Online Safety For Kids: A Parent's Guide To Protecting Children’s Privacy
Do you wonder what dangers our children face online? Do you read news reports about online predators and scammers and want to teach your kids to protect themselves? Looking to gain control over what your child can and can’t view online?
I’m sure you will agree with us when we say protecting children’s privacy online can often be overwhelming.
The internet is constantly changing and new dangers pop up every month. Criminals change tactics frequently and last year’s defenses sometimes just don’t work anymore.
In this guide, we outline some of the issues facing modern parents today and provide step-by-step instructions on how to protect your loved ones.
Is Children’s Cybersecurity and Online Privacy An Issue?
Online safety and security are getting more important each day. Parents need to be vigilant as children become more connected to the Internet.
Many children also use other social media sites such as Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and Kik. With the ever-increasing connectivity of household devices and smartphones, it is safe to say your child is interacting with others on the Internet in one form or another.
Kids are easy targets for scammers and online predators. They are often excellent targets for identity theft. They are clean slates with no blemishes on their credit report. Their details can be stolen yet the theft itself go undetected for years.
It is only when your child becomes old enough to buy a car, rent a home or take out a loan that those details are used. This can become a confusing nightmare for your child at a time when they’re trying to get their life started.
There are many ways children have been tricked into giving their details.
The most common ways include:
- Creating accounts on websites: Social media sites are included in this. Many will sell user details to advertisers looking to do targeted marketing.
- Contests and giveaways: Many contests require a hefty amount of personal information to enter. Many more are merely scams created for just that purpose.
- Email: You are not the only one who can receive spam and junk mail. Kids often get junk mail and, not having as much experience online, are more likely to be susceptible to it. While some emails may be legitimate, the last thing you want is a $1000 bill from a website your children bought something off.
- File sharing sites: Many websites allow children to download free media. What your children might not know is that these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus that allows identity thieves access to your computer.
Due to these threats (and others), the need to secure our children’s privacy and security is getting more important each day.
What Are Governments Doing?
Many governments have programs and have implemented strategies to protect children from hackers, identity theft and predators.
USA: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act requires websites that are directed at children under the age of 13 to get parental consent before the child can access the site.
The law, however, has some major structural deficiencies. Among these:
- Most websites don’t authenticate users’ ages. Those that do can often find it difficult and expensive. Many websites often have no idea when they are dealing with children.
- It is difficult to for websites to reliable obtain parents’ consent online. This forces COPPA-compliant websites to use costly offline verification methods.
As a result, many websites ban kids under the age of 13 because it is easier than trying to comply with COPPA. The issue with this is children can lie about their age online and gain access to these websites.
UK: United Kingdom’s Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS)
The UK has brought together government departments, academia, law enforcement, privacy industry and other groups to collaborate on strategies to ensure child safety on the Internet.
The UKCCIS collects and compares Internet safety research, consults its own consultations, gives advice to industry providers and publishes codes of practice.
It’s most well-known endeavor was the Click Clever, Click Safe program that aimed to spread online privacy awareness amongst British youth.
Australia: Enhancing Online Safety for Children’s Safety Act
The 2015 Enhancing Online Safety for Children’s Safety Act saw the creation of The Children’s Safety Commissioner Office. The key role of the government organization is to promote and enhance the online safety of children and reduce cyberbullying among Australian youth.
The organization creates resources for parents, teachers and indigenous communities to promote proper behavior for specific online safety issues and situations.
Is It Effective?
While governments can try pass laws like COPPA, it can only impact websites based in their country. Governments have little control over what happens outside of their borders, and the international nature of the internet complicates matters.
Governments and government programs have little influence with how the Internet’s self-regulates. Children can still lie about their age, and often do. This means they can easily access content that is not appropriate for their age.
The most effective way to protect your children against danger online is through educating your kids and taking precautions with technology.
How to Teach Kids Online Vigilance
The first step to keeping your children safe and secure online is to teach them how to be vigilant when on the internet.
Below are some useful tips to make sure your kids have good online safety habits.
Start Discussions At An Early Age
The earlier you can teach kids online safety, the better off you and your kids are. You can start off my having your kids use the computer with you. This is a great opportunity to highlight that the online world is in many ways like the real world. There are both safe things and unsafe things.
As they start to get older, you can start to discuss the importance of internet security programs and passwords.
Don’t be afraid to talk about serious issues such as bullying, scammers and pedophiles in the virtual and real world. It’s best to be open about inappropriate content and the existence of bad people.
Backing up the conversation with real examples from school or their group of friends can also help draw a picture for your child. You might want to consider using images and web comics that can help get the point across effectively.
When they are at the age when they start to do things independently, help them to start their first social media or email account and come up with a suitable password.
Again, this a great opportunity to explain the importance of different passwords for different accounts and the consequences if they don’t. This is equally a great time to talk to them about privacy settings and what they mean.
To get started, here is a great educational video you can watch together: