We live in times soaked with technology. The world has changed more in the past 10 years than in any other decade in human history, and central to this change is connectivity.
Computers, smart devices, the cloud, all make it effortless to hop onto the Internet. Yet, this journey is also fraught with new risks and dangers. The web brings us a wealth of information that enriches our lives. But it also comes with the threat of causing us harms or endangering the personal security of the ones we love.
However, it is very much possible to minimize these threats by improving Internet safety for your kids. This involves teaching them the ins and outs of the technology to letting them know where threats may come from, and setting limits for the time your child spends online.
Parenting in the new age
Busy as our lives are, it is tempting as parents to let the kids take care of their online security. After all, most young ones are comfortable with modern computing, certainly more than the older generation. But while your kids may be experts at technology, they are not experts at evaluating risks.
And it shows.
A recent report reveals that 76% of parents are worried about the online safety of their kids and have major concerns over the danger that they are exposed to. More so, considering how much time children spend online. According to this national survey, tweens spend an average of 6 hours a day with their devices, while teens see this remarkable figure cross the 9 hours mark. And that’s not even including the time spent on school or homework.
It may not seem like so, but fact is that the Internet can be just as scary as visiting an unknown city. Sure, there are great things you can do in the city. But you need to be careful about who you talk to, as anything and everything you do online leaves a digital footprint.
Cybercriminals use this information to their advantage and can target you and your kid — whether by hacking accounts and social media profiles, or infecting devices with malware and ransomware, or even targeting your family with ransomware, identity theft, or financial fraud. There are VPN ad blockers which actively protect from phishing attempts which you can learn here.
Modern parenting demands that you not only keep abreast with the latest development in computing security, but also educate your kids about online threats. Remembering and following these best practices is the only way you and your children can stay safe and in control during online adventures.
Here are 10 actionable Internet safety tips that you can put in action today:
Educate your kids about cybersecurity
Online threats are real, and this should be the first lesson you teach your children. Take care not to dive too deep with the technical details. Explain things as simple as possible and use the language that your kids understand.
Your discussions should revolve around online threats and how to identify them, as well as what steps to take when your kid falls victim to it. Talk to them about making safe browsing a habit. This involves staying away from malicious sites and dark nooks and corners of the web. If they are of young age, then also take time to explain them the different forms of cyberbullying.
Ideally, you want them to have a bigger picture of what is going on. And the good thing is that the more you talk to your kids about online threats, the easier it becomes for them to understand what happens on the Internet.
Set Usage Limits
Fascinating as the Internet is, most parents become really concerned about the time children spend there. If anything, this phenomenon is not limited to kids either, as grown folks can also get addicted to the web and waste away their whole day online.
As a parent, keep tabs on the usage habits of your kids. And if you find that your child is developing an addition to staying up all night, then this is a sign that you need to step in and set some limits on how much time he or she can spend on the Internet. Be sure to clearly define the time they can spend on their computer or phone.
Use Parental Control software
Given the sheer number of devices kids use to connect online, it becomes right next to impossible for parents to supervise every time they are online. From phones to tablets, laptops to gaming consoles, even smart TVs.
However, it is possible to gain some control over proceedings by using parental control software. These applications are a great way to track the online behavior of your kids and control what they are doing on their smartphones or computers.
Think of them as online guardians that keep an eye on your children and monitor their online activities like Internet usage and the sites they visit. Any good parental control program worth its salt can control Internet connection time, block malicious or addictive websites and report any unusual online activity.
There is no shortage of good, highly capable parental control software, both free and paid. It’s hard to go wrong with big names like Qustodio, Net Nanny, Family Shield, Kidlogger, and Mobicip.
Install an antivirus
A good antivirus from a reliable company should be the first line of defense against most online threats. Kids being naturally curious are attracted to new things, and this can often lead them to accessing and downloading malicious links from untrusted websites. Forget kids, even grown people can be tempted to download a new video game or hack for a popular game from unknown sources!
