Getting on the internet to research, retrieve information, socialize, make purchases, seek entertainment, and more have become a way of life for us. Moreover, with education going digital these days, our children are spending more time on virtual platforms of the internet. Despite its multiple virtues, the famous author J. K. Rowling rightly points out, “The internet has been a boon and a curse for teenagers.”
The threats of the internet plague users of all ages, but children are particularly vulnerable to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and sexual exploitation and grooming by online predators.
Children nowadays are internet-savvy, perhaps far more than adults are. This makes keeping them safe from digital dangers simultaneously crucial and a difficult proposition. The reason is, children tend to turn rebellious when restricted from doing something. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about the specific risks of careless online exposure.
But, how do you teach them to distinguish right from wrong and identify the red flags of digital threats? The cyber security experts at Samsidh Group of Schools have compiled comprehensive internet safety tips for you to keep your children safe online.
1. Talking to internet strangers is not cool
The internet provides anonymity to all users, including cybercriminals who are adept at tricking children into divulging personal information, login info, schedule and whereabouts details, etc., paving the road for phishing scams, identity thefts, and other grave crimes. Such predators will likely try to strike up a conversation with your child through chat rooms, online comment threads, or even private messages. Make your children aware that ‘friends’ on the internet may not be what they pose to be, and it is not safe to share private information on the internet, even with known friends.
2. Bullies of the virtual space
Bullying is a reality of both real and virtual spaces. As in life, bullies exist to taunt and harass vulnerable individuals, cyberbullies on the internet target users for trolling. Tell your children to talk to you immediately about any action by other users that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Report such acts to the concerned support staff.
Above all, the children must understand that they need not tolerate bullying, and reporting cyberbullies is the best way to tackle such pests. Often, bullying on the internet is an extension of real-life situations, in which case, it will require further intervention on your part.
3. Avoid links from unknown sources
There are countless seemingly harmless websites on the internet, pop-ups with exciting offers or emails with enticing messages prodding to click on a link. Children need to know that visiting such websites, clicking on these links, or downloading files from unreliable sources can invite trouble not only for the device but also for themselves. The lure of free games, music, etc., may be alluring. However, they should always crosscheck with you before attempting any such action.
4. Sharing on the internet
Teach your children to be wary of what they share online. As they say, something that is on the internet is not private. All internet users must remember that once shared on the virtual medium, the information remains on the web until the end of time and is accessible to criminals for causing harm.
5. Privacy settings and parental control
Keep your children away from cyberbullies besides keeping a tab on all online interactions by effectively using parental control functions of your browser. Teach your children how to protect themselves on the internet by using privacy settings. Tell them how by using parental controls you can protect them from potential dangers online. For smaller kids, implement the privacy settings to secure their digital presence. Also, consider installing surveillance software to monitor your child’s online activities, block unsafe links and malware from downloading.
6. Make screen outings time-bound
Internet is addictive. So set a timeline for all online activities. This way, you would not only limit their digital exposure but also prevent health issues from arising out of staring at the screen for long.
7. Browsing in an open area
Ensure that all web browsing is done in your presence or at least in an open area accessible by all family members. By doing so, in case any malicious or inappropriate content appears despite all the parental controls, some adult members will be present to take control of the situation.
Parents are the true best friends a child can have. Hence, they should find you accessible and open to a conversation to discuss any situation they come across on the internet or in life or any question they might have. Talk to them openly about the importance of parental controls, and how you want to keep them safe from the dangers of the web. Moreover, listen to their views and respect their sense of independence too while drawing a line where their security is concerned.