The internet has become the most popular and the most vulnerable place “to be.” As an IT service provider, we see all too often how intelligent adults can be made into victims of identity theft, ransomware, and other malicious cyberattacks. It’s important all of us are educated on how to safely navigate the internet. Children are becoming more curious about what information is available to them. By providing students iPads, tablets, laptops, and computers, sometimes starting in preschool, access to the internet is easier than ever.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends limiting children’s screen time. You can learn more here. It is also recommended that parents and caregivers sit with their children to help explain, answer any questions, and monitor what they are viewing. To make everyone’s computer and internet experience more transparent, set up the family computer in a common space. Model the behavior by using it in front of anyone and offer your children to sit with you while you use the web.
Here are some additional tips by age on how to keep kids safe.
Preschool Age – 2 to 4 years old
At this age kids will accept any media content at face value, which could be frightened by images or videos whether real or fictional. This is an appropriate time to teach children basic computer skills through age-appropriate games and educational programs. Some recommended programs include Sesame Workshop and PBS.
Elementary School Age – 5 to 10 years old
Most children at this age can use mobile devices, tablets, or computers. Some may even know how to play computer games. The internet is just a click away from any game or application, which should also raise a red flag to parents and caregivers. Many cyber criminals attack vulnerable users, including children. It’s easy for these criminals to add malicious links in media ads.
There are kid-friendly search engines, or “walled gardens,” that also have parental controls. Here are a few:
Be aware of what your child(ren) are using the internet for. Ask questions about their online friends and activities, just as you would about their other activities. Make sure they are comfortable with coming to you when they have questions about email, chat, message boards, profiles, forms, and online contests. Google has created a site, Interland, designed as a game to help kids learn the basics of internet safety. This is a good way to help introduce the dangers of the internet. Play it with them.
Adolescence – 11 to 13 years old
Kids at this age are heavily influenced by what their friends are doing online. They are also craving independence, so may be less likely to indulge you with what their online activities are. They are using the internet to help them with their homework, communicating with friends and possibly making new friends. This can be a scary time as they become more vulnerable to becoming victims of bullying, sexual predators, and identity theft. Parents or caregivers must be explicit about the dangers of such activity.
- Keep internet-connected computers and mobile devices in a common space and out of their bedrooms.
- Set parental controls, use filtering and monitoring tools to help but not as a replacement for parental supervision.
- Talk with your kids about the dangers of giving out information to anyone online, if they even think they know them. Some people are not who they claim to be.
- Check browser history regularly to monitor your kids’ online behavior. Use that information to direct conversations about internet safety.
- Social media sites, such as Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, and MySpace have a minimum age requirement of 13-years old. Make sure your children understand those rules were created for a reason.
- Do not allow your children to post pictures or videos without your approval.
- Continue to limit their time online.
Teenagers – 14 to 18 years old
The average teenager craves both group identity and independence. Some kids at this age will push boundaries of safe online behavior by looking for gross humor, gambling and explicit adult sites. They are also more interested in building online relationships and more susceptible to agree to meet their online acquaintances in person. Keep the lines of communication open, talk about ethical behavior, and inform them of the dangers of meeting strangers in person.
Practice What You Preach
Here is a Youth Pledge that was put together by Enough is Enough, a nonprofit founded in 1994 to make the Internet safer for children and families. You can use it as a checklist of internet-related items to talk to your kids about.
These tips don’t only apply to children and young adults. Everyone should be mindful of their online activities, protective of personal and financial information, wary of meeting strangers, and opening/clicking/downloading anything from an email (even if it’s from someone you know). Sharing stories with your kids, family, friends, coworkers, and the community about the dangers of the internet will only help us be smarter and safer.
HOWARD TECH ADVISORS: YOUR PARTNER IN TECH
At Howard Tech Advisors, we manage your IT infrastructure so that you don’t have to. Whether you need assistance planning for new computers, creating a disaster recovery plan or you’d like to outsource your IT needs, we can help! Keep up with our weekly blog to stay up-to-date on the latest tech trends, security information you need to know to stay safe online, and tips and tricks to effectively navigating an increasingly mobile world.