With nearly 4.5 billion people actively using the internet as of October 2019, it is safe to say that for most of us, being online has become a regular part of our day-to-day lives. Children in particular are getting access to computers, smartphones, and other internet-capable devices at earlier ages than ever before, and while the internet can be a fantastic source for both education and entertainment content, it also exposes children to a number of potential dangers, including unacceptable sites containing unacceptable violence and images, as well as cyberbullying, phishing scams, and online predators. To mitigate these risks, every child should be taught how to be safe online, and be given the information and support they need to protect themselves.
Of course, some might argue that there isn’t much of a need to teach children about cybersecurity: you’ll often hear parents proclaim, “My kids know more about computers than I do!” Yet while younger generations do tend to be more tech-savvy than their parents, they are still often naïve and unaware of the potential dangers that come with being a young person online. Children might have the knowledge of how to navigate the internet, but they don’t necessarily have the foresight needed to stay safe while doing so. For this reason, it is important to talk with your children about online safety early on in order to instill in them smart and safety-conscious behaviors.
Explaining online safety can be challenging, especially when dealing with younger children, but if you keep these helpful tips in mind, you will have a strong starting point for their cybersecurity education.
Communicate The Risks
It is important to talk with children about the many potential risks that come with being online. Discuss safe browsing on the internet, malicious websites that can steal your personal information, and different types of cyberbullying. With younger children, there can be a disconnect between what is online and what is the “real world,” but one way to address this is to frame the discussion of online threats in more concrete terms (e.g. people behind user names are strangers).
With the rise of social media, people are increasingly encouraged to share what’s going on in their lives with their followers, whether or not they actually know them in person. Young people in particular are often far more willing to share personal details with people they talk to online. When talking with your children about online safety, you should emphasize that others can see what they post online, and that what they choose to share should reflect that fact. Also, be sure to remind them of the kind of things they shouldn’t share online, such as sensitive information or potentially embarrassing personal facts.
Show That You Are Open & Trusting
When your child’s safety is at risk, it can be tempting to become overly strict and try to control everything they see online. This can easily backfire though, because if your child thinks that you will react negatively or punish them for doing something online, they are more likely to try and hide it from you. In turn, this means that if they encounter the kind of problems you are trying to help them avoid, they might not seek your help. If you want to get information from your children about their online habits, your best option is to just listen to them.
It is a good idea to set usage limits for your younger children, clearly telling them how much time they can spend on their computer or laptop. Parents should also consider setting guidelines for internet usage, clarifying what their kids can and can’t do while online. This should also include safety precautions like avoiding suspicious downloads not joining chatrooms with strangers. These guidelines can be updated as your kids get older, allowing them more freedom as they mature and become more aware of the potential dangers online.
Consider a Good Internet Filter
If you want to avoid “looking over their shoulders” all the time, you should consider installing a good internet filter that will enable you to control what family members are browsing and the types of files being downloaded. It would also stop dangerous viruses from invading your computers due to Internet browsing. We all want to do our best to keep our children safe from harmful activity online. Whether it’s a deliberate attempt to view improper material, or an innocent search term that brings up questionable material, Clean Internet is a safe search tool designed to help make sure that doesn’t happen.
Be A Good Example
The best way to encourage positive behavior in your children is to model it yourself. If you are a regular internet user, be sure to exercise the same kind of discretion online that you want to see from your children. After all, if your kids see that you can’t follow your own advice for being safe online, they are far less inclined to follow it themselves. Be mindful of how you use the internet, and if you find yourself falling into the habits you discourage in your children, then maybe you need a review of online safety practices yourself.
Do The Research
Above all else, the most important step you can take to ensure that your children are safe online is to be informed about the internet, both with regard to how people are using it and how to avoid the many potential dangers that come with being online. Even if you are not a heavy internet user, you cannot afford to be ignorant of the internet and its current trends. If you don’t understand the internet and how your kids use it, you won’t be able to give them any meaningful advice or set reasonable standards for how they should behave online. Understanding the ins and outs of the internet and online safety can be a challenge, especially if you are not particularly tech-savvy. However, when it comes to your children’s safety and wellbeing, it is worth the time and effort to make sure that their time online is as secure as possible.