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Roughly 50% of children aged between 12 and 16 consider themselves addicted to their smartphones or laptops. While such an addiction can be effortlessly dealt with by responsible parents, ensuring that children are safe while traveling through the online environment is arguably more challenging.
Moreover, while a VMWare backup can easily protect a remote employee’s data, it is essential to understand that children need more than just the protection provided by antivirus or similar software.
Given that around 47% of the children that surf the web encounter online bullying, discrimination, and many more, it goes without saying that parents must know how to keep their children safe online!
Access to the Online Environment
Before considering online safety, it’s essential to describe how children access the Internet because things have changed a lot in recent years:
- According to recent studies, most fourth-eight graders have access to the Internet, mainly via smartphones and tablets. On top of that, around 50% of the children aged 10-14 have a personal computer in their bedroom.
- However, even if personal computers are popular among children, smartphones are usually their primary access to the Internet.
- The rather alarming fact here is that, according to most studies, half of the interviewed children and teens claimed that they are almost always online.
What does this mean? Well, it means that parents or teachers can’t ensure the safety of children and students alike when they are online. Even if parents take all the necessary precautions for internet safety, there is still no guarantee!
As such, let’s take a closer look at what people can do overcome this and meet their purpose!
Internet Safety and Internet Etiquette
When it comes to interacting with the online environment and with other people in it, we can think of two different types of information/data that can fall into the wrong hands.
Namely, there’s the data that malicious individuals can obtain via hacking and such and the one that people, usually children, willingly share with others. In this respect, we can refer to things that ensure Internet safety and practices for ideal Internet etiquette.
- Internet Safety – From a logical standpoint, internet safety refers to all the software and technical bits that help individuals protect their computers and, inherently, their privacy. Here we can mention antivirus software, VPNs, cloud backup software, and so on.
- Internet Etiquette – On the other hand, Etiquette refers to the way people should behave on the internet to keep themselves and their data safe. Naturally, when it comes to children, etiquette should come first as many individuals don’t need to hack a computer to take advantage of a child’s innocence.
Keeping Children Safe Online: Why is Etiquette Important?
Parents out there may think that investing in a solid VPN software is better than teaching their kids how to behave on the internet. Once again, such software doesn’t protect anyone from people who have seemingly good intentions.
Let’s take a look at some data and statistics that justify why Internet etiquette is – or should be – a thing:
- Roughly 40% of children with access to the internet have chatted with at least one stranger online.
- Out of those 40%, more than half ended up revealing their phone number to strangers, a 15% attempted to actually meet the stranger, while 6% revealed their home address to an unknown individual they had met online.
- Lastly, to top everything mentioned above, a particular study found out that around 75% of the interviewed children would be willing to share their family’s personal information on the Internet in exchange for services or goods.
There’s no doubt that even the best antivirus can’t stop your children from doing something they are willing to on the Internet.
Therefore, before you start looking into VPNs and cloud-based solutions to protect the data that your children have access to while using a computer, let’s tap into the Internet’s book of good manners.
Keeping Children Safe Online: Personal Information
One of the first things to teach your children is never to share their personal information online. This includes their name, phone number, home address, details about their IDs or social security numbers, and even their social media accounts, depending on the platform they’re on.
Photos of Them
While they may be allowed to post photos of them on reputable social media platforms, children should never post the before-mentioned on any other websites, such as forums, for instance.
Chatting with Strangers
The issue of chatting with strangers should not be taken lightly. Many lives have been ruined because of a couple of seemingly harmless conversations with a stranger.
If you want to keep your children safe online, you must make them understand that chatting with a stranger is a big no-no, even if they’re under the protection of anonymity.
Bullying and Harassment
Children will often respond to bullying and harassment. This can either put them in danger or even make them look like the bully. Given that the bullying matter is now being widely addressed by both NGOs and governmental organizations, it is better if children don’t respond to such messages.
The Responsible Adult
Finally, children who browse the web should see their parents as the responsible adults to whom they should report any issues. They shouldn’t hide what happens online, especially if related to strangers or bullying.
Children should be taught to report inappropriate messages or unsafe online situations to a responsible adult.
Overall, the saying “never trust someone you met online” should be well-known by children worldwide. They’re naïve and innocent, and this is why parents should be there to protect appropriately.
Now that we’re done with etiquette, it’s time to move on to safety – namely safety while a kid is browsing the Internet and spending time online.
As we mentioned above, etiquette is often more critical than software-provided safety. However, this doesn’t mean that things like parental blocks, spam filters, and so on are useless.
