The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Your Kids Online
Times have certainly changed. Protecting your kids has become more challenging than ever. You need to keep them safe from outside dangers, as well as the dangers online. From child predators to viruses, children and families are vulnerable.
What can you do as parents these days? Forbid the internet entirely? This is just not possible, since we are raising our families in the age of digital everything, but it is still vital to ensure your kids are safe online.
Dangers online are around every click, and the urge to protect your children from the internet may be overbearing. The most important thing we can all do as parents is to educate our children about the dangers that do exist online.
Flaws Behind the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
In 1998, legislation approached the issue of child safety online with the passing of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In theory, it was a step forward to keep kids safe from unfavorable content online.
For all of COPPA’s good intentions, it had flaws as well. The parental control and regulations for website owners was aimed at protecting children under 13. One of these protection measures was to have age verification for sites with adult content.
Great right? Well, kids are pretty smart, and they figured out that if they wanted to access any site with an age verification, they simply just need to click the box stating they were of the appropriate age.
The measures to protect children may have made accessing adult content sites even more appealing. COPPA was met with a lot of criticism. The overall goal fell short, since the act was more focused on punishing site owners, rather than protecting our children.
How Big of an Issue is Protecting Kids Online?
If you think that protecting kids online is not an issue, just do a few obscure Google searches and you will immediately be ready to unplug your internet connection. Sure, as adults, we know a fake ad popup when we see it. We know that adult content sites are for adults only.
Kids on the other hand do not. Even if they did, if they are not properly educated about the dangers waiting online, they will certainly be curious what is behind those URLs.
Here are a few important statistics about online safety . . .
- Over 40 percent of kids say they have seen porn online.
- One in 16 children have been exposed to hardcore pornography online.
- One in 12 kids have engaged in sexual discussion, or shared sexual content online.
- One in 25 have sent graphic photos to someone.
- 25 percent of kids pretend to be adults to open an online account.
- One in 20 kids have made plans to meet a stranger from an online conversation.
- 30 percent of parents allow their kids to browse online with little to no supervision.
- 13 percent of second and third graders said they chatted with a stranger online.
- 11 percent of kids know how to turn off parental controls.
These statistics are certainly frightening for any parent. The increase in smartphone use is also making it more challenging for parents to supervise their child’s online time.
In fact, 45 percent of kids get their first smartphone between the ages of 10 and 12, according to a Nielsen study. The study also found that 72 percent of children with smartphones have full access to messenger apps, voice, and data.
Is 10 years old too early for mobile freedom? Many parents may not think so. Most parents actually give their kids smartphones to make it easier to contact them.
If you factor in mobile screen time, tablet use, and laptop use when at home, and your child may be spending up to eight hours per day online.
What can you do? The most valuable takeaway for any parent is to protect children online. However, attempting to protect them from all dangers online could prove challenging, if not impossible.
Parents should also not rely on mobile manufacturers to do the parenting for them. According to the Nielsen study, 55 percent of children want better safety features on smartphones.
Surprisingly, only 18 percent of parents want more information and tips on how to actually protect their children from online dangers.
What’s the best option? Well, there should certainly be some accountability from websites and digital product manufacturers. But the ultimate protection will come from you, the parent.
It is vital to begin educating children on the dangers lurking online as young as possible. Teach them what is good, and what is bad, just like you would for non-digital related dangers.
Here are the most essential elements to protecting your kids online.
To Protect Kids Online, You Need to Think Like One
Fully understanding how your kids spend their time online is the first step in ensuring your kid uses the internet in a safe way. If your child is texting up a storm from breakfast to dinner, you know that is one important area to focus on.
In fact, kids spend 81 percent of their time texting. This is followed by app use at 59 percent, which is cause for concern since 42 percent of apps do not encrypt the data they send to third parties.
Parents need to cover all potential routes of danger, but focusing on the things your kids do the most should take priority. For most kids, social media is number one.
