With the advent of social media, your child is more exposed to the internet and to everyone else.
They are also one of the easiest preys when it comes to scams – not just those seeking to extract money and steal identities, but pedophiles and other sex offenders also abound.
As a parent, you can do something to protect your children.
On Protecting Personal Data
If your child is using the internet they are probably signing up for all kinds of things such as social media accounts, events, surveys, etc. They often give out personal data carelessly, and anyone could use that information for scams.
Your children’s data could also become a gateway to your own account. Most sites would require an adult to register. A determined teenager can and will find ways to get your data for an online purchase.
Educate your child how to monitor the things they click on the internet. They should not be giving out personal data without consulting you first.
Email links should not be opened unless they are from trusted sources, but never if they are asking for personal data. Instead, get the company’s name and register on the company’s site.
You should keep your browser secure and guard your own online transactions. Your child can easily go to your computer’s history and get all the information they want. There are reports of huge credit card bills from online transactions made by children without their parents’ consent – remember you will remain liable.
You should use encryption software that scrambles the information you send with your online transactions. That way, the information is sent safely, and your child will not have access to it. Click on the lock icon before sending and clear your browser history and cookies afterward.
Passwords should be difficult to guess. Not only should yours be, but also your child’s as well. Teach him or her to use passwords that are a combination of letters and numbers, upper case and lower case.
This is to protect your own account and your child’s, too. Your child pays more attention to you than you would think. They may easily guess what your password or PIN is. If your child can’t guess it, chances are, nobody else will guess it easily, too.
Teach your child that the first rule in internet usage is protecting your password. Let them understand the importance of not sharing their passwords with anyone else. If or when they are going to use public computers, they should avoid logging into sites that require their user names and passwords.
The information may be recorded in the computer’s history allowing other people to access it later. In addition, there is the risk of keystroke logging devices (that anyone can purchase cheaply) being installed by unscrupulous people to get the information that you just used to log in.
Never use public computers or computers that they do not have direct control over for anything other than anonymous browsing.
Tell your child that even if they are still young and do not have any businesses online, they should learn how to guard their personal information to ensure they don’t become victims of identity thieves. Automatic login features are great, especially for people who keep forgetting usernames and passwords.
It also saves time in having to type the same information each time they access a certain site. Parents can use this feature so they can easily access their child’s’ accounts.
However, make sure passwords are being stored securely and that unauthorized people can’t gain access to them e.g. on a public computer that has been left logged on.
Sometimes, merely deleting cookies and browser history is not enough. To keep yours and your children’s online activity safe, install software for anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall.
Wi-Fi in public places is a good thing. You can still go online, check emails, and make online transactions. However, before you send any information over a Wi-Fi connection, check first if the site you are on is an encrypted secure website or if the network is secured.
If not, all information you send on the web will be accessible to just about anyone. Tell this to your child so that next time he or she uses a free Wi-Fi service, he or she will be on guard in respect of the information they send over the public network.
Also, teach your children to read the privacy policies. Read them together with your children. It is a good idea that when they sign up for something, you are there with them to guide them and explain what the privacy settings are for that particular site.
In addition, you get to know exactly what your children are getting into.
Cyber bullying & Online crimes
Children can, at times, be harsh to other children. Practical jokes and teasing can easily get out of hand and turn into bullying and what one child finds acceptable another may not. With social media and various sites where anyone can express their emotions and opinions, any child can fall victim to bullying or be involved in bullying acts.
On the internet, bullying can have more profound effects and can seriously escalate. Playground bullying may restrict some because other people can see them, but the anonymousness that the web affords its users can make someone brave enough to bully or join in bullying someone – even if they don’t even know them.
Online they can hide behind fictitious names or be anonymous yet inflict much pain and harassment on someone else. The victim is left without a name or face to associate his or her attacker to.
Moreover, he or she can be subject to 24-hour bullying, that anyone in the world can participate in. Some victims receive negative comments even from people living thousands of miles away, with no connection whatsoever to their life.
Online bullying or cyber bullying can take many forms such as:
- Hurting and threatening mails, chat messages or even posts on social media.
- Hurtful names and/ or photos posted on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram
- Humiliating videos
- Posting snippets or screen shots of private texts, messages or chat
- Excluding someone in an event, game, group or social media
- Hacking accounts or posers
To stop or prevent children from bullying and getting bullied, here are some things that, as a parent, can do:
1 – Open the lines of communication
In the business of daily life, parents often let their children spend many hours surfing the internet unsupervised. Some parents even encouraged it, to keep the children busy and out of the way.