According to statistics, one in four children ends up seeing unwanted pornography while merely browsing the Internet. There are things that etiquette can’t prevent from happening.
Internet Safety for Kids via Virtual Private Networks
Those who understand the real dangers of the online environment will always choose to browse with a VPN running in the background. Such software hides the user’s location and IP address.
In short, if a stranger would want to find out the precise location of your children’s smartphone, a VPN would prevent that from happening.
Antivirus software will keep malware, viruses, and any other malicious software away from one’s computer or smartphone. If the child’s device is not protected by such software, they could easily be exposed to unwanted online content, spam emails, ads, and even ransomware.
A password manager will help any parent to kill two birds with one stone. First of all, it makes sure that your children always use strong, unbreakable passwords (that they’ll also never forget). Moreover, it allows parents to view and access their children’s passwords easily.
Even though some might consider regular supervision and checking social media accounts by parents unethical, many firmly believe that they should do so as long as their children are underage. To this end, if you are such a parent, a password manager should be your go-to.
Internet Safety for Children via Parental Blocks
Many software solutions – on both PCs and smartphones – allow parents to block certain websites and applications from being accessed. If you don’t want your children to come across websites they shouldn’t access, view, or interact with, then a parental block app/software is mandatory.
Parents should also look into the privacy features offered by both browsers and internet service providers. Modern browsers and platforms – such as YouTube – come with kid-friendly modes that make for a safer online experience.
Device Safety Basics
Finally, parents should be aware of all the basics required to keep a device safe for use. This means knowing how to keep them up to date, clear their cache history, and determine whether it has been hacked.
Moreover, this same information should be passed onto their children. They should be aware that the lack of updates not only make a device perform poorly, but also opens the gate for hackers.
But – What are Kids Doing Online?
10% of parents stated that they don’t regularly check what their children do online and don’t want to start doing it either. If we were to follow popular belief, we could say that such parents assume that their kids can’t be doing anything dangerous online.
Moreover, some parents also think that their children merely can’t come across content that would affect their childhood or innocence. Naturally, they’re hugely mistaken. Let’s take a look at what children do online according to a survey done by iamcybersafe.org – the Children’s Internet Usage Study.
- 4% of children are willingly visiting gambling websites. Parents, keep in mind that, nowadays, video games with cosmetics – and not only – can easily be turned into gambling activities.
- 11% of children admitted to having visited websites with detailed instructions on cheating on exams or schoolwork. Needless to say, the information that is readily available online shouldn’t be used for such an intent!
- 17% of children said that they visited websites containing adult videos or sexual photos at least once. Depending on their age, children will eventually end up on such websites. If not, there will always be that one ad that will lead them to these.
- 21% of children said that they often access websites that facilitate communication/chatting with strangers. Websites like Omegle (the most popular “chat with a stranger” website) are fun – but for adults that know how to behave online.
- Roughly 30% of the children who took part in the mentioned study said that they browse the Internet in ways their parents wouldn’t agree with.
Therefore, think twice before saying that there’s nothing dangerous that children could do online.
Furthermore, if they often use your computer to access the internet, think of all the passwords and accounts that you have stored there, as well as the credit cards that you may have linked. Only two wrong clicks made by a kid could endanger your entire savings!
Only around 25% of adults believe that their children should become digitally independent when they turn 18. On the opposite, 34% consider that their kids are ready for this kind of independence if they’re aged 12 to 15.
The actual truth is that digital independence is just as delicate as the dangers one can face online. A grown man can be corrupted and drawn into dubious online groups as easy as a 12-year-old can be taught how to gamble online and make more pocket money.
In the end, digital independence can only be achieved once one is aware of the dangers of the online environment, their internet etiquette is on point, and they use the best available internet safety solutions.
Internet Safety for Kids: The Bottom Line
So, ultimately, how do you keep your children safe online? Is it all about etiquette, safety, and statistics of various studies? Well, it’s all about that and one vital thing.
We are referring to communication and ease of thereof. If parents develop a healthy internet-related relationship with their children, they’ll always know when something that shouldn’t happen happens.
A suspicious website would be added to a blacklist or web filter with extreme ease if children are taught to communicate their online experiences with their parents. As such:
- Teach your children how to behave on the internet before you stress the importance of antivirus software.
- Educate them on the proper use of a personal computer or smartphone that promotes online safety.
- Tell them never to interact with strangers when online.
- Always remember to check their browser history, even if you think they did nothing wrong. A quick check-up will showcase the websites that need to be blocked by a parental filter, and so on.