ones to use digital tools safely.

1. Set a good example.

Children learn a lot of things from adults that influence how they think and act. Parents can be a good role model to their kids on social media by posting information that is safe for sharing and only with people they know personally. While oversharing has become the norm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, it doesn't have to be so.

2. Educate and empower.

The grown-ups can level with the young ones about internet safety when engaging with others on forums, chat groups, or gaming channels and posting information on social media. Show kids how to create a stronger password or passphrase or strengthen their privacy settings. Openly conversing about things that happen on the internet at home raises children's awareness about the issues and their ability to protect themselves.

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