Some allow their children free- reign on surfing the internet, to teach them independence or some other traits. However, remember that they are still children. Your role as a parent is to guide them on what should and shouldn’t be done.
2 – Make time to browse websites with them.
Let your children show you the sites they frequent and tell you what they do on those sites.
- You get to bond with your child, sharing in their interests.
- You get to know your child better- their interests and inclinations, who they interact with and how they interact with their online peers.
- You get to know what they are up to, without having to snoop around and violate your child’s privacy.
3 – Teach by example.
The best way to teach children how to treat others with kindness and respect is by showing them. They notice how you treat the people around you, and your child is likely to follow suit.
4 – Pay attention.
Give more notice to how your child reacts to online activities and texting. Look if they get upset over what they read online or from the texts they receive. Ask gently and non-judgmentally on what is going on or why they seem upset.
Be aware of any signs that they are avoiding school or social interactions with other children. On the other hand, be alert for any indication that your child is cruel to anyone.
5 – Talk to your child and tell your child to report bullying.
Make them feel comfortable in telling you what is happening to them. Give them reassurance that you are ready to give them unconditional support and that their privileges will not be affected just because of how others are behaving towards them.
6 – Social Networking and Blogging
Children spend most of their internet time on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and others. They get to experience the liberty and excitement of meeting different peoples from all over the world.
While they can develop social skills and gain useful information, they can also be prey to various crimes, bullying, frauds, online scams, internet predators and phishing attacks. You can help protect them from these by following these simple tips:
Encourage your children to tell you about things they find disturbing. Some children fear that their internet privileges will be removed if they report seeing graphic (sexual content, violence, etc.) content to their parents. They may fear that their parents will judge them and think that they are deliberately visiting adult sites and are actively seeking inappropriate content on the internet. As a parent, you should be open to
They may fear that their parents will judge them and think that they are deliberately visiting adult sites and are actively seeking inappropriate content on the internet. As a parent, you should be open to discuss these things and be there to listen to how they feel about the things they encounter.
Gently and carefully explain what this content means and why they should stay away from these sites.
Establish rules on using the Internet. Make your child a partner in establishing these rules. Work out a schedule of use, what sites they can visit and how to respond to emails and links sent to them.
Teach them how to verify the information they receive e.g. hovering over links they receive in emails before clicking on them to make sure they are from who they say they.
Negotiate on how and where they can make online purchases.
Each transaction should be made known to the parents before they send any information online (especially if credit and bank accounts are concerned).
Make sure that your children follow age-restrictions on sites. You can install firewalls on home computers to ensure that the sites are filtered by the computer system.
Reiterate the importance of not talking to strangers. Each person they meet online should be treated cautiously. They should never freely talk about their home and school life, other activities or emotions to anyone they meet online.
Also, even if they share something common with that person (like same school or same gamers’ hub), they should treat them as strangers and not be too comfortable with them unless they are certain they are talking to that person. They should also be aware that other people may be able to see their on-line conversations.
It is common for children to chat online and talk to people from all over the world. Teach them not to talk freely about themselves, and not to give out too much information about themselves.
Some pedophiles and sexual offenders use chat rooms to look for victims. They play with a child’s vulnerability and gain their trust.
They may offer seemingly harmless friendships and then use this information to coerce the child into carrying out crimes or engaging in sex crimes.
When posting, teach your children not to post their full names. A nickname will do. Tell them not to post nicknames and photos that would attract inappropriate response from the online community.
To be specific, teach your children not to post photos that reveal too much skin or show their cleavage. Do not allow them to post photos that show them wearing skimpy clothing or behaving in ways that others may see as wild behavior.
Tell your children not to post too much information about themselves.
Belonging to common groups like a school or organization and posting about their activities and other personal information will make them prone to phishing attacks or identity theft. Anyone can make a poser account of them, pretending that they are your child.
These poser accounts may be used by others to bully someone or destroy your child’s identity and reputation online. Their photos may be photoshopped and used in inappropriate sites like those involved in pedophilia and sexual crimes.
Once information like this is posted it is very difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve or delete.
Blogging sites enable people, even children, to express themselves freely. Teach your child that while blogging can enhance creativity and self-confidence, it can also make them vulnerable to online fraud, scams and crimes. They may also inadvertently commit crimes if they post things that are untrue or slanderous towards others.