Do you agree that the internet may not be such a friendly place packed with only useful and true information as you imagined? Or, do you believe it’s all fine out there on the digital highway, and no harm can come your way? It doesn’t matter what you believe, though.
It is a fact that there are plenty of dangers lurking in the shadows of the web: malware threats, phishing, social engineering frauds, scams, spying, hacking, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and other cybercrimes.
The most important question is: Do you spend enough time educating and protecting your children against these horrible scenarios?
How To Protect Your Children Online
Since online security and privacy run in our veins as our protective white blood cells, we are eager to share with you what we know about this topic. Join us as we uncover the most likely security issues and how to protect your children online.
Parental Control – The responsibility of using the digital highway securely
Statistics clearly show an alarming rate of annual growth in the use of the internet among young children. You can now see as little as 1-year-old kids who can hardly walk sitting in front of a mobile device and watching a cartoon or whatever makes them occupied and quiet. These devices may have serious psychological and mental effects on growing and developing children. But we are not here to explore that avenue now.
We hope that you agree that there have to be certain parental controls introduced and applied in order to make sure your children are safe to use the internet.
Before we uncover our tips for protecting your children online, let us explain the main possible worst case scenarios. This should make it clear why it is essential to be on top of this situation.
These are the three most likely dangers for a child while using a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer:
1. Exposure to inappropriate videos
Being exposed to violent and inappropriate videos can implant subconscious seeds to develop a kind of misbehavior (e.g., YouTube videos and social media scams). This exposure can derail a child drastically. It’s best to prevent this, instead of trying to do damage control after a period of time. Young children are not ready to deal with certain things like violence as their worldview is just forming. This is why it is vital to protect them against such exposures for as long as possible.
2. Exposure to inappropriate games
What could be even more dangerous or, in certain cases, life-threatening is the exposure to mesmerizing online games and challenges like the Blue Whale and Momo. These games can create an irresistible urge for children to engage. For younger kids, these could be simply scary and they wouldn’t really understand what’s going on. However, for schoolgoers, these can offer a frightening and shocking experience.
Why? Because these games can threaten them to do certain things. If they fail to follow the orders, they are lead to believe that something very bad will happen to their loved ones or friends.
Several suicide cases can be linked to such online games and scams, which is obviously the worst case scenario. Still, a horrifying possibility to protect your children against.
Kids playing all kinds of first-person shooter games with a high level of violence is not any better. The younger they start playing these games is the worse since, again, their worldview is not yet fully developed. This is why they cannot necessarily differentiate between virtual and physical reality.
No, we are not here to spread fear; we are believers of conscious and responsible internet use.
3. Engaging with potentially harmful content
Children may also – even accidentally – click or tap on potentially harmful third-party ads, which may have undesired consequences. Children may not even understand the possible risks involved, such as installing unwanted or dangerous third-party programs. This way, cybercriminals may spy on your kids and steal sensitive information from the online device, including your banking details and social media account information.
How to Protect your Children Online: Parental Controls
Without constant education about the internet world, your children may be too young to understand the possible dangers lurking on the digital highway.
There is no too early age to start educating and informing children about the right online behavior as well as certain risks they might be exposed to while being online using smartphones, tablets, or computers. Showing them a good example of appropriate browsing and basic ethics is really essential. If your children have already reached the stage of being able to differentiate between good and evil or right and wrong, it would make sense to explain them about the internet not only being a place of fun and truth. Young children are usually very easy to mislead or scam. They need to understand that strangers may not be who they claim or appear to be.
2. Content filters and website blocking
The web has been littered with scam pages, misleading content, fake profiles, and all kinds of propaganda. These may be of violent, offensive, and scary nature. Children could developmental or psychological issues if exposed to such pages repeatedly.
Some websites actually offer parental control tools. YouTube, being the largest video streaming center, has a Safety Mode that you can switch on. This mode makes sure that your children will only be able to search and find video content that is appropriate for their age.
