How to Keep Kids Safe Online

By  //  December 3, 2022

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There is no doubt about the fact that kids must be kept safe online. With over five billion people now online, there is no question that most of us realize the internet is a cavernous, seemingly infinite space, which also keeps growing every minute.

This colossal space is, therefore, largely not monitored nor can law enforcement control the entirety of such a realm. Everything from cybercrime, to predators and scams, resides on the internet. What is worse, when it comes to kids, is that billions of young people are online over social media. 

What is more, most kids spend most of their time glued to the internet and to social media talking to their friends and playing multiplayer games together, or congregating on streaming platforms.

The term ‘kids’ also spans several generations that are now online and heavy users of the internet and its platforms. When we say ‘kids’, this means everyone from five years of age to practically sixteen. 

In developed countries like the United States with a population of hundreds of millions, internet penetration has surpassed 90 percent. This means that the internet reaches almost everyone in the entire country.

Internet penetration is also very high in other developed regions like South East Asian countries ranging from South Korea to Japan. When it comes to young people, this means that dangers are always around and targeting young generations.

For these reasons, it is important to understand the online risks for young people and look at several ways to deter and deal with these risks.

What Are the Online Dangers for Kids?

The online dangers for young generations include;

■ Inappropriate or profane content

■ Sexual predators

■ Cyberbullying

■ Cybercrime

■ Mental health issues

These are the main risk categories when it comes to younger folks. However, keep in mind that each of these categories can also affect any generation of any age.

Lots of us are naive and not well-versed in internet safety as well as technology in general. This automatically creates huge risks that can snowball into even bigger problems for the wider community.

For instance, social media is probably the number one danger for the younger ones among us. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Discord, Roblox and many others like the more recent phenomenon called the Metaverse.

In total, billions of young children and young teenagers congregate, share data (even personal data) and more via these giant platforms. Therefore, without the proper awareness and cybersecurity tools at their disposal (particularly without parental controls and parental monitoring) this is a catastrophe waiting to happen for the younger generation, every day.

This means predators can anonymously target children, cybercriminals can try to gain credit card information and cyberbullies can take advantage of them over these platforms in various ways.

In fact, catastrophes have already taken place. Statistics say that 40 percent of kids in grades four to eight reported speaking to strangers online. Unspeakable crimes including sexual exploitation and abuse also take place over the internet.

Criminals taking advantage of anonymity techniques to hide their traces. The dark web is one place where these criminals and predators congregate anonymously. 

Furthermore, cyberbullying (also called cyberharassment) is also a big one that can lead to stress and mental health issues, as is cybercrime and cyber scams which target oblivious children online with phishing scams and the like. Perhaps the most worrying of all is the internet addiction that families have to deal with.

For these reasons, let’s look at some helpful tips below on internet awareness as well as cybersecurity recommendations for kids and families in general.

Awareness and Cybersecurity Recommendations

Here are the fundamental rules of internet safety that everyone should be aware of;

■ Educating yourself

■ Educating your child

■ Staying aware about the various types of cybercrime

■ Employing internet and cybersecurity best practices

■ Giving kids a time limit when it comes to internet use

■ Adjust rules according to the age of the child

■ Utilize parental controls and parental control software

■ Monitor social media closely

It is difficult to be impervious to the dangers of the internet, whether it is predators, malicious software, scams or internet addiction issues in general. What parents can do, however, is apply a few specific everyday fundamentals that will vastly improve online safety for their kids (and themselves).

General awareness is something everyone needs to practice both in theory and in application, whether it be for yourself or your family.

This involves using common sense and assuming that predators, bullies and hackers are out there. Remember, an individual doesn’t have to be of high-value to be bullied, scammed or targeted.

However, here are some more specific and technical online privacy and cybersecurity tips to avoid hackers and scams that you may not already know;

■ Passwords are a big one. Ensure that you use different passwords across each account and each computer. Also ensure that these passwords are not easy for others to crack

■ Ensure that you use network security protocols like firewalls and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that will both encrypt your internet connection and improve your privacy by keeping you anonymous online

■ Ensure that your router is secured with a good password and the highest WPA level possible and that you don’t use suspicious WiFI hotspots

■ Ensure your kids’ devices security and privacy settings are set so that data is backed up, automatic software updates are enabled, and you go check which permissions are given to which app

Remember, there is nothing wrong with letting kids use the internet. The internet is one of our society’s greatest inventions and tools. It would be absurd to stop kids from using the internet, as the internet has become the social norm nowadays and kids would be separated from their community and their friends without it.

Most kids would also have difficulties with education without the internet. Therefore, using the internet with best practices in mind and with a responsible attitude is what you need to practice daily and keep in mind.