Internet safety tips to keep your kids secure online
It's never too early to start talking with your kids about internet safety. Start with the basics, but keep the conversation going!
Growing up, you may have had a phone in your room or a family PC. Maybe yours was one of the first few households in your neighborhood to get dial-up internet access. Internet safety meant making sure no one picked up the phone.
Your kids, though, have been swimming in the internet's waters since they were handed their first electronic device. Whether they're watching YouTube Kids, playing Minecraft with friends, or spending time on social media like Snapchat, Twitch, or Discord, internet safety is an ever-growing concern.
The conversation you have with your kids about internet safety will depend on how old they are as well as their and your level of fluency in the digital world.
It's never too early to talk about internet safety. If they have access to a device that connects to the internet, don't wait until something happens to discuss the do's and don'ts of going online. Here are some basics you can discuss with kids of nearly any age:
- Never give out personal information. This includes addresses (even just the city in which you live), phone numbers, the name of your school, and the names of any teams or local clubs you may be part of.
- Don't download a program or app onto your computer, phone, or tablet, without consulting your parents.
- If you receive a link from someone you don't know, don't click on it; the same goes for emails from unknown senders.
- Don't assume the person you're talking with is who they say they are.
- Don't pretend to be someone you aren't.
- Don't agree to send anyone money or do something in exchange for money unless you've talked about this with your parents.
These basics can then be expanded upon as your child becomes more involved in online activities like gaming or joining a social network.
The two biggest concerns with information security—which you can maintain by not revealing your full names, dates of birth, or any other information you don't want in public view—are phishing scams and password theft.
"Phishing" is the broad term for when a scammer contacts you via a digital platform and attempts to elicit personal information from you either by having you respond to an email or by making you click on a link that can provide the scammer with access to your device. While these attempts are sometimes clumsy and easy to spot due to poor grammar or offers that seem too good to be true, many scammers are now opting for more subtle techniques. For example, they might send a text or email pretending to be a package delivery company and ask you to click a link to track a package.
When you get one of these phishing attempts, you can help your kids build their own internet safety awareness by walking them through how you deduced it was a scam.
Passwords can be tough to manage, even for adults. They need to be strong but memorable, and because security experts recommend using different passwords for different online accounts, you could have dozens of complex passwords that need to be memorized or kept in an encrypted location. Teach children to use phrases that only they would think of, along with special characters and numbers that are not linked to their birth date, phone number, or home address.
Cyberbullying is any bullying behavior that's carried out online. Sadly, kids will almost inevitably encounter cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can take many forms across many platforms. It could manifest as coordinated harassment through online accounts, photoshopped text exchanges posted publicly, or videos taken and posted online without the victim's consent.
If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying, do an audit of their online presence. Check on their social media accounts, lock the accounts down if necessary, and help them block any bullies. You may be able to submit takedown notices to apps on the basis of copyright or children's privacy laws if there are images involved.
One way to prevent cyberbullying is to cultivate a sense of empathy in your children. It can be easy to view what happens online as "not real," but reminding your kids that there are real people behind screen names and that cyberbullying has real-world consequences can help stop bullying before it starts.
Keep a dialogue going
Internet safety can be a moving target. There will always be a new app, a new game, or a new way of connecting with people your children may or may not know. What's most important is communicating your values to your kids and ensuring that they know the line of communication is open in both directions. Kids that know they can ask you questions about anything they run into on the internet are less likely to fall victim to scams or grooming and more likely to speak up about cyberbullying.
It's simply not feasible to keep your kids totally offline these days. Your household needs the internet to run, and that internet needs to be working smoothly at all times. Ting Internet offers fast, reliable fiber internet and whole-home Wi-Fi that allows multiple users streaming at once.