Updated: Feb 8
Reposted by permission from AntivirusGuide. Get the entire guide here.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused kids to become even more glued to their screens. Children spend more time online now than ever, which has led to an increase in a variety of problems, including cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content — the top three online dangers.
More than a third of kids aged 12 to 17 have experienced cyberbullying. Furthermore, there have been almost 30 million reports of child sexual exploitation in 2021, up 35% compared to 2020.
So, how can you protect your children from these terrible situations? For starters, you can read this guide. We’ll cover everything you need to know, including topics such as:
The top online safety threats for kids
How to deal with cyberbullying
How to deal with sexual predators
Using social media safely
And much more…
How much time do children and teens spend on the Internet?
Most children and teenagers spend a lot of time online via their phones, computers, gaming consoles, etc. They use the Internet for school, entertainment (video streaming, listening to music, playing games, etc.), and staying connected with their friends and family.
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, approximately 95% of teens use phones; 45% of teens reported their Internet use was almost constant.
Furthermore, according to The Center for Parenting Education, kids and teens aged 8 to 28 spent 6.35 hours per day in front of digital screens before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the amount of time American teens spend online. Throughout the pandemic, kids spent over seven hours a day on digital technology.
Online places where kids can be at risk
Unfortunately, there are plenty of online places kids and teens frequent where they are at risk, including:
Chat rooms: Many kids still use chat rooms to communicate with friends and strangers in real-time. According to recent studies, one in five teenagers who enter chat rooms falls victim to bullying.
Online games: Most kids play video or computer games, and many of these games are online. Some strangers they encounter while playing can be dangerous.
Social networking sites: Nearly all teenagers use social media, whether it's Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok. Because so many kids and teens are on these platforms, predators and other nefarious actors take advantage of these apps.
Instant messaging apps: Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, or Messages for iOS have billions of users worldwide, attracting kids and those who wish to harm them.
Email: Although kids and teens do not use it as often as IM apps, email is still a popular communication medium that predators use to target kids through malicious email attachments and phishing.
File-sharing networks: Online piracy is still an everyday occurrence. Kids who want to download pirated games or movies use pirate networks and P2P file-sharing clients like uTorrent or BitTorrent. Many pirated files contain malware.
There are plenty of online places kids and teens frequent where they are at risk.
Top online threats for kids and teens
The following are the most common and dangerous online safety threats for kids.
Cyberbullying — Cyberbullying is a type of online harassment that can take many forms, such as name-calling, spreading rumors, or sending threatening messages. It can be just as harmful as physical bullying and, in some cases, worse.
Sexual predators — An online sexual predator is someone who uses the Internet to pursue sexual relationships with minors. These people can be strangers or someone the child knows personally.
Dangerous or inappropriate websites — Many websites feature dangerous or inappropriate content for children, including pornography, violence, and other harmful content.
Cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content are the top three online dangers for kids.
How can I protect my children from cyberbullying?
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced cyberbullying. Check out how to keep kids safe from online bullies and what to do if your child is bullying others.
Here are some tips to prevent your kids from being cyberbullied:
Set these ground rules with your children to protect them from online bullying:
Make sure your child has a strong sense of self-esteem. Kids who experience cyberbullying are more likely to be targeted if they are insecure or have low self-esteem.
Promote body positivity. Teach your children that all bodies are beautiful and that they should be proud of their shape. This will boost their self-esteem, protecting them from negative influences online.
Help your child build positive relationships with their friends and classmates. Kids with supportive friendships are less likely to be bullied on and offline.
Monitor your child's Internet use. Keep an eye on their social media profiles, including who they talk to online.
Teach your children how to defend themselves. Kids need to know how to protect themselves and be assertive in the face of bullies.
Tell them not to respond to harassment. The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children recommend teaching your children not to respond to cyberbullies.
What can I do if my child is a victim of cyberbullying?
If you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying, there are a few things you can do:
Encourage your child to speak up. It's important to let them know they can come to you with any problem, big or small.
Talk to your child about what's going on. Having an open and honest conversation with your child about their experiences is essential.
Report the bullying to the service or platform where it's occuring. Many social media platforms and websites feature reporting tools that you can use to report bullying.
Save evidence of bullying, including screenshots and messages. According to The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, this can be helpful if you decide to take legal action.
Contact law enforcement. In some cases, cyberbullying may be a crime. You can contact law enforcement if you think your child is in danger.
What to do if your child is cyberbullying others:
If your child is bullying someone online, there are a few things you can do:
Talk to your child about their behavior. Having a conversation with your child about why their behavior is wrong and how it can hurt others is essential.
Help your child develop empathy for others. This includes teaching them how their words and actions can affect others.
Apologize on behalf of your child. If your child is bullying someone, it's important to apologize on their behalf. This can help to repair the damage done.
Take away your child's privileges. This includes taking phones and computers and limiting their time online.
