Parenting is already hard, but when you include the widespread use of smartphones and the upsurge of social media into the equation, then this process is bound to be more challenging. According to Ofcom’s 2018 report, more children now have access to the internet. 35% of 8 to 11 year-olds have smartphones, while 83% of their 12 to 15-year-old counterparts own smartphones too. This number has even gone higher with the current worldwide situation that has forced people to stay home as they observe the coronavirus guidelines. This makes it really hard for kids to stay safe online.
Other than smartphones, tablets, and computers, children are also exposed to a bunch of connected devices including toys, fit-bits, and smartwatches among others.
The problem is that while many children are becoming internet savvy, many of them have little to no knowledge of internet security. Also, the increased number of devices means both the home and school networks have high chances of being compromised.
As a working mom, you may not be able to always be there to monitor what your kids do online, but there are steps you can take to ensure your kids become cyber security-conscious and also healthily use the internet. This article endeavors to discuss the dangers children face online and what parents can do to protect their kids.
Dangers Kids Face Online
Now more than ever, children are more active on the internet, and this, unfortunately, comes with a lot of threats. If you are a parent whose children spend a considerable amount of time on the internet, you must educate yourself on the dangers they may face online and help deal with them accordingly. Let’s look at some of the most prevalent online threats to children.
With the internet, “inappropriate content” is at your children’s fingertips. They may try searching for the content themselves or they may come across it accidentally. Websites are full of ads, and a couple of them are not children-friendly.
Nowadays, sexual and other predators are lurking on online platforms, waiting to take advantage of kids’ innocence and lack of adult supervision to abuse their trust. These predators are found on gaming and social media sites that attract children. They not only prey on kids’ innocence but on their gift of imagination as well.
Sharing private information
Children do not understand social boundaries like adults do, and as such, they may end up sharing private photos or personal information on social media platforms. This information may include emails, home addresses, or phone numbers. The problem is you may never know the intention of the person you are sharing the information with and they might end up using what you have sent them to harm you.
While it is believed that older adults are the ones that easily fall victim to internet scams, we can also conclude that kids are vulnerable in this area too. Scamming young people is quite easy as they tend to be more trusting, inexperienced, and often desire to fit in, and this makes them prime targets for fraudsters and scammers.
Some of the common scams include employment offers, scholarships, or contests that require one to pay some kind of deposit or fee, and an email declaring you’ve won some good money and asking for payment in order to receive the said “winnings.”
So, we have seen that predators don’t have to leave their houses to meet children anymore. That is the same case with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying through social media platforms is unfortunately rampant in today’s world, and it could lead to just as much harm as any other kind of bullying. Cyber-bullied kids may end up with negative mental health issues like depression and suicide.
How Parents Can Help Their Kids Stay Safe Online
The internet can be a wonderful place for kids to learn, communicate, and even play; but it comes with risks as outlined above. As a parent, it is advisable to always monitor what your kids are doing online. That may be tricky for a working mom who is trying to juggle between work and raising her children. But, there are other things you can do to ensure your children still get to use the internet safely and responsibly. Let’s discuss some of them.
Use Antivirus Protection
Good antivirus software will easily solve most of the problems outlined above. An antivirus will help manage your passwords, avoid malicious links, keep your data safe, protect your children from harmful content, keep your devices virus-free, and keep your identity safe.
Many major antivirus software companies have free versions that offer some basic protection, but if you want full protection then you have to go for a paid plan.
Educate your Kids on the Importance of Using Strong, Unique Passwords
To ensure online safety, advise your kids to refrain from using the same password for all their online accounts. Also, help them create strong passwords that include elements such as uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, numbers, and not words or names that could easily be guessed.
Set Up Parental Controls
If you want to ensure your kids are protected online even in your absentia, consider implementing a multi-layered approach when it comes to parental controls by setting up parental controls on your devices, web browsers, and all the apps that your kids access. Having multiple layers of protection will ensure that if one fails, the others can still work.
Ensure your Security Software is Up to Date
By regularly updating your security software, you’ll be able to protect your family against hackers, scammers, and other online risks that may compromise your device system and, therefore, your family’s private data and financial security.
Use a VPN
Free public Wi-Fi is enticing, especially to children who want to be online all the time, but don’t want to burn their mobile data. But free Wi-Fi can easily be compromised. That is where VPNs come in. What VPNs do is that they mask your IP address as well as your location, ensuring that you browse anonymously and safely without anyone spying on you.
The internet has been a lifesaver especially for the last couple of months when we have had to rely on it fully for both learning and entertainment as we observe the coronavirus regulations. But the internet comes with various risks to children who are very trusting and lack the necessary knowledge on cybersecurity. Parents or guardians have to ensure that kids enjoy the internet in a safe and responsible manner.
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