Any parent will tell you that there’s never a time when you stop worrying about the safety of your kids. With the Internet an integral part of everyday life, there’s an extra level of stress added to parenting today.
However, if you take active interest in what your children are into, and ensure that they follow some common sense rules, then you should be able to rest at least a tiny bit easier.
From logging into a computer offline to most any online site, kids need to know that strong passwords are an absolute necessity. The first law of passwords is not to use easily guessed things like ‘ABC123’ or ‘password’ (yes, people actually do that), or anything easily associated with the user such as pets’ names. An irrelevant combination of letters and numbers is generally best, as long as it can be remembered. Alternatively, there are several options for online password management programs if you trust them – but, of course, be sure to use a reputable one.
It may be second nature to adults, but kids aren’t always as savvy when guarding personal details. Make sure that they never give out their full name, birthdate, address, phone number, email address or passwords online, unless by secure email or trusted private message. Always make sure that privacy settings, be they on a computer or mobile, are essentially set to “stun”. It isn’t foolproof, but every bit helps.
The critical thing to stress to your kids is that social media is forever. We all said and did dumb things as children, but for the most part they never came back to bite us in the backsides, as they weren’t recorded for posterity. Anything committed to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram or any other social media site will likely be online forever, and it’s common for potential employers to run social media background checks on potential hires – going back to childhood. So, stress that no really dumb stuff, and especially nothing illegal, should be shared online.
With the anonymity that the online world affords, anybody can pretend to be anybody else. It’s a scary and sad fact that chat rooms in online places that attract kids – from games to popstar sites and beyond – can, and often are, infiltrated by adults posing as kids in order to groom them. Really stress to your kids that they should never arrange meet-ups with anybody online that they don’t already know in person.
If it sounds too good…
The Internet is awash with scammers. If we had just a dollar for every offer of a fortune from a Nigerian prince that we’ve received over the years, then we’d likely be able to retire. So, make sure that you drum the old adage into your kids: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true”. Of course, some offers via email or websites can be genuine, but it’s critical to research the source before volunteering any personal information.
If you search hard enough, you can find almost anything online – movies, games, music… But often – if the content is even there at all – they’re on sites specifically designed to infiltrate computers with various forms of viruses that can range from advertising to the more nefarious ransomware, which can lock your computer down completely until a ransom is paid. Make sure your kids know to only ever download anything from reputable online spaces, and secure their computers and phones with the best possible malware and antivirus software that you can afford.