The internet can be a double-edged sword for children and teens. On the one hand it’s an excellent resource for education, research and socialising with friends, but on the other hand it can be fraught with security pitfalls they may not be aware of.
It’s best to sit your children down for a team talk and educate them about the potential dangers present on the internet and how to avoid things like viruses and cyber bullies. Not all kids have cybersecurity experts for parents – some may not even know themselves what constitutes as safe online practices – but here are the basic things you need to know to keep your child safe online.
There are a few elements to staying safe online. Try getting your child to think about their online safety as a team effort – a combination of different tactics that can help them keep them and their information safe.
Think of your password as your goalkeeper – your child is scoring an own-goal by having a weak password. Teach your child to create strong passwords and to have a different password for each account they own. Set up a 2 tier password reset where your email address is the defensive midfielder.
People often have a weak password consisting of a mix of different personal information (e.g. their pet’s name and their birthday). If your child shares this kind of information online then their passwords can be easily cracked.
Help them set something that’s easy to remember, but long – something like the lyrics to an obscure song they like. And of course, stress that they should never give out their passwords, even to their friends.
Keep your privacy settings as high as possible. If your child is using a shared computer, make sure all the correct security precautions are in place:
Teach them to back-up their data regularly. It’s good to keep your data sitting on the bench in case your devices get compromised.
Make sure firewall and any built-in virus scanners are switched on. If your computer doesn’t have any built-in protection software think about installing some. Your service provider probably offers an online protection package.
Opening emails containing spam content is like allowing hackers an open goal. Teach your child to be wary of any unfamiliar emails and not to open any attachments they’re unsure of
Preventing and responding to cyberbullies
Sadly, cyberbullying is not uncommon. 38% of young people have been affected by cyberbullying, but there are ways you can prevent it from happening and address it if it does.
Teach your children that there’s no shame in calling the referee. If your child feels they’re being bullied online – or witnesses it happening to someone else – they need to know that it’s okay to confide in an adult they trust.
Tell your child to keep score of any abusive emails or messages they receive and store them as evidence in case they need it later. They should also note the dates and times they received the messages as well as the user’s ID.
Responding to any provocative messages or passing them on to other users is a definite red card. This may encourage the bully if they get the reaction they want and could make things worse.
Finally, your child should learn that it’s okay to block another user if they feel threatened.
Be careful what you share
73% of young people online have an active profile on a social networking site. Social networking sites can be a minefield for cyberbullying and online threats.
It’s so easy to give away their gameplan by posting all their information away online, but teens should think carefully before publishing personal details, including pictures or videos of themselves.
Educate them about their digital footprint: they need to know that once they put something online (a picture for example) then anyone can see it and download it. Essentially, it’s not theirs anymore and they need to be careful about what they share.
● When they choose a profile picture, teach them to avoid photos that could give strangers clues about where they live.
● Check their privacy settings and ensure only friends can contact them and see their details.
● Teach them about what is and isn’t okay to share online.
● Check their location settings – some sites and apps like Snapchat can share their location with other users.
Your kids might not be thinking about applying for university or jobs yet, but today, social media activity is a checklist item for many recruiters. Creating awareness around this issue early can save them embarrassment later on in life.
Be careful who they talk to
The internet is such a big part of our lives now that it’s almost impossible to keep children – especially teenagers – from talking to people online. The most practical advice is to monitor your children’s behaviour and make them feel like they can talk to you about people they have met online. 29% of teens have been stalked or contacted by someone they don’t know on Facebook.
In an ideal world, if somebody your child doesn’t know adds them as a friend, they would ignore them and delete their request. Encourage this behaviour, but also teach your child not to share personal information (like their address or phone number) with somebody they don’t know.
Most importantly, you should stress to your child that they should not meet up with people they have met on the internet. Remember that not everyone online is who they say they are. Create an environment where they can talk to you if they’re worried about anything related to their online life.
Teach your child that if they see something online that makes them feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried they should leave the website, turn off your device if you want to and be sure to tell a trusted adult right away.
You can’t expect your child to be a one-man team when it comes to staying safe online. Let them know that they can talk to you about staying safe, and that it’s always okay to talk to you if they’re worried about these online issues.
The most important thing is to make sure you have an overarching code of online conduct for your child: they need to know that if they’re about to do something online and wouldn’t be comfortable if mum or dad knew about it, then they shouldn’t do it, and if they’re not sure they should ask.
ITSB is an official partner of the AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust (CST) and sponsors the Connect With Care initiative to educate pupils on the potential dangers of the internet when using their computers, smart phones or tablets. To find out more information about the scheme visit Connect with Care
If you are a school and would like to book a session then please visit – AFCB Bournemouth Community Team
ITSB are the fastest growing tech business in Dorset. We support Technology Services for schools and businesses. To find out more about how we can support your school or business please visit our website IT Support Business