Get More Social with Your Kids Online
Chances are, your child has a social media account or two, and uses it daily. This means that being part of your kid’s social media network is absolutely important.
According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of teens have more than one social account with Facebook being the most active.
Parents may be reluctant to send a friend request to their kids. This has led to stalking kids via fake profiles. This is not the way to approach this. You should be open with your kids about your intentions, keeping the trust in your relationship healthy.
In fact, 40 percent of kids said they stop their online activity if they know a parent is watching.
Educating kids about privacy and security online is certainly important. Being connected to your child’s social network can also impact how they act, and what they post online as well.
Did you know that 16 percent of teens have a hidden email address or social media account?
You may not see every private message, but through education and trust, you can have a little peace of mind that they are following safe practices when communicating with friends via social media.
Teach Kids About Suspicious Websites
Adults are still as vulnerable as kids when it comes to online safety. There are a number of websites that will mine for data while you answer the questions of an online quiz.
Your data is often pulled from your social media account if you are logged in simultaneously, or if you offer up your Facebook profile as login information.
If this can happen to adults, than it can easily happen to kids. How do you prevent these data mining intrusions? Educate yourself, and your child about the dangers of logging into suspicious websites.
Take an hour or two and discuss what suspicious websites look like, what they attempt to access, and how they can be very dangerous for the entire family’s secure data.
A Search RPM study found that 17 percent of kids have their Facebook information set to private.
Caution kids about logging into sites using social accounts, since this is a known danger that exposes your child’s personal information. This makes privacy settings a valuable partner in protecting your kids online.
Make Privacy Settings a Priority
It has become essential to protect your family’s information on the internet. Do you use Google? You probably do, and guess what, they are collecting your browsing data and information.
If the largest search engine in the world is collecting your data, than you can be sure they are not the only site online doing so. How can you keep you and your child’s personal information safe in the digital era?
The answer is to first educate your child on the dangers lurking online. Then it is important that you make privacy settings a priority.
The apps and social accounts kids have are pretty customizable. You can easily set some key privacy settings to ensure your child is as safe as possible while using the internet. But do not try to be sly about it. Kids are smart, and they probably know more about the inner workings of a smartphone than you.
You should do it together, ensuring they know your intentions as a parent, and their responsibility of leaving the privacy settings to stay safe.
Let’s take an in-depth look at what privacy settings to adjust, and how to adjust them.
1. Facebook Privacy Settings
Protecting your kids online means keeping their personal information offline. The use of social media has made this a very challenging task for parents. One of the biggest social media platforms, Facebook, should be your first stop when it comes to adjusting your child’s social media privacy settings.
Did you know that 82 percent of online predators use social media to get personal information? In fact, 65 percent of sex offenders use the social media sites of their victims to find personal information, like home address and school location.
These frightening statistics are a clear call to action for parents to make their kid’s social media information private. Again it is important to explain and educate your kids about why you are adjusting their privacy settings.
Here’s how to do it on Facebook . . .
First you will need to access the Facebook page’s “Settings” and navigate to “Privacy.”
Next, click the “Privacy” tab on the left side of the screen . . .
The top selection to edit will be “Who can see my stuff?” Click “Edit” to the right . . .
You will see that this has been set to “Public” and this is not ideal. Often times this is the default setting used when someone creates a new Facebook page. You will want to change it to “Friends” or “Specific Friends” depending on what you and your child decide together.
Next, you will do the same for the following sections, setting them to the appropriate safe options you and your child agree on . . .
Keeping your kids safe online is all about teamwork. Remember to explain to your kids the reasons why you are putting these privacy settings in place. Protecting your kids from the dangers that lurk on the internet is all about sharing the “Why.”
2. Facebook App Permissions
Facebook has a lot of options when it comes to personalizing an account. Kids often connect and sign up to a variety of apps using their Facebook account. Unfortunately, these apps are often forgotten over time, and parents should make sure check them out and remove these app permissions.
