Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips

Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips

It’s a nightmare come true – your (grand)children are sitting at the dinner table or lying around in the living room, vulnerable to unknown threats. Your mind spins as you wonder, what in the world are my children looking at? Are they downloading explicit content, or planning to meet with sexual predators?

And most importantly: isn’t our home the one place my kids should be safe?

What you don’t know can hurt your child

Your children are glued to the screen at all kinds of odd hours, and you’re completely unsure of what they’re up to. It can drive you crazy just trying to imagine what’s reaching them through that blue light.

Computer games addictionIt’s hard to understand why young people are so completely obsessed with the Internet – but for them it’s much more than a useful tool. It’s where they socialize, learn, play, and express themselves. For many of these digital natives, the Internet is where a large portion of their lives will play out.

While it’s important to give children the space to grow and explore, it’s also important to cultivate awareness of the following threats to their safety:

Malware and privacy threats

Kids and teens love torrenting and file sharing, and often their peers will tell them about all the latest games, movies, and music that they just must have. Kids might know how to acquire all of this media, but they also might be downloading malware along with it.

This kind of behavior can also get them heavily monitored by companies that are likely working on behalf of copyright enforcers. While they might not care about their privacy now, a bad choice now could be something that haunts them in the years to come.

Video game addiction

If your children are gamers, you’re probably used to strange shouting and compulsive clicking coming from their rooms. It may be hard to believe, but those silly online games could actually rule your children’s life – people have even died from their inability to put the controller down.

Video game addiction is a real and serious problem. Like addictions to drugs and alcohol, video game addiction can get in the way of a person’s ability to live a normal and meaningful life. It can lead to obesity, hallucinations, irritability, and depression. It may seem like your kids’ preference for video games over socializing and school is not so out of the ordinary, but if your children are spending upwards of five hours a day gaming, it can negatively affect them on much deeper levels.

Predators on social media

It’s easy to see then why kids love social media so much – they can instantly connect with their peers, and collect “likes” and “upvotes” for their thoughts and pictures. Unfortunately, a predator can also leverage these same social media features to lure in your pride and joy.

Danger online

“OMG cat” (source: mashable.com)

They can even create convincing fake profiles to trick your kids, as Youtuber Coby Persin shows in his social media experiment in this video, where he convinces young girls (with the permission of their parents) to meet him in person with a fake Facebook profile. While this hoax was roused to teach the teens a lesson, it’s heartbreaking to realize how easily they could have fallen victim to a real predator.

Illegal activities and pornography

Unfortunately, when kids have questions they have the Internet at their fingertips. 93% of boys and 62% of girls have been exposed to pornography before the age of 18. This could influence them to be promiscuous at a young age, or even share nude pictures or sexually-charged messages online.

And if that isn’t scary enough, thanks to the growing black market on the darknet, kids can now buy drugs online. Drug trafficking on the internet is very convenient for people who otherwise might not have those kind of connections. Even if your children aren’t surfing the underbelly of the internet, they can easily learn about drugs, how to use them, and where to acquire them by conducting a quick Google search.

How to stop cyber threats in their tracks

spotting online predatorsWith all of the risks and dangers out there, it can be tempting to ban your children from Internet access entirely. You did have other things on your mind than the Internet when you were a child, and you turned out okay, right? Why can’t they just use encyclopedias when they have to look something up? What’s so bad about using the phone to call up their friends?

Unfortunately, this kind of paranoia will not prepare them for their technology-driven future, where they’ll have to conduct themselves as adults daily. Luckily, you don’t have to keep the keyboard under lock and key to ensure the safety of your children.

Here are the top 5 ways to keep your kids safe from Internet threats:

1. Start a conversation with your child

It’s important to have an open dialogue about risks online with your kids. Bring up the conversation in relevant ways, tying in the topic to current events or TV specials. Try to get your children to express their opinions, that way you can start an ongoing dialogue about Internet safety.

Talk to your kids about other topics too. If they feel a strong social bond with you, they may turn to the computer less to cure their boredom or loneliness. Having an open line of communication can inspire your children to approach you for advice and guidance.

Keeping kids safe online

Serious cat (source imgfave.com)

2. Create rules and guidelines

If your children are old enough, you do not want to have to control every little thing they do. After all, you don’t spend all day at school with them dictating their choices. But similar to limiting what toys you buy them, you can create boundaries surrounding new software and video game downloads. Question their motives when they ask to download:

  • File-sharing software
  • Torrenting software
  • Anonymous browsers
  • Films or music that have yet to be released

This suggests they may be interested in doing something illegal or risky. Additionally, set Internet use limits if you feel that your kids spends too much time online. Create rules surrounding social media, and how much of their personal information they are allowed to share on it.

3. Monitor your child online

Young children should never be on the Internet without adult supervision. Use these tips when sitting down with your child to explore the web:

  • Set all search engines to safesearch. You can even do this on sites such as Youtube, which is a favorite among kids. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the safety box.
  • Limit the apps and media on your phone and tablet. If your children use your devices, only have what you wouldn’t mind your child accidentally coming across. If you have a Windows phone, the Kid’s Corner feature can help you limit access to certain content on your device (and prevent your little sweetheart from deleting all of your vacation photos). Just go to Settings under App list to set it up.
  • Consider purchasing a child-friendly tablet. These often come with pre-installed parental controls and settings, and some even allow you to restrict access to entertainment apps so that you can get your children to focus on education.
  • If your kids use a Windows 10 device, take advantage of the family features which allow you to set time and access limits. Your children will need Microsoft accounts, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the ways you can optimize privacy settings on Windows 10.

