We asked Sage Singleton, who is a Security & Safety Expert at SafeWise, to share 5 tips to help parents protect their family’s personal security and safety online. Learn how to handle cyber bullying, protect your family from identity theft, and discuss online predators with your children.
What parents need to know about online personal security and safety
- Use parental control software — Parental control software records your child’s online activity and blocks inappropriate material.
- Place the computer in a highly trafficked area — Helps minimize the risk that kids will end up on a dark part of the internet.
- Bookmark for safety — Don’t let kids surf the web.
- Avoid downloads — Always ask before you download anything.
- Set time limits — Set screen time limits and stick to them
- Stay connected and engaged — Talk to your kids and actively be involved in their life.
- Address situations as they come up — Don’t let something get out of control before you talk about it or handle it.
The internet is not inherently good or bad. Like all things, there are pros and cons. The internet is great for children’s education and entertainment and provides plenty of opportunities for learning and growth. However, cyber threats are real and are among the biggest concerns for children’s safety and well-being. So, how can parents be proactive and safeguard their children from cybercrime? Here are some common cyber threats and actionable tips to protect your children:
Cyberbullying is a very common threat to kids and teens online. In fact, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online and 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once. However, only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. To prevent cyberbullying, it’s important to stay involved in your child’s life and actively know what is going on.
- Report harassment immediately.
- Maintain an open, safe environment.
- Encourage your child to tell you about any hurtful or offensive messages they encounter.
- Keep a record of the problem and threats, and if necessary, involve teachers, school districts, or law enforcement.
- Block bullies on social media immediately.
2. Identity theft
Because children have clean credit records, they are often the target for identity theft. Most parents aren’t checking their child’s credit report, which enables criminals to use the identity for years, undetected.
- Keep personal information private and offline.
- Avoid posting any identifying information on social media, such as:
- Date of birth
- Check credit reports periodically.
- Contact law enforcement and the bank if something seems amiss.
3. Sexual Predators
Sexual predators use personal information posted on social media to learn about their victim and make unwanted sexual advances through the internet. While it’s a sensitive topic, parents need to discuss it with their children.
- Use appropriate language to discuss online sexual threats.
- Set privacy settings on children’s social media profiles.
- Check in on their online activity periodically.
4. Password hacking and breach of personal information
Don’t allow your child to post things like their full name, complete address, date of birth, or any information that can be used to steal their identity. Remind your child never to give out personal information without checking with you first and caution them against taking online surveys or quizzes, as criminals can use information submitted through these formats to steal identities.
- Don’t share your passwords, even with close friends.
- Create strong passwords that are hard to crack.
- Remind children to never share their passwords and explain why it could be a problem.
- Keep your antivirus protection up to date on your computers.
- As children get older, they will likely get their own email accounts and have more access to scams on the internet. Teach them never to open suspicious links, give personal financial information away, and avoid email scams and malware.
5. Online shopping
As your child gets older, they may start to online shop. To avoid financial scams, teach your teens the following principles about online shopping:
- Use your credit card when online shopping.
Use your credit card instead of a debit card when shopping online or using payment services like PayPal. If you’re hacked, it’s easier for hackers to get your information because debit cards are linked directly to your bank account. Credits cards have more protection in case you’re hacked.
- Shop on secure sites.
It may seem obvious, but make sure you are shopping on a legitimate, secure website before entering any payment information. To ensure the site is encrypted, make sure it says “https.” All legitimate shopping sites will have an “s” after the http.
- Avoid malware scams.
The holidays are a great time for scammers to send out viruses and malware via email. Never open an email from an anonymous sender. You may unknowingly open a malware link and infect your computer. Also, if you get an email from your bank or financial institution saying they need your information, call the bank to verify it’s legitimate.
- Don’t shop on a public network.
It may be convenient to shop at your local coffee shop, but you should never put your information into a computer on a public network. Hackers can easily access free hotspots and get your personal information.
6. Post cautiously on social media
It’s essential to be savvy and cautious when posting to social media, and a picture says a thousand words. While we all want to post about our upcoming vacation, newest purchase, or location of our Friday night out, it’s important to post with caution. Social media gives everyone, including strangers, a clear view into your world, leaving you vulnerable and exposed.
Posting a photo to Facebook gives strangers a lot of information. For example, your child may innocently post a picture of their baseball team, but that photo tells people which number you are on the team, which school you go to, and who you associate with. Kids may not realize that posting a picture or updating their location status could be hazardous. Wait until after a vacation to post pictures and don’t “check in” at a hotel, restaurant, or airport.
Personal security and safety do’s and don’ts
- Let your parent know right away when you receive a message from a stranger.
- Keep passwords private.
- Ask your parents before creating a social media account or downloading anything.
- Ask your parents before you post to social media.
- Don’t give out personal information.
- Don’t bully and let parents know if you are bullied.
- Don’t meet someone you met online in person.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- The average age for a child to get a smartphone: 10
- 52% of teens with tech access report being cyberbullied
- 64% of kids have access to their own laptop or smart device
- 39% of kids are on social media by age 11
- 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13
- 6% of parents are aware their kids are being cyberbullied
Online threats are real and are among the biggest concerns for children’s safety and well-being, so it’s important to be proactive with your family’s online security. Being involved in your child’s life, regularly checking their credit scores, having a dialog about online predators, reminding them not to share personal information online, and teaching them to post cautiously on social media can help protect your children from cyber threats.