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Help Keep Your Children Safe Online
The Children’s Internet Usage Study conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education discovered that 30 percent of children ages 8-14 use the internet in a way they know their parents would not approve. That’s alarming. Luckily, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is an ideal opportunity for parents to set aside time to teach their children good digital habits to keep them safe online.
Today’s children have grown up with the internet. However, many parents lack the technical confidence to address cyber topics or underestimate the level of danger in today’s digital world. The below tips offer a good starting point to help parents protect their children online.
The first step to help keeping your kids safe online is to understand what is available for them to access. Following are some of the top activities that many kids are doing online, perhaps without your knowledge.
Social Media and Web Apps
Starting with what likely is the most well-known category to many parents, social media and web applications are extremely popular with children. Here is a small sampling of the big ones in use today:
While the above list is just a small number of the top applications children know and use. There many more obscure ones, and new ones are popping up daily.
SAFETY TIP: It’s important for parents to be familiar with what applications are out there and actually understand how to use them. Do your own research, talk with other parents about what their kids are using and create your own accounts. “Follow” or “friend” all your children’s online accounts. If they don’t include you in their circle, make it clear to them they don’t get to use that application. This allows you to monitor the type of content they post online, and maybe more importantly, with whom they are interacting.
In addition to applications, chatrooms are as popular as ever with kids. With names like these, they are easy to find:
Many chatrooms don’t require any type of formal registration. Just enter a name, click a few links and anyone—including your children—can start chatting one-on-one or in a group thread. These chatrooms are rarely moderated and frequently include video webcam functionality. One of the main features that draws people to chatrooms is that they allow participants to be anonymous. Anonymity encourages participants to say whatever they want and pretend to be whoever they wish.
SAFETY TIP: Parents need to broaden their “stranger-danger” lessons with children to include online strangers. Children should be instructed to never give out personal information like cell phone numbers or home addresses, and NEVER agree to meet a digital friend in person.
Today’s video games look nothing like the “old-school” ones many parents might remember. Most adults do not realize that predators and bullies now can target their children through computer games. These games frequently include live chatting and the ability to make in-game purchases regardless if they are played with a computer, mobile device or gaming console system.
SAFETY TIP: Be aware that teen and adult games can include disturbing subject matter such as graphic violence and nudity. Therefore, become familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system used to rate games in much the same way that movies are rated. It is not just the games targeting older audiences that need to be considered. Games designed for children can include chatting functionality and in-game purchases so you need to be vigilant with all of the games being played by your children.
Take advantage of the heightened attention during National Cyber Security Awareness Month to learn about digital threats and ways to keep your kids safe online. Research other technical tips around setting strong passwords, installing security software and recognizing social engineering attacks. Encourage your school to hold cyber security awareness events. Security organizations like the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) have chapters across the country with members who are experienced with these topics. Communication is the key to keeping your children safe online. Warn them about the dangers. Stress that anything they share online will stay online forever. Teach them good digital security and privacy habits. Lastly, don’t wait until next October to talk again to your children about cyber security. Make it a regular part of your family life.
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