Childhood has changed completely over the years. We previously taught our children some basic manners such as washing hands before eating or looking both ways before crossing the street. However, with the rise of technology, we have to explain the digital world and protect them from it.
Children today are growing up with technology and are connected to the Internet since the day they were born. They start using tech devices even before the age of 5. Anyone who has seen a child browsing YouTube videos understands how easy and naturally it’s easy for kids to use smart devices. When it comes to teenagers, all of them own a smartphone.
Even though we may sometimes wish to ditch our phones and other smart devices, we have to accept the challenges we face today and protect our children from the technological world that is constantly evolving. So, how can you protect your children in a digital world?
Teach them about privacy
First, you need to learn the online privacy terms such as malware, cybersecurity, phishing, VPN. Even if you think you know these terms, do a quick search to make sure you are up to date and then teach your kids about these privacy terms as well. They should be also taught to never share their full name, address, or phone number online.
Talk about strangers on the Internet
Children are probably aware they shouldn’t talk to strangers on the street, but what happens when they go online? Some children may think there is no harm in talking to a stranger on the Internet. It’s your job as a parent to explain to them why it’s not a good idea for them to become friends with strangers online and the ways a stranger can contact them (through direct messages, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc). Also, develop a plan for what your child can do if that happens.
Even though sending explicit images is a part of the adults’ dating life, it’s not a good idea to be a part of teen’s life. If your teenager starts dating, it’s important to talk about private and explicit images. When teens send these kinds of pictures, they don’t usually think about the consequences and how the pictures can be used against them. It’s your job to make sure your children know:
Privacy settings on social media
If your children have social media accounts, you should talk to them about their privacy settings and explain why it's a good idea to keep access to their accounts restricted - and talk a little about what can happen if they don't. This is a good opportunity to review your own privacy settings, too, and set an example of good online privacy practices.
Sharing pictures and information online
Talk to your children about what kind of pictures and information they share online. Tell them what you think is okay and not okay for them to share on the Internet and why. For instance, it’s okay for children to use their full name, but it’s not if they share their locations constantly. Even though you need to know where your children are at all times, that doesn’t mean all of their friends and followers on social media should know too.
Also, parents should teach their children that private messages aren’t always private and they should consider what they share in this kind of messages with their friends.
Talk about strong passwords
Teach your children to use strong and unique passwords for each account, including YouTube, email, social media, etc. Even though it’s easier to use the same password for multiple accounts, it’s also the worst thing that someone can do to their privacy. When creating a password, make sure to use a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and special symbols. You will create a password that will be hard to guess.
Also, there are password managers that will help you store all your passwords. This way you will have to remember only one master password. You can generate strong and unique passwords with these programs as well.
Teach your children about data tracking
Many companies make money by collecting your personal data and selling it to third parties. Users decide how much information they are willing to give away in return for free services. However, this doesn't necessarily mean users can choose what to share. It means they can only choose not to use a service.
When it comes to your children, it’s important to teach them about data tracking early so they can make decisions in a more informed way. It’s important for them to know there are tools they can use such as VPN’s, encryption, anti-virus software programs, and ad blockers as a way of data tracking prevention.
Teach your children about vulnerabilities of free Wi-Fi networks
Free public Wi-Fi networks may sound harmless, but it’s actually extremely vulnerable to cyber criminals. Connecting to this kind of network makes the device vulnerable as well. That’s the main reason why you should teach your children to never enter any sensitive data such as credit card numbers through free Wi-Fi.
Explain phishing attacks
In phishing attacks, cyber criminals trick people, even children into sharing personal information such as addresses, social security numbers, etc. You may think nobody can fool you with these scams, but as technology advances, cybercriminal attacks are evolving as well. First, educate yourself about phishing scams, then teach your children how to protect themselves.
Set an example
Children tend to copy whatever their parents do. Same applies with technology. If your children see that you share their pictures of them without permission, they would do the same. Or if you spend an excessive amount of time online, they would also want to do the same. As a parent, you should think about what kind of an example you are to your children. Instead of spending time online, teach your children about online privacy and make sure they know they can protect them online.
When parents think of an improvement, that can easily turn into a teachable moment with their children. They'll see that parents are serious about online privacy and it will reinforce the lessons you've been teaching them.
Install anti-virus programs on all devices
Even though this list is full of things to teach your children about actions they can take for online safety, there are actions that parents can take behind the scenes as well. For instance, install an antivirus program on all your devices and make sure to keep it up to date! Your children or even you may click on sketchy links as we are, so that’s why it’s important to protect all your devices. It's better safe than sorry!