An antivirus, or better yet, a complete Internet security suite protects against instances like these.
Look for security software that pack a real-time scanning engine, a firewall for good measure, and automatic definition updates so that your devices are reliably protected. Of course, on the PC side of things you can go with Windows Defender. But solutions like Bitdefender Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, Kaspersky, Avast, and Panda Dome Essential are a solid bet.
Moral of the story is that nothing beats a rounded and well-designed security suite when it comes to protecting all your mobile and desktop devices.
Secure your Home network
You may think that your home WiFi network is secure and only accessed by members of your family. But that does not mean that malicious actors can’t get unauthorized access to your wireless network. You must take a few extra measures to completely secure your home network from prying eyes.
Adding a strong password is the first step. But if your router has lax security in place, online criminals can listen to your traffic and retrieve sensitive information. Or they can launch attacks against your network via sniffing or man-in-the-middle attack.
Find out the make and model of your router and research the steps you can take to enhance the security of your wireless network.
Enable Privacy Settings
Marketers are not the only folks that love to know all about you, hackers do too. Both can learn a lot about you from your browsing and social media usage. The good thing is that most major sites let you take control of this information.
Web browsers and mobile operating systems like Android and iOS, both, have settings available that let you protect your privacy online. Social networks like Facebook and Instagram do, too.
Sit down with your kids and enable these privacy-enhancing features on their accounts, profiles, and web browsers. Often, these settings are deliberately hard to find. But set timeout to configure these, while also guiding your young ones about these privacy safeguards.
Keep your software up-to-date
Internet security software go a long way in protecting against online risks, but they cannot protect against every threat. Not when half of your software is outdated. Ensure that you are using a current version of your operating system. Alongside the OS, all your applications should be updated as well.
A top goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware that infects your devices and steals your personal information. They often use lurid content as bait, which is something that children often let their guard down to click through.
Teach your kids to practice safe browsing at all times, and use common sense when clicking on links in email or on suspicious websites.
Same goes for when they go online in public places. As you can guess, they will have no control over security when using a public WiFi connection. On occasions like these, it is a good idea to wait for a better time before providing personal information like account details or financial data.
To further improve Internet browsing safety, you might want to guide your kids to use a secure virtual private network connection. A VPN enables all your devices to have a secure connection with the server, so that no one can monitor or access the data that is being transmitted.
No shortage of good VPN services available for subscription. Look into them and guide your kids.
Choose strong passwords
Passwords are the biggest weak spots in the online security landscape, they have been since the start. Even with the recent advancements in technology, there still is no way around them. For this reason, it may be a good idea to help your kids set up their accounts in a safe and secure fashion.
People still tend to use simple and easy-to-remember passwords. And these are easy for cyber thieves to guess. Tell your children to select strong passwords that are harder for cybercriminals to guess, crack or demystify. A strong password is one that is both unique and complex — with mixed letters, numbers, and special characters.
Of course, a good password manager is worth its weight in gold. This software can help your kids manage multiple passwords for all their sites and accounts, so they don’t forget them. Download and set up one for them, define a master password, then write it down and keep it in a safe place.
Ask your kids to reach out for help
It’s never a bad idea to call in backup. If anything, it may be necessary for young ones if they feel they are being threatened online. Be clear with them that they can ask you or any other grown up for help to process what’s going on.
This is doubly true when your kids are being bullied or harassed online. Teach them to not react and retaliate, but instead get in touch with a friend, relative or an adult they can trust. Same goes for when clicking or downloading suspicious links, apps or games. Or when someone asks them to share their location or personal details.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. Words to live by.
There is no denying that learning about the risks of being online can be a tad challenging for children. But there is also no denying that cybersecurity awareness is vital these days for a safe experience online. As the saying goes, security is a journey, not a destination.
The actionable and practical tips mentioned above are a great way to start this journey!