Apart from such built-in parental control tools, you can also install filtering and safety applications, such as Chrome Content Filter, Net Nanny, Safe Eyes, Qustodio, and FamilyShield. With these tools, you can block your children to have access to particular domains, websites, or even contents according to your filter settings.
3. Kid-friendly web browsers
Letting your children use the same popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera) that you so often use could result in them accessing your browsing history or automatically opening your social media accounts. If you are not using filtering or blocking tools, there is another way to protect your children from possibly risky content.
Browsers, such as KidRex, Maxthon, and KidSplorer are so-called kid-friendly or child-safe browsers. By installing and using these, your children can only access websites that you whitelist. In other words, you can control what kind of contents your kids can be exposed to.
4. App locking
Children are usually smarter than we give them credit for. They can easily trick you and run applications on your device that you would not want to allow. In this situation, none of the above tips would be of too much help. If your children do not use your online devices because they have their own, they can still download and use apps that could be inappropriate for them.
If you don’t want to go through the cumbersome experience of configuring all apps to have parental controls on, you may want to consider installing so-called app lock software. The good news is that there are free app lock apps you can download and install if you want to try one out before investing your money.
When you use such software, you can lock all inappropriate or risky apps like Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or online banking platforms. These apps are not only risky because of frauds, scams, cyberbullies, and cyberstalkers, but your children may accidentally order or purchase stuff online, post sensitive data or pictures, and so on. Better safer than sorry is the right attitude here, for sure.
5. Safe gaming
Although there are myriads of educational and learning games in online stores, games are one of the possible ways for your children to be exposed to in-game advertising and violence or other inappropriate content. Therefore, it is vital that you have control over what and how long your children can play.
First of all, you can try to control what your children can download from the web. Make sure that you are familiar with the ratings. However, despite all your caution, you may not always be around when your kids are using online devices.
Therefore, as an alternative, you may want to install a kid-friendly browser to ensure that your children can only have access to certain whitelisted websites and games.
Another way to protect your beloved kids is to configure the parental controls of your smart devices. Most smartphones, tablets, and operating systems come with parental controls nowadays. By using these controls, you can block or allow certain games. If you are lucky, you may also be able to configure time limits for individual games, block in-game purchases, and location tracking and sharing.
It is also possible to use a third-party time limiter app like Screen Time, which is also available for Android and iOS.
Although all of these previous ways can help you control what and how much your children can play online or offline, it is still advisable to create a dedicated children’s account on all devices your young ones have access to. That way you would have absolute control over their online or offline activities if you set up the account properly and limit their access to anything inappropriate.
6. Creating a children’s account
Either if your children use your online smart devices or their own, they would be way too free to access data (photos and documents) and use functions or apps they are not supposed to. They may also create technical issues and lock the device or your account or even leak information from it.
In addition to applying all or some of the abovementioned tips, it is best to do all those by creating a children’s account on the devices your kids have access to. All major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android, offer such a feature. Basically, all you need to do is add a new user account that is optimized for family members like children.
7. Installing a VPN for online security and privacy
Unsecured public WiFi hotspots are the most likely targets for cybercriminals like hackers. If your online devices are not protected, such crooks can snoop on the web traffic and even gain access to sensitive information, not to mention the built-in mic and webcam.
To be all “naked” on the digital highway is actually always risky; no matter if you are in a library, airport, café, or at home. Fortunately, there is a way to hide your internet traffic from prying eyes like your ISP (Internet Service Provider), your government, or cybercriminals.
Virtual Private Networking, or VPN, services are the best possible way today to protect your privacy and anonymity. By installing VPN software on your online devices, including your router, smartphone, and computer, you can provide your family the highest possible level of security. Of course, not all that glitters is gold, so you need to do your web search thoroughly by reading reviews and comparisons to find the best VPN for your needs.
As you can see, there’s plenty of risks out there on the digital highway; therefore, it is essential to learn how to protect your children. If you follow up on some or all of these tips above, you do the best you can for your family. Of course, there is no such thing as 100% protection since we are all humans here; so, we tend to make mistakes. Yet, that shouldn’t stop you from doing all you can to know that your children are safe while online.