Get help from a professional. In some cases, getting help from a therapist or other professional may be necessary. This is especially true if your child has trouble controlling their anger or engages in other risky behavior.
How can I protect my children from online predators?
It’s not uncommon for online predators to pose as someone they’re not to gain a child's trust. They often use fake profile pictures and other details to appear more believable.
Online predators can be very manipulative. Scare tactics, including threatening to hurt a child or their family members to get what they want, are not uncommon.
Often, predators will ask for personal information or try to set up meetings. In some cases, they will attempt to kidnap a child once they’ve agreed to meet up in person.
You can do a few things to keep kids safe from online predators. As a parent, you should monitor their Internet use and check their social media accounts. Consider the tips below, too.
Teaching kids how to stay safe online from predators
Make it known that not everyone is who they say they are.
Kids should not share personal information online, including their name, address, phone number, or school details.
Teach your child they should not agree to meet someone they've met online.
Explain to them they should never respond to messages from people they don't know.
Teach them to block and report strangers who harass them online.
Emphasize the importance of telling a trusted adult if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable online.
If you think an online predator is contacting your child, save the evidence, including any type of communication with that person. If your child is in danger, call 911 immediately. Alternatively, visit CyberTipline.com to report a crime against your child. Here’s a harrowing fact: CyberTipline received 29.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, up 35% from the previous year.
CyberTipline received 29.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, up 35% from the previous year.
How can I protect my children from inappropriate online content?
Protecting your children from viewing inappropriate online material, including pornography and websites with harmful or violent content, is essential. Here are a few tips to consider:
Talk to your child about why pornography is harmful. Explain that pornography can be addictive and leads to distorted views of sex.
Keep your family computer visible so you can see what your child does online.
Keep an eye on how much time your child spends online. You should also be aware of the websites your children visit and what they view online.
Install parental control software on your child's phone, computer, or other devices to filter out offensive content and set time limits regarding online access.
Teaching kids to stay safe from other threats
The following online risks are less common for children than cyberbullying, predators, and unsuitable content. That said, parents and caretakers should still be aware of them.
Malware is malicious software that infects computers and other devices. Hackers use it to steal personal details or damage and disable devices. Common forms of malware include viruses, spyware, and ransomware.
Although it can be dangerous, you can protect your computer from malware by using an antivirus program and being careful about the websites you visit. For additional security, don't open attachments or links in emails unless you're confident they're safe.
Online fraud and scams
Online scams like phishing, fake contests, or sweepstakes are becoming increasingly common, and protecting your children from them is vital. As scammers often attempt to take advantage of unsuspecting children, teaching them how to spot a scam is crucial. Signs that a website might be a scam include:
The website looks unprofessional and poorly made.
It asks for your child's personal information, such as their name, address, or phone number.
It asks your child to buy something without providing details about what they’re buying.
It asks your child to click on a link or download a file.
The website promises gifts or money in exchange for help.
If your child comes across a scam, they should not respond to it and immediately tell an adult.
Texting and driving
Texting and driving can lead to debilitating accidents and, in some situations, even death. Did you know that texting while driving is responsible for one in every four automobile accidents in the United States? According to the National Safety Council, from the 1.6 million incidents each year, texting while driving accounts for 390,000.
Here's what you can do to prevent your teen from texting and driving:
Talk to your teen about the dangers of texting and driving. Explain that it's not worth risking their life or the lives of others for a text message.
Set rules about how much they can use their phone while driving. You may wish to consider banning all phone use while driving or setting limits on the number of minutes they can spend on the phone daily.
Install a driver safety app on your child's phone. These apps will disable the phone's texting and calling features while the car is in motion.
If your child is still texting and driving, take their phone away until they prove they can obey the rules.
Texting while driving is responsible for one in every four car accidents in the United States.
Eye strain, wrist strain, and other injuries
Prolonged use of computers and mobile devices with Internet access can lead to eye strain, wrist strain, and other issues. Here are a few tips for preventing computer-related injuries:
Sit up straight with your shoulders back. This will help to reduce strain on the neck and back.
Keep your elbows close to your body. This helps to reduce strain on the wrists.
Stretch your arms and wrists often to prevent pain and injury.
Take a break every 20 minutes to prevent eye strain, wrist strain, and other injuries.
Internet addiction is a real problem, and it's becoming more and more common. Kids can become addicted to online activity in the same way that they can become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Signs that your child might be addicted to online activities include:
Spending more time on the computer than they should.
Neglecting schoolwork or other responsibilities in favor of the Internet.
Withdrawing from friends and family members.
Becoming irritable or angry when they cannot use the Internet.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they can't use the Internet.
If you think your child may be addicted to the Internet, talk to them about it and seek help from a professional if necessary
Author- Octav Fedor (Cybersecurity Editor)
Octav is a cybersecurity researcher and writer at AntivirusGuide. When he’s not publishing his honest opinions about security software online, he likes to learn about programming, watch astronomy documentaries, and participate in general knowledge competitions.