If you’re a parent, keeping your children safe online is becoming a mammoth task. They’re accessing all sorts of things online via a multitude of means, from tablets and smartphones, to YouTube and Snapchat, they’re certainly growing up in a world that is totally different to the one we did! It’s second nature to them though, so there’s no escaping it, we just need to know how to protect them. But how do we do that in the ever changing online universe?
Social media is far and away the cause of most issues for young people online today. How old do they have to be to have an account? What pictures are OK to post? Should you monitor them, and how do you do this without intruding on their privacy? Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have a minimum age limit of 13 years, so anyone younger than that can have their account deactivated by the network.
Many kids don’t realize the consequences that come with using social media. They tend to underestimate how easily accessible their information is, and can forget that others are watching their online activity. You should also talk to your children about both the dangers and consequences of social media. Many parents forget to talk to children about how posting can affect their future, make them aware of cyber bullying and even how potential employers often look at candidates social media accounts before they call them in for an interview. Careless posts and comments can have a lasting impact on them, so make sure to tell them that they can come to you with any questions or for help.
Children are using a wide range of devices to access the internet, such as tablet, laptop, or smart phone, at a younger age than ever before. This exposes them to the possibility of being cyber bullied, so it’s more important than ever to educate them about it. As with offline bullying, it’s essential that children know they should always speak to someone they feel safe with if they become a victim of bullying. Cyber bullying can often start out as a bit of fun or ‘banter’ between children but quickly become a campaign of threats and photos which have been edited, or inappropriate. You may not want to consider the fact that your child may well be a perpetrator of cyber bullying, rather than a victim. If they make a unkind or inappropriate comment on a post or photo on someone else’s social media account, that is cyber bullying. Making your child aware of this and getting them to think about how they would feel if it happened to them is a good way to help prevent them becoming a cyber bully, as well as helping them to spot when it’s happening to them.
Malware attacks have been in the news this year having caused havoc for millions of users. Many of us are guilty of not keeping our computers and internet safe, so we’re only teaching our children bad habits. You teach your children to look both ways before they cross the road, and now you also need to teach them to check and think before they click!
Here are some tips for preventing a malware invasion:
1. Use a unique password that you’ll remember but isn’t easy to work out, then change it every 6-8 weeks. Don’t share them with anyone!
2. When your system tells you it needs to update, do it as soon as possible. This is usually because there is a vulnerability that needs to be fixed, so the longer you leave the update the longer you will be vulnerable.
3. When making purchases online, check that the website is using an SSL (Security Socket Layer) which a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client, You will know if there is an SSL in place by checking to see if there is a padlock symbol before the URL starts.
Grooming and Exploitation
It’s a sad fact that social media platforms have become a source for the grooming of children. The main rule for safeguarding your children from this is to tell them that, as in real life, do not talk to strangers. Do not accept friend requests, or respond to messages or emails from people you don’t know. Then report any such contacts to your parents, a teacher, or someone else they feel they can talk to. It’s also worth being aware of strange messages or requests to meet up from their friends, because accounts can be hacked, so this should also be reported. Children are trusting by nature, so talk to them about the importance of not trusting or believing everything they see on social media. Everything new or unusual should be questioned and verified where possible.
You can find out more about how to keep your children safe online on the NSPCC website.