“They don’t play outside anymore!” cry out many parents whenever the issue of kids and devices arises. Children use the internet now, too. It’s a fact of life and something that we, as parents, can’t escape! We’re living in a world where everything’s connected. Now, more than ever, this has become even more important, especially for our kids when the only access they have to their friends is online.
Some of our kids are more adept at being online than we are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safer on the internet. While they can text faster than we can, decode emojis better than we can, and gain a bigger following on a single social media account than we have combined, there are still many risks for our children in the digital world. Here are 5 web risks that parents should be aware of!
1. Social Media Risks
On many social media platforms, you’ve got to be at least 13 years old to register and create an account. Let’s be real, though – you’re already quite sure that your kids have got around that restriction with ease. It’s something you should be aware of, especially due to the nature of some social media platforms, the content they promote and how it relates to your child and their wellbeing.
Try to keep an eye on your child’s social media accounts to see the kinds of content that they’re sharing, liking, or participating in. This can definitely be more difficult to do, especially in the case of older teenagers who are looking for some form of privacy and tend to seek it in the digital world. In either case, keep an eye on their privacy settings. Default privacy settings usually allow more information that you’d want to be visible to any Facebook and Instagram user, for example. Ensure that your child’s social media privacy is turned to the highest setting.
Teach your kids that not everyone is their friend – both in real life and online. This means that they should know not to accept friend or follow requests from people who they don’t know. The risks of letting strangers follow them and see the photos they post, or where they’ve checked in at a given time can be scary. Stalkers and bullying are real threats that your child can face, and being aware of how social media can promote these problems is necessary for your child’s safety.
Build trust between you and your kids so that they talk to you about anything or anyone that makes them uncomfortable online. If they’re being bullied or are receiving threatening or inappropriate sexual messages from people online, use Nuwber to gain more information about such offenders and report the incident to the police.
2. Strong, Secret Passwords
The need to create strong passwords and keep them to yourself is paramount when it comes to online security. It’s something you need to teach to your kids, ensuring that their online accounts are kept safe from hackers (whether amateur or seasoned).
We might sometimes think that it’s annoying to always think up strange passwords that use a combination of at least 10 upper and lowercase lets, numbers, and symbols. When you know that hackers send password-stealing bots across the web, getting into the habit of creating strong passwords like this makes more sense! Teaching your kids to create strong passwords is another barrier to keep them and their sensitive information safe from prying eyes.
It might be tempting for you to tell them that their password can be the name of their hamster or favorite snack. Passwords like this are very easy to guess by peers in their school who wish to embarrass them by posting from their own profiles or disclosing private information to others.
3. Keep an Eye on Devices
It’s really common from a smartphone to fall out of your child’s pocket, or a tablet to slip out their backpacks. In many cases, they’re sitting with friends, get distracted and leave devices at the table unattended for a minute or two.
Yes, the cost of having to replace a tablet or smartphone is not kind to the pocket. But that’s not the only issue we’ve got on our hands once our kid’s device has been stolen after being left unattended.
Sure, thieves are able to wipe the data and sell the device to an unsuspecting customer elsewhere for an attractive price. Our kids’ devices have a lot more to offer than the device itself. There’s a lot of information on them that they need for school and other activities. Cybercriminals can, in fact, gain more from the data that can be found on that device before it’s formatted and wiped clean. On the dark web, information sells. The kind of information that people are willing to buy includes passwords, birthdates, Social Security numbers, and, like we’ve mentioned before, passwords.
4. Click with Care
Especially when they’re younger, the mentality of “What does this button do?” is quite prevalent in kids. Teach your children to not automatically click on links in emails and to be suspicious of emails from unknown senders.
You’ll want to teach them the patterns of scammers who send links via their DMs on social networks, alarmist messages that require urgent action on pop-up windows, and other common online phishing scams. A golden rule for your kids to know: when in doubt, don’t click.
5. The Internet Is Forever
Over the years, internet citizens have learnt this to be true. Sometimes, they’ve had to learn the hard way. Basically, anything posted online or said online stays online.
Teach your child to be a good person and teach them that being a good person extends to their digital/online persona, too. The internet can be more unforgiving than the “physical” world, in some cases, so offensive statements or content that they create online can have serious consequences in their future.