First, you’ll need to access the apps section of your child’s Facebook account . . .
You will see apps that have access to your child’s Facebook information here . . .
Check out what apps are there and remove all the permissions to ones that are older, and the ones you and your child decide are “not important” together.
3. Setting Up Facebook Security
To check and remove unfamiliar devices logged into your child’s Facebook account go to the “Security and Login” tab on the left of the “Settings Page” and examine “Where You’re Logged In.”
You can edit login options in this area of Facebook as well . . .
You and your child can also set up extra security measures here too. You can set up alerts if there is any suspicious logins, set up two-step verification, select friends as contacts if a Facebook account is locked, and examine advanced security options, like encrypted emails.
Since time on Facebook makes up 71 percent of all social media activity for teens, it is vital to put the above security options in place. This is a great first step to protecting your kid online when it comes to social media. However, ensure you and your child have an agreed plan for these privacy and security settings for maximum effectiveness.
4. Instagram Privacy Settings
Instagram is another highly trafficked site among kids. It is all about posting what users are doing, feeling, and let’s not forget the selfies. This makes Instagram another vital social media platform parents need to adjust privacy settings for.
Here’s how you and your child can make Instagram use safer . . .
To access your child’s Instagram account options, tap the three little dots in the upper right hand corner. This will bring up the “Options” screen.
The options Instagram provides is somewhat similar to that of other social platforms, like Facebook. However, this social app doesn’t give much information in the way of data. It is more about who sees the photos your child posts.
Some privacy settings you can adjust include two-factor authentication, blocked users, and setting your child’s account to private.
One of the best Instagram safety settings you can adjust for your child is to set the account to private. Tap the toggle to the right of “Private Account” to make this happen.
Instagram is the second biggest social platform for teens, second to Facebook, so having a discussion about proper Instagram use is essential for keeping your kids safe online.
5. Snapchat Privacy Settings
Did you know that 41 percent of teens use Snapchat? It is the third most popular social app, and you kids may be already posting. Parents should certainly take an interest in Snapchat.
Here’s a quick way to adjust Snapchat privacy settings . . .
First, tap the little gear icon in the upper right hand corner once inside the app.
This will bring up your child’s Snapchat settings. Next, scroll down to the “WHO CAN . . .” section.
Here you can adjust who can contact your child, as well as see their information, or “Story.” To protect kids from online predators, setting these to “My Friends” instead of “Everyone” is vital.
Many adults don’t necessarily use the Snapchat app, but it is important to sign up for an account if your kids have one. Remember, that in order to keep kids safe online, it is about trust and educating them on the potential dangers. Create an account in your name, and ask your child to add you.
6. Twitter Privacy Settings
Twitter is another social account that does not ask for a whole lot of information about its users. However, what can be shared on Twitter could put the kids at risk. To ensure your kids are using Twitter in a safe way, discuss the potential dangers of Tweeting personal information, as well as adjusting Twitter privacy settings.
Here’s how you can do just that . . .
First you will need to access the “Settings and Privacy” section of your child’s Twitter account by clicking on their profile picture in the upper right hand corner while logged in.
Next, you will click “Privacy and Safety” on the left side.
You will want to run through the various options with your child to ensure that everyone agrees on the safety guidelines for using Twitter. Remember, it is all about teamwork when protecting kids from dangers online.
Adding Parental Controls to Family Browsing
Adding and setting parental controls on smartphones and web browsers is another tactic to keep kids safe online. For younger children, parental controls are ideal, since they may not be able to fully comprehend the internet dangers you may discuss with them.
From personal details to filtering out adult only content, adding and setting parental controls is essential. The following are a few things you can do.
1. Android Parental Controls
If you are sharing your Android smartphone with your child, which may be the case for younger children, you can set a few parental controls. There are not a lot of restrictions you can set via Android, but creating a separate user account for kids has some online safety benefits.
For instance, setting up different unlock codes. You will have your unