There is no question, the internet makes lives more accessible and a lot more comfortable.
It is at the core of daily business, and it is a significant part of home life. This is especially true when it comes to children and the internet.
They find it their biggest pastime, from playing games, watching movies and chatting with friends on social media.
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When children are a little older, they begin to understand some of the dangers, but younger children have no idea that everything is real and innocent.
Internet safety for children is vital as there are countless threats from every angle.
Because there will never be a slowdown in the use of the internet, it means these threats will always be on the increase.
Parents need to spend more time fully understanding the risks, and then they will have a grasp on what it means when they say they are ‘protecting my children while they are using the internet.
The following will run through all parents who need to know where the risks are and what steps they can take to help minimize these risks.
What Dangers Exist Online?
Sexual predators often stalk kids as they use the internet. They take advantage of children’s innocence and abuse their trust. In worse case scenarios, they attempt to lure them into personal encounters that can be highly dangerous and have dramatic consequences.
These online predators often hang around on social media platforms and game sites appealing to young children. It is here; they can exploit children’s innocence, but also their imagination.
Predators use the same games children play with their friends to build up trust before they move on to the next phase of their actions.
Reports show that around 30% of children have been victims of Cyber Bullying. It is these platforms and gaming sites that have become virtual playgrounds where all manner of taunting occurs. [Source]
Mocking takes place on social media, and this isn’t always between children who know each other. It reaches far beyond and includes casual observers who make snipes at posts of others.
In gaming, characters are often attacked, and what was once a fun adventure quickly spirals downward into a never-ending barrage of personal abuse.
This can be seen as one of the significant dangers that face children of all ages. All across the internet, it is easy for children to find indecent content.
This sexually explicit content is there for the masses of people who enjoy looking at it, and it can easily be linked to things that bear no relation. Even on YouTube, with all their efforts, there is still explicit content.
On other occasions, this ties in with Cyber Stalkers who target young children. They purposely make links of this material that will end up on a child’s screen.
Nowadays, the age that children are becoming exposed to the content of this nature is now eight years old. Their minds are still in the development stages at this age, and they are trying to understand their beliefs and core values.
There are two sides to this occurrence, and the first being, children turn to these channels to answer any questions they have about sex, and what they see isn’t how things are supposed to be, and second, what they perceive as right or wrong becomes convoluted.
This software becomes installed on a device without the user being aware. Young children may download something which appears innocent, but in reality, the program that runs in the background can have severe consequences.
All manner of things can happen from malware, and in many cases, this can include gathering personal information regarding account passwords. Be it for social media, or if adults use the device, it can reveal banking details.
Some systems are also taken over, and they become a ‘botnet’ where they are used to send out spam or something worse. When this happens, countless infected computers are being used. This increases the amount of spam and also helps hide the originator’s identity.
While many of these phishing scams include someone asking for help, and in return, they will be gifted with huge amounts of money. This doesn’t wash with young children because they don’t really understand it.
But, there are instances where false competitions are hosted, where they can win free online access to games or promise some other form of prize. Children understand this, and any chance to win has them hooked.
Children can be coaxed into handing over parents details without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. They can also easily pass over their friend’s information with the lure of gaining something for nothing. On occasion, kids have been known to enter credit card details without knowing what they are doing.
Young children will not fully understand social boundaries. It is easy for them to post things to the online public, which could be highly sensitive information.
In the worst-case scenario, this can lead to identity theft which can be used for all things by the wrong person.
All manner of things they post can react. In some instances, this leads to cyberbullying outbursts, or they post they are away on vacation.
Anyone who may use this information may quickly find the child’s address, and they then know the home will be empty.
Photos that should be personal or awkward ones can mean much more to other people online than it does to the child posting them. This scenario often happens when a child’s social media profile is set to the public rather than private.
The internet is full of content that can be streamed. Young children are attracted to TV shows and movies that are easily accessible for free. They have no way of knowing that a significant amount of these is copyrighted.
With regular access to these streams, children can land parents in trouble if any governing agency wants to proceed with prosecution. In more significant ways, children can easily download torrents and share these.
The downloading and uploading of this content means they are partaking in ‘Piracy’, and the more it happens, the more the weight of the law comes down on anyone who takes part in it.
Online Dares and Challenges
These spring up all the time and quickly become a trending thing to take part in. Children face peer pressure by not taking part, and many of these dares lead to risky behaviours. What begins as a silly stunt can quickly transpire into something more serious.
Some children have become severely injured by what appears to be a harmless prank. One good example is the duct tape challenge. Seeing how long it takes to escape resulted in a head trauma for one unfortunate child.
There is now an increasing number of children getting burnt as they take part in these reckless challenges.
Where these Dangers Can Occur
When you look at the areas above, several can occur from the same area of the internet. Others are generally more specific but are now transforming and moving to other areas.
Phishing, for example, began using emails. However, with the changes in instant messaging apps, the way this is presented to children is very different. Even when browsing, there are plenty of pop-up ads that are linked with phishing scams.
Social media are a large playground and attract all manner of the above. Cyber Bullying being frequent in responses to posts some children make.
Comments become increasingly hurtful and can encourage children to do something that can severely hurt them or damage them mentally.
It is natural for children to make these comments because they don’t face the children they are targeting comments against.
Piracy is on the increase, and children don’t like to miss out. Torrent sites are easy to come by but are being overtaken by the increasing numbers of streaming sites.
Not only is piracy a concern, but some of these sites have ulterior motives and can lead to malware being installed.
This can infect a device as easy as an infected torrent file can. Children think they are merely watching their favourite cartoon or movie, while in the background, the control of their device is being taken over.
Cyber Stalkers will take any opportunity to befriend children. While they can begin in online games, it is far more comfortable and convenient for them to use social media.
In many cases, their profile is fake, and they make themselves out to be a similar age to the children they target.
These online stalkers begin making out they are young and follow the same speech patterns as young children before they start digging for further information.
There are many instances; they actually make themselves to be the opposite sex as the child they are targeting.
This can use the physical attraction aspect to further entice unsuspecting children into doing something that can harm or embarrassed them.
How to be Safe on the Internet
Without delving too much into the information, there is an overall view of how parents can help their children to be safe while on the internet.
Some of which actually comes from parents attitudes toward the internet and how they use it.
Children are very easily influenced, so if they see parents doing something, they will think it’s OK to do the same.
Here are a few pointers on how parents can make sure something is being put into place so the internet use for their children is as safe as possible.
Websites are straightforward to clone, and children may not be able to spot the difference. Here are ways to help safeguard websites being visited are legitimate.
- Use common sense and personal instincts.
- Check for contact details such as addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. These can be good indicators of the legitimacy of a website.
- Check the address of the website. Ones with misspellings and extra words can mean they are clones, and you have been redirected away from the original. In some cases, you can find you are at a webpage address that is nothing like the one you were supposed to be.
- Hovering the cursor over a link will show the address it leads to. If this varies from the address in the link, there is something suspicious.
- Websites that ask for you to confirm something more than you usually would. Completing passwords or other personal information often leads to malicious sites.
- Avoid sites that actively promote schemes that involve receiving money or any advance payments.
These small files are often harmless; they contain and store information between browsing sessions. Some can be used to track browsing habits which lead to targeted ads. Criminals can also use them to build up a personal profile.
- Browsers can be set to inform each time a cookie is installed. (Here’s how to delete Google history and cookies)
- You can disable or enable browsers on a site by site basis. This does depend on the browser used.
- Anti-spyware or a good antivirus can be used to scan for malicious (tracker) cookies.
- Use incognito mode when possible. Cookies will be deleted.
- Use plain text in emails rather than HTML. This prevents cookies and tracking files to be included.
Social media has plenty to talk about and comes in its own section. One of the main things to help keep safe is by keeping everything up to date.
Top 10 Internet Safety Tips for Kids
- Passwords – Both your passwords and any account id’s should be kept safe. These should never be stored on your device, and only inform your parent or guardian what they are. Never share with anyone else.
- Personal Information – All your personal information should be kept private. Never share any personal information with anyone online. This can include your address, the school you go to, or passwords. Even any government-issued id numbers or passport details should be kept offline.
- Posting on social media – You should be careful what you post online. You may give information that you think is innocent. Almost nothing you post anywhere is 100% private. If you post in private, the person you send it to will have this and can use it to their advantage if they so wish.
- Never meet in person – There may be plenty of individuals who want to meet up. You never know who this person is, and they might not actually be who they say they are. There are a lot of bad adults who are looking to take advantage of. They might pretend to be a kid, but it can all be fake. Follow online safety rules, and if there is a person you do want to meet, make sure to take your parents, and agree to meet somewhere public.
