This article was originally published by Nord VPN (an internet privacy & security service ParentsPlace.ca uses and recommends). More about Nord VPN in point 7 below.
Have you had an internet safety talk with your kid yet? If not, I suggest to have it right away. As children today start using the internet at a very young age, it’s up to you as a parent to help them make the right choices once they get online.
Kids are fast learners, especially when it comes to using Internet-enabled devices, and they continue to engage in online activities even more as they grow. They know that the internet is an awesome place where you can get answers to all the questions, stay connected to your friends and play online games 24/7. Youtube videos, memes, your favorite cartoons and all the fun of social media – the world full of entertainment is one click away.
However, they don’t know anything about malware, cyberbullying, identity thefts, stalking, phishing scams, and many other dangers that lurk online. Therefore, it’s important to introduce them to both sides of the internet – the good and the bad one, and explain to them the importance of safe online behavior.
Online Safety Tips for Kids and Their Parents
If you, like many parents, find it difficult to discuss online privacy and safety with your kid or don’t know what to tell them, these guidelines may help you start a conversation. However, don’t just follow the tips blindly – modify them according to your kids’ age and interests, and also feel free to share your own experience.
#1 Set an Example
The very first advice is actually for all you parents out there – be an example your kid can follow. Ask yourself: is it possible that you tend to overshare on social media or check your phone a little too often? If you want your kid to be careful and responsible online, you should start with yourself.
Also, it’s crucial to know what you are up against. Being informed about the most common Internet scams and the latest threats will get you in a lot more comfortable position to advise your children. If you are new to this, take your time to browse our other articles for cybersecurity news, updates and expert tips.
#2 Start Talking to Your Kid Early and do it Often
If your child already knows how to play a video on YouTube or is able to download a gaming app without your help, they also should learn how to do it safely. Therefore, it’s important to start explaining the basics of privacy and cybersecurity at an early age.
What’s also extremely important from the very beginning, is an open line of communication. Your children must know that if they have any questions or get into trouble—whether it’s cyberstalking, a strange message or a disturbing video—they can (and should) always talk to you.
#3 Explain Why Safe Behavior Matters
Every parent should talk to their children about online privacy – why it matters, how it can be violated, and why it is dangerous to share your personal information on the Internet. Give relatable examples of what personal information is – your address, social insurance/security number, phone number, account credentials, and stress why you can never share this information with strangers. For instance, sharing your family’s vacation pictures on social media is a clear sign nobody’s at home; therefore, bad guys may use this information to rob your house.
When you feel it’s the right time, try introducing your kid to cybersecurity. Tell them about cyber attacks, identity theft, and phishing scams, and explain how hackers attack their victims. Your child should know the risk is real, so they should never open messages from unknown senders, click on links or download applications without asking you first.
#4 Social Media and Messaging
As teenagers spend more and more time on social networks, it is crucial to teach them to be smart about sharing and texting. Here are the main points to emphasize:
- don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know;
- never send your pictures to strangers;
- make sure only your friends can see what you post on Facebook;
- turn on timeline review to check posts you are tagged in before they appear on your Facebook timeline;
- if someone asks you for some personal information, always tell your parents;
- don’t share too much on your profile (e.g., home address, phone number, current location);
- don’t use your social media logins to authorize apps.
An additional tip for parents: watch from a safe distance. Ask your kid to be their friend on social media. This way you will be able to see what people are on their friends’ list, and what content your teen shares or creates.
#5 Create Strong Passwords Together
Passwords – as soon as your kid expresses a wish to have a social media or email account, you should introduce them to password security. You may want to help your kid create a strong, complex and unique password so that no snooper can break into their account.
Creating a new password: Dos and Don’ts:
- Make it long – at least 8 characters;
- A strong password should be a combination of lower-case and capital letters, numbers, and special symbols;
- Never include your personal information (name, birthdate) in your password;
- Also, don’t use the names of your pets, friends or family members;
- The less your password resembles an actual word, the better;
- If you want to use dictionary words, replace some of the letters with numbers or special characters.
How to Keep Your Passwords Secure:
- memorize and never write them down;
- keep passwords a secret (kids love secrets, so this is an easy one!)
- change them regularly;
- don’t use the same password on different accounts.
#6 Manage privacy settings
Most social media, messaging or email services allow their users to manage their privacy settings. Sit together and adjust those settings right away to make sure your kid’s profile is as safe and private as possible. Explain why you are doing this – children should realize that nothing you do online is private, and therefore, it’s important to take certain steps to keep yourself away from prying eyes.
To manage privacy settings on most popular social media services, follow the tips provided in this comprehensive article.
#7 Explain Why Free Public Wi-Fi is Dangerous
You sure love public WiFi; so do teenagers who like hanging out with their friends in shopping malls, coffee shops, and other public places. However, one should know that connecting your phone to a free WiFi hotspot may be extremely dangerous, as usually public networks lack proper protection. So by using them, your kids are putting themselves at risk of being hacked by cybercriminals.
Nevertheless, it would be naive to think that these warnings will always keep children away from public WiFi. So what you could do here, is to get your kid a reliable VPN service. In fact, if you already have our subscription, you can install the NordVPN app on your kids’ iPhone or Android device at no extra cost.
What VPN does, it basically takes your Internet traffic and redirects it through a virtual encrypted tunnel. Robust encryption will make sure no snooper can see what your kid is doing on the Internet, even on unsecured public WiFi. The only thing they need to do to stay protected is open the app and tap the Quick Connect button – NordVPN will take it from there.