There is no question, the internet makes lives more accessible and a lot more comfortable.
It is at the core of the 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.
When children are a little older, they do begin to understand some of the dangers, but younger children have no idea as they think 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 to fully understand 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 need to know of where the risks are and what steps they can take to help minimize these risks.
Kids are often stalked by sexual predators 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 which are 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, as a way of building 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 in 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. At this age, their minds are still in the development stages, 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 the gathering of personal information regarding account passwords. Be it for social media, or if the device is used by adults, then 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 the false competitions are hosted, here they can win free online access to games, or there is the promise of 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.
Social boundaries will not be fully understood by young children. It is easy for them to post things to the online public, which in fact could be highly sensitive information.
In the worst case scenario, this can lead to identity theft which can be used for all manner of things by the wrong person.
All manner of things they post can have a reaction, in some instances, this leads to Cyber Bullying outbursts, or they post they are away on vacation.
Anyone who may make use of this information may quickly find the child’s address, and they then know the home is going to 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 there is any governing agency who 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.
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 there are many of these dares that lead to risky behaviors. 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 being 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 who are getting burnt as they take part in these reckless challenges.
When you look at the areas above, there are several which 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 comes more natural for children to make these comments because they don’t face the children who 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 which can lead to harm or embarrassment.
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 okay 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.
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.
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.
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
You can either use parental control software or do it manually you can follow these simple instructions for Google Chrome.
You can begin with a family discussion to set guidelines, but this does depend on the age of your child. For younger children, you can ask them things they like and then go through the sites or apps with them.
Here, explain about 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.
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 that it contains things it shouldn’t (malware.)
The best security software is the ones which cover a host features. These can be ad blockers, web filtering, app blockers, and web filtering, screen time and 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.
A child-safe browser is very similar to a regular browser, but they have been explicitly configured for use by kids. Or, you can configure a regular browser to become a children safe browser, but this does take a little more effort.
While kids may have to use a search engine for school work, 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 are reliant on this without delivering much more. A lot of what they block comes from a huge list of adult sites and banned keywords.
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 kids safety web browser without much effort.
Here is a quick overview of extensions you can use:
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 phone. In some cases, if kids are not always with parents, then a cell phone is good mobile security.
The average time kids spend on their cell phones is only around 2 hours. However, it is when kids use them at meal times 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 when they do interfere with other aspects of family life, it is way too much.
The recommendations are still the same at 2 hours per day, for the age 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]
There are actually a couple because the test results change depending on the age of the child in question. For younger kids, the best one available is Mobichip. For kids who are older and in high school and above, the well-known Covenant Eyes comes out on top.
The best parental control app for Android is Zift Parental Control with Net Nanny Filter. This has excellent filters and a great overall design. It is also pretty good on the iPhone.
Although there are some social network sites 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.
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 which very quickly outweighs the benefits. With online prowlers stalking kids, to Cyber Bullying from other kids they know or complete strangers, there are lots for children to absorb.
Privacy is another significant issue because children are unaware that what they say may divulge too much information.
The final areas 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, all the skills they build up, they are uncomfortable using when face to face.
Distraction is one final aspect, and many social media platforms are designed to keep people glued to their device. 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.
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
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.
When it comes to the internet, it can be hard, 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.