- Bullying – If you are a victim of bullying or someone is harassing you, be sure to tell your parents as soon as it begins. Never forget, you are online to ignore the messages, and you have no need to answer them. Never retaliate because this is wrong, and you can get in trouble. Internet safety facts show 90% of kids ignore bullying if it happens. If they can do it, so can you.
- Pictures – Be careful which photos you share, and never share them with a person you don’t know. Never show anyone pictures that are you with no clothes on, because once they are on the internet, they can’t be taken back.
- Surfing securely – When surfing, be careful of the websites you visit. Always make sure the address starts with HTTPS. This is the new standard, and if any website doesn’t show this, there is a reason they are not doing so.
- Protect your PC – When you wish to download something from the internet, you should always check with your parents. This can be one of the top safety tips because you never know what is included with your download, even if it appears to be a harmless game or movie.
- Disconnect – No matter how old you are, you have a choice. You can quickly stop your browsing session. Anything you were watching will still be there when you turn it on, but bad people or bullies may have moved on when they see you are not responding.
- Your mobile phone – You may have a cell phone. These are great for contacting parents when you are in trouble. But, they can be traced, and if you give your cell number to strangers, they can trace your location. You should follow this safety rule for kids as it is the best way to contact someone in times of trouble.
Internet Safety Tips for Parents (FAQ)
How do I protect my child from social media?
Quick ways to protect your child (and yourself) from social media are don’t allow children under 13 on Facebook. Check privacy settings on apps and cell phones and disable location services. Use monitoring apps to track social media behaviour. Make sure they don’t post any personal information that can be used against them.
How do I block websites from my child?
You can either use parental control software or do it manually; you can follow these simple instructions for Google Chrome.
- Open Google Chrome
- Select the wrench icon
- Select the “Tools” menu.
- Locate the tab called “Under the Hood.”
- Select “Change Proxy Settings.”
- Click the “Security” tab.
- Select the icon “Restricted Sites.”
- Click the “Sites” button twice quickly and enter the web address of the website to block.
- Click the “Add” button.
How do you explain Internet safety to a child?
You can begin with a family discussion to set guidelines, but this depends on your child’s age. You can ask them things they like for younger children and then go through the sites or apps with them.
Here, explain using strong passwords and why this is important. You can teach them how to use a password manager in case they struggle to remember. At all times, you should not try and force your child and come across as being reasonable.
Always reassure your child they can speak to you about any problem they have online or anything they may see which alarms them.
Do children really understand the danger of the internet?
Young children are unaware of the full dangers. They see everything at face value and think whoever they are talking to is genuine and being truthful. They are also not aware that all free software is legally free or contains things it shouldn’t (malware.)
What are the best internet filters?
The best security software is the one that covers host features. These can be ad blockers, web filtering, app blockers, web filtering, screen time, location tracking, and geo-fencing capabilities. They will also alert parents if there is anything suspicious happening. These filters can cover a host of parental controls in one convenient package.
The Best Children Safe Browser
A child-safe browser is very similar to a regular browser, but it has been explicitly configured for kids. Or, you can configure a regular browser to become a children safe browser, but this does take a little more effort.
Child-Friendly Search Engines
While kids may have to use a search engine for schoolwork, this is the first point of access to the internet in many cases. A safe kids search engine will not allow access to many unsuitable sites.
Many come with specific ages in mind and can range from a safe web search that is very cartoony in looks so kids will enjoy using it.
These change when they are designed with older kids in mind, and they do allow a little more freedom, but they still operate in kid-safe mode.
Many of these search engines basically use the Google SafeSearch function, so they rely on this without delivering much more. A lot of what they block comes from a huge list of adult sites and banned keywords.
Best Free Chrome Extensions For Parental Control
When you do things manually, you can turn to Chrome extensions, and luckily, there are a few great free extensions that can turn Chrome from a regular browser to a kid-safe web browser without much effort.
Here is a quick overview of extensions you can use:
- Parental Control App – this enables safe browsing on the internet. It blocks sites and emails, parents, activity reports.
- WebFilter Pro – this extension is a child safety internet blocker. It is cloud-based, and millions of websites are added, which you can prevent your child from visiting. You have the option to custom this to children’s ability to understand what they are doing.
