The internet has become a cornerstone of our daily lives. It's a vast repository of knowledge, a platform for social interaction, and a playground for entertainment. However, for our kids, the online world can prove to be a dangerous place. As parents, our role is to equip our children with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. But where do you start? What’s there to do to ensure your kid stays safe online?
Today, we’re looking at what dangers our young ones might face in the online world and how you can ensure that the whole experience is safe and enjoyable.
Why kids and teens need protection online
Because of their natural curiosity and adaptability, children and teens are often the most active online users. And too often, it is that natural enthusiasm that can sometimes lead them to risky situations.
The threats are real and varied. Cyberbullying, inappropriate content, social media overuse, online predators, and scams targeted at children are just a handful of risks that children might face almost every single time they go online, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So, it’s up to the parents to provide the necessary tools and information to help kids navigate online life safely.
Tips to keep your children safe online
Here are some of the best practices from security experts here at NordPass to help your children stay safe online:
Teach your kids about the importance of privacy
Before the advent of the internet, pretty much everyone was taught not to speak or open doors to strangers. This should also apply to the internet generation. Teach your children the importance of not giving up their names, addresses, or any other personal information to strangers online. Also, warn them against chatting with strangers online and emphasize that they should never set up meetings with someone who they only know on the internet.
Make use of parental controls
Kids love wandering on the internet. Unfortunately, a fun experience could go sideways. Parental controls can help you and your children avoid unwanted consequences online. Use parental controls to limit internet use to a few trusted websites and apps on any device that offers such an option. Consider creating separate accounts for your children on Netflix, YouTube, or any other streaming services to limit their exposure to sensitive and otherwise inappropriate content.
Talk about gaming
It’s true that gaming can be educational and beneficial. But, as with everything on the internet, there’s a flipside. Children are at risk of cyberbullying, identity theft, and even credit card fraud, and these risks are especially prevalent in online gaming. So, be sure to research games before deciding whether they’re right for your children. Also, consider allowing them to play online games with real-life friends only and encourage them to tell you if they are being bullied — many games have the feature to “block” other players. Finally, be sure to monitor in-app purchases, especially if your card is linked to your kids’ gaming account.
Limit access to social media
Social media. Some argue that it’s the worst thing about the internet, while others say it might as well be the best. Whatever the case may be, nowadays, we’re quite informed about its negative aspects and impact on children. It might be borderline impossible to keep your kids off social media, so be sure to talk with your children all about it. Discuss the dark side of it and how it can be addictive and toxic. It is important they understand that it’s not just fun and games and that posts on social media could have real-life consequences. Maybe consider rules and limitations regarding social media use, but don’t be hard on them. Remember that being on social media is a part of this generation’s Zeitgeist.
Teach your kids cybersecurity basics
Cybersecurity might not be the most interesting topic to discuss with kids, but nowadays, it’s a fact of life that can’t be thought away. Try to convey the concept of identity theft and its consequences in a simple and clear way. Also, talk about the importance of password security. Warn them against using weak passwords and let them know why sharing passwords could be dangerous. One of the best ways to ensure password security in a family setting is by adopting a password manager such as NordPass. A password manager allows you to securely store and access passwords whenever you need them and offers secure password sharing. Rest assured that kids today will get the hang of a password manager in no time at all.
Lead by example
Try to raise good online citizens — lead by example. Explain that hate, bullying, and trolling have no place in both the real and digital worlds. Warn them that everything they say online will be up for public view, most likely forever, and explain how it could have an impact on their future. Show them the good side of the internet: how it connects people, how it can expand their worldview, and how it can be fun.
Bonus tips for parents
Here are some extra tips to further improve your child's online safety:
Teach your kids to turn on privacy settings on social media. All social media platforms include inbuilt privacy settings that allow you to choose who can see what. Adjusting these privacy settings is great for keeping out strangers without alienating close friends.
Turn on SafeSearch mode in Google. SafeSearch allows you to block inappropriate or explicit images from your Google Search results. While the SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, it still can help you limit the chances that your child will come across results that are not age appropriate.
Raise your own understanding and keep up to date with the internet. The more you know about the dangers lurking in the digital world, the better your chances of ensuring your kids’ safety online.
By following these tips, you can help ensure your child's online experience is safe, educational, and enjoyable. Remember, if you strive to help your kid navigate the online world safely, the key is open communication; no tool will help unless your child understands why it is important to remain safe in the digital world.