Cat playing with a fence (source: pixabay.com)

When your kids grow older, it may be wise to let this ritual go and give them your trust unless they abuse it, since most teenagers will know how to clear browser histories anyway. Cyber safety educator Leonie Smith recommends that you perform spot checks for young teens, meaning that you check in with their computer and phone use randomly. However, these checks should not be conducted in secret – you should be very clear with your children on your monitoring practices to preserve trust.

4. Use the right tools

The right tools are integral to making sure that your children don’t download a harmful trojan in the event that they do come across an untrustworthy site. Investing in a quality antimalware solution can prevent nasty, system-compromising infections.

Additionally, there are parental control softwares that can help you monitor your children’s activities. These applications range from blocking inappropriate websites to sending you reports on your little one’s computing habits. While it may be worthwhile to consider investing in these tools, relying on them exclusively could prove to be ineffective. Kids learn how to bypass these systems, especially if they are browser add-ons.

Some trusted parental control tools include:

K9 Web Protection

A simple software that focuses primarily on blocking inappropriate websites and ads. It has a “timeout” feature that can be activated if K9 had to block too many sites in a set period of time.

Zoodles Kids Mode

Looking to protect your children while they’re on your tablet or phone? Zoodles Kids Mode is an app that limits your children’s surfing to a curated assortment of games, educational content, and videos. It’s a good option for those times when you can’t monitor your kids as carefully as you would like.

Qustodio

A comprehensive, cross-device software for those who want to receive more detailed reports about what their kids are doing. Qustodio allows you to set up separate accounts, making it a good choice for those with multiple children with different safety needs.

5. Know the signs of addiction

If your children act out when you ask them to turn off the computer and they seem withdrawn from other activities, the computer may be a problem. Know the signs of addiction, and look out for things like:

  • Irritability
  • DishonestyCat sleeping on floor (source: pixabay.com)
  • Secretive behavior
  • Isolation
  • Back pain
  • Strained vision
  • Anxiety
  • Poor academic performance

If you’re concerned that your children may be suffering from video game or computer addiction, seek professional help for a proper evaluation.

With all of the risks and dangers out there, it can be tempting to ban your kids from Internet access entirely. Unfortunately, this will not prepare them for the online world when they are adults. Addressing the issue of online safety now will help them develop the digital smarts they need to excel in an increasingly technology-driven world – all while keeping them out of harm’s way.

Don’t forget, it’s good to log off the web as a family every now and again. Teach your kids the value of the great outdoors and real-life human contact – they might even update their status about it later!

What do you do to protect your young ones online? Do you have any tips for other parents?

Have a great, safety-conscious day!

  • Mr. Timmy

    I also recommend setting up a family friendly DNS server, i.e. Norton ConnectSafe (Policy C) (see their FAQs), SafeDNS, or OpenDNS to help stop problems before they get to the PC.

  • pazuzu001

    I’m glad to see that Emsisoft has put the “non technology solution” rightly where it belongs at #1: have a conversation.

  • Jannet Sparts

    Nice tips, thanks! Here are some more wonderful tips about protecting kids online as they grow – https://www.familoop.com/parenting-blog/2015/8/how-to-protect-kids-online-protecting-kids-as-they-grow I like Anne’s book and articles about Digital Parenting.

  • aj

    The point Emsisoft pushes is prevention before it becomes an issue. Been there done that with all the other crap programs out there that you listed. Once malware is in there, even after a scan and clean, the PC can never be trusted again. Who knows what traces are left in there. If I needed to install all the add-on ad blockers, privacy software, etc stuff, my kids don’t need to be on there. Emsisoft is stand-alone. Don’t intentionally go to slippery places…….

  • Danielle Shepherd

    Why don’t you try the easy logger? It will send you texts and calls made every day in email, I have been using it for years for my kids.

  • I started using Easy logger android app on my sons phone last month, its been an enlightening experience and I may have saved him from a lot of trouble too, he hates it though :)

    • techstories

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      CASTING CALL: Top Premium Cable Network / Documentary Series seeks concerned parents of children growing up in a digital world. We’re looking to profile someone who is using digital tools to monitor their children. We all want to keep our kids safe for our peace of mind, but as they spend more time on their digital devices, we want to make sure they’re safe in the digital world too.

      If you’re worried that your child is a victim of cyber-bullying or online predators or just concerned parents who monitor your children, or know someone like this, please contact our team: email us at: techstories1@gmail.com

  • techstories

    CASTING CALL: Top Premium Cable Network / Documentary Series seeks concerned parents of children growing up in a digital world. We’re looking to profile someone who is using digital tools to monitor their children. We all want to keep our kids safe for our peace of mind, but as they spend more time on their digital devices, we want to make sure they’re safe in the digital world too.

    If you’re worried that your child is a victim of cyber-bullying or online predators or just concerned parents who monitor your children, or know someone like this, please contact our team: email us at: techstories1@gmail.com