- Blocksi Web Filter – This is both a web filter and a parental control panel all in one. There are numerous categories you can filter while allowing them, blocking or giving a warning.
- YouDeemIt – This is a parental advice system. This social tool is designed to give kids a sense of responsibility as they use the internet.
Children and Mobile Devices
At what age should a kid have a phone?
This can vary because some kids are more developed, and it may be a case of asking if your child actually needs a phone for other things apart from using them for social media or gaming. It is now shown that over 50% of kids under the age of 8 have their own cell phones. In some cases, if kids are not always with parents, then a cell phone is good mobile security.
How much time is too much?
The average time kids spend on their cell phones is only around 2 hours. However, it is when kids use them at mealtimes or while eating in restaurants. If they do this, then this does fall into kids using phones too much. The definition of screen time may say a certain amount of time is too much, but it is way too much when they do interfere with other aspects of family life.
How much screen time should a child have daily?
The recommendations are still the same at 2 hours per day. For the age of over 5, under this 1 hour per day is recommended. However, reports are showing that kids are spending around 7 hours per day of screen time. [Source]
Best Parental Control App for iPhone
There are actually a couple because the test results change depending on the child’s age in question. For younger kids, the best one available is Mobichip. The well-known Covenant Eyes comes out on top for kids who are older and in high school and above.
Best Parental Control App for Android
How to Use Social Media Safely
Social Network Age Restrictions
Although some social network sites are designed for younger children, it is recommended that only children ages 13 and above should be allowed to use these platforms. It is often thought of this is because of the content, while in fact, it is because of an old American law, the Children’s online privacy protection act, which dictates this.
Should social media be used at all?
Social media does raise interaction with people. This can be beneficial in younger children as they can become quite vocal as well as creative. Communication is instant no matter where your children are as long as they have a connection.
News and updates are up to date, and there is no question that it is fun and entertaining for kids to partake in.
It is the negative impact that very quickly outweighs the benefits. With online prowlers stalking kids, cyberbullying from other kids they know or strangers, there are many children to absorb.
Privacy is another significant issue because children are unaware that what they say may divulge too much information.
The final area where there is a negative impact is when children are reliant on social media. Once this happens, they substitute online interaction for any offline interaction. Once they do this, they are uncomfortable using all the skills they build up when face to face.
Distraction is one final aspect, and many social media platforms are designed to keep people glued to their devices. Children will not be able to leave this for fear of missing out. This quickly leads to sedentary lifestyles where children stay in one spot for too long, and they have disrupted sleep from staring at screens too long.
How to set up a Social Media profile privately
As Facebook is the primary social media platform, we will use this in the example.
If you don’t already have a Facebook account, you can follow these steps.
If you don’t have a Facebook account
- Go to Facebook and click Sign up for an account. Use a private email address (one not used for any other purpose).
- You must enter your real name. Creating a fake account is against Facebook’s terms and conditions.
- This also goes against Facebook’s terms, but if you select the earliest date for your birthday, Facebook can’t target you as much with ads.
- Confirm the email address. If you have a Gmail address, it asks you to connect to Gmail.
- Once the email has been confirmed, you can move on. Select OK.
- Facebook asks if you want to add friends. Ignore this and select “next”:
Start Here If you have a Facebook account.
- Click the small white downward facing triangle (top right of the menu. Click “settings.”
- On the left menu. Click ‘Privacy’
- Select ‘Only Me’ – this stops any posts from going out. You also get who can see my stuff, Who can contact me and who can look me up. Change all to Me Only.
- You can do the same for previous posts; this will change anything you posted to only you see them.
- Click the “Limit Past Posts” button. Click Confirm.
- You can also set who can contact you by selecting Friend of Friends.
- The same is similar for you can look you up. Change to Friends
- Search engines can be blocked by selecting ‘Turn.’
- After this, you can change what adverts you wish to use, and then you can go into the About section and amend any personal information there is.
- After this, you can stop anyone from seeing your friends list by selecting ‘Only.’
- That’s all you can do.
If you have had enough social media or want help deleting your child’s accounts, here is how to do it right.
As you can see, there is plenty for parents to go through when keeping kids safe online. For any parent, they will be forever saying ‘protecting my child’ from this and that.
It can be hard when it comes to the internet, and children might try and get around anything you put in place.
Education is one of the best things you can do for a child because, without it, they will go through the next few years, not knowing what is safe and what isn’t.