Keeping Kids Safe Online: A Guide to Children’s Online Privacy

Recent generations of parents deal with issues that have never come up in the home before. Keeping kids safe online has become a topic that is growing in the minds of parents—and with good reason. 

In the United States, 43 percent of parents allow their kids 2-4 hours of screen time per day. And in a Google Survey conducted in January, 2018, Teachers reported cyberbullying to be their number one safety concern in the classroom.

The same survey found that 39.1 percent of respondents reported children had seen inappropriate content online. And with internet usage becoming more prominent in the home and at school, internet safety for kids should be a top priority for anyone raising a child in the 21st Century. 

Internet safety tips for kids at home

Internet safety for children starts in the home. Parents worrying over what their kids are consuming online have tools that can be used to weed out inappropriate content. Social media has also created a new set of issues for parents to deal with. By paying attention to a child’s online interactions, parents are more likely to notice early signs of cyberbullying and other worrying behavior. Here are a few ways that parents can monitor their children online.

Parental controls

Most internet browsers have some form of parental controls. A quick internet search will yield which parental control features an internet browser has and how to access them. The two most common parental controls for internet browsers are website blockers and content filters. 

Blocking certain websites

Website blockers prevent kids from stumbling across inappropriate websites by banning access to the website’s address. This tool is typically available for free with most internet browsers. Content filtering software usually functions by identifying and blocking access to inappropriate content by comparing the content to large URL databases. 

Scheduling internet use time

Structuring time limits around a child’s internet use is an excellent way to keep tabs on what online activities children are engaged in and whether those activities are risky are not. Many browsers have a time limit feature for children built in. And, there are plenty of options for software that can be used to impose time restrictions on internet use at home and school.

Monitoring their internet use

Some parents don’t want to feel like spies when they look into their kids’ internet use, but having a running knowledge of what a kid does online helps keep them safe. Pay attention to the websites and social media channels that the child frequents and who they are speaking to online.

Take security seriously

There are a number of tools available for parents who want to take their kid’s internet security into their own hands. Some of these tools take a little technical know-how to use, but most of them are fairly easy to put in place. Here are a few things parents can use to keep their child’s information secure. 

VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a helpful tool that masks the IP address of a personal computer. This encrypted connection will allow a kid’s location to be kept private online and will block the interception of private data over public networks. VPNs are widely available as a monthly subscription service from a variety of providers.

Passwords

Often overlooked, passwords are parents’ first line of defense in internet safety for kids. Most parents know passwords can be set on devices, but they can also be used to secure specific programs and functions on a device to keep kids safe. 

Security protection software

Antivirus software is used to keep personal computers safe from malware, which kids can easily stumble across without even knowing it. Many antivirus programs also come with parental controls built in, so parents can adjust which websites are accessible to kids.

Privacy settings 

Personal information should always be protected online, and that holds twice as true for kids. Most social media websites and apps have privacy settings that can be adjusted to keep personal information away from prying eyes. Sometimes the right privacy settings can be hard to find and take a little research to discover. 

Educate your kids

When kids are more informed about online safety, they are also more protected. Sharing internet safety tips with children enables them to make their own decisions about what is safe online, so they can stay away from worrying places on the internet. Here are a few things that parents should be teaching their kids when it comes to the internet. 

Identifying scams

As the saying goes, when it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. This is a good rule to follow online, where scams are all too common. Teaching kids to be critical online will help them avoid scams. 

Meeting people online

People online are not always who they claim to be, and kids should be wary of anyone they meet online who they haven’t already met in person. Keeping close tabs on a child’s online network of friends can protect them from anyone they shouldn’t converse with online or otherwise. 

Sharing personal information 

Social media means that kids can share anything about themselves with the whole world at the click of a button. However, there is a lot of information that is private and shouldn’t be shared in a public space. Discussing the difference between personal and public information will help them understand what is appropriate to share on social media.

What is real vs. what isn’t 

Kids are usually more trusting than adults, so it’s a good idea to discuss what is real online versus what is made up using tools like Photoshop. Fake news stories are also becoming a prominent issue, and now a new technology called deepfakes creates video mimicry that can confuse children, as well as adults.

Cyberbullying

Social media websites and other online communities have their fair share of bullies, just like in the real world. Online identities have become increasingly important to kids in the modern world, so there is more opportunity for cyberbullying than ever before. Talking to kids about how to deal with these issues can prevent cyberbullying early on.

Conclusion

Growing up with the internet means kids are living in a very different world than what their parents knew at a young age. There are new opportunities for learning and connecting with others, but those opportunities can also bring challenges and dangers. Parents raising kids in the digital age should be wary of new threats that inevitably pop up with a technology that continues to change every day.