Whether your children are tapping into the world wide web for school, extracurricular activities, or connecting with friends, their use of the internet has become an inevitability in today’s rapidly evolving world.
As such, many parents are growing increasingly concerned about their children’s time in cyberspace and want to know how they can mitigate the many risks that arise when young people use the internet.
In today’s guide, I’ll be providing you with 10 simple tactics that you can use today to help ensure safe internet practices for your kids and family.
Let’s dive in.
#1 Teach Critical Thinking Skills Above All Else
The first, and most important thing that you can do to keep your children and family safe from the many dangers proliferating the online world is to encourage and teach critical thinking skills.
By teaching your children to analyze offers, messages, and their actions online you will help them to make better decisions and avoid the myriad of potentially dangerous situations that are rife on the world wide web.
This focus on critical thinking extends not only to the content that your children consume but also the content that they create. Many youngsters fail to realize that, once you post something online, it’s there for good.
A single careless remark or denigrating comment can haunt your child for years and even pose as a potential roadblock when it comes time to apply for college and jobs.
Be sure that they understand the ramifications of posting content online and are cognizant of how the language and remarks that they make can affect others and their future.
#2 Train Your Children to Spot Potential Scams
As your children grow older, they will begin using the internet for a much wider variety of activities such as making purchases, attending virtual classes, and connecting with friends via social media.
As such, it’s important that they learn from an early age how to spot potential scams and threats.
To get them started, make sure that they understand how to spot phishing emails, validate the security of a website or order form (make sure the site has an SSL certificate), and use a good ‘ol fashioned Google search to quickly corroborate or invalidate any claims that are made by a company or website.
Considering that the internet is responsible for more than $2.1 trillion of worldwide commerce, it’s more than likely that your children will make a purchase of some sort online.
As such, it’s a good idea that they use a virtual debit card number (like Eno from Capital One) so that they don’t have to use your actual card number for their online shopping sprees.
#3 Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to Keep Their Information Secure
If you have a ‘tween’ or teenager with their own debit card, social media, or email accounts, it’s important that they are protected from the very real dangers of an unsecured internet connection.
When you or a family member connects to an unencrypted public network say, for example, your local Starbucks, anyone else on that network can intercept your communications and see exactly what information you are accessing and sharing from that network.
As such, I recommend that every parent purchase a reputable VPN service and teach their children how to use it to secure their browsing experience while they are on public networks.
Keep in mind, not all of these companies treat your data with equal care. The best VPN services and privacy tools adhere to strict “no-logging” policies, meaning that they don’t track any of your personal usage data, regardless of what your country’s laws mandate.
#4 Remember the Importance of “Stranger Danger”
The internet is rife with unsavory individuals looking to take advantage of youthful naivety.
Be sure that your children understand that they should never share their personal information with anyone online, even if the person in question appears to be one of their peers or colleagues.
If they have not met an individual in person, they should never share their phone number, address, itinerary, or social accounts.
Also, be sure that they understand never to meet up with someone that they have met online, without your knowledge.
#5 Ensure that All of Their Social Accounts are Private
One of the biggest mistakes that young people make when it comes to internet safety is to have public social media accounts that allow unsavory individuals of all stripes and colors to easily access their location and other personal information.
Make sure that all of your kids’ social accounts are set to ‘Private’ and that they understand never to allow someone that they don’t know to follow their accounts and gain access to their information.
Also, be sure that you warn them of the potential dangers of “Geo-tagging” Instagram posts or sharing Snapchat stories that disclose their location.
These activities are a prime target for predators and other reprehensible characters and if, at all possible, your children should avoid disclosing their location online entirely.
#6 Be Careful About Downloads
Another important aspect of internet safety is to teach your family to be cautious of the files that they download.
While most files are relatively harmless, you should make sure that your kids know to never download a ‘.exe’ file without your permission.
While a .jpeg or .mp4 is typically no cause for concern, files that have the ability to execute various actions on your computer should always be reviewed by an adult first.
Instruct your children to avoid downloading files from websites without an SSL certificate and also make sure that they know how to differentiate between a verified download button and the common “Download Now” advertising scam that is so prevalent across the web (see below)
#7 Teach them How to Create (And Regularly Update) Strong Passwords
Hackers love weak passwords. Even though it might seem like a bit of a pain to train your children to create 10+ character passwords with numbers, upper & lower case letters, and special characters, it’s well worth the inconvenience and could save you from a myriad of potential data breaches down the line.
#8 Teach them About Antivirus and Antimalware Programs
Once your child has his or her own device, it’s imperative that they understand the importance of installing and maintaining a high-quality antivirus and antimalware program.
This simple act will automatically block or prevent malicious sites or downloads from infecting your computer without any input on your part.
#9 Monitor and Block Dangerous Websites
If you have younger children using their own device (or even a family device), it’s important that you use some sort of activity monitoring software to ensure that they aren’t accessing potentially dangerous or inappropriate web pages.
I recommend that you set up Google’s “Safe Search” feature and use an application that allows you to monitor their activities and alerts you anytime one of your filters has been breached.
Here is a useful resource that offers tips and advice for using public wifi safely such as recognising unsecured websites, reading privacy policies, looking for signs of malware, tips to browse safely on your laptop or smartphone, and using a VPN to protect your personal data.
#10 Keep an Open Line of Communication
One of the most important things that you can do to keep your children safe on the web is to maintain an open line of communication.
Let them know that they can trust you and tell you about their internet experience without fear of reprisal or punishment.
By maintaining an open line of communication, your children are much more likely to come to you in the event that they view an inappropriate site, are solicited by a stranger online, or accidentally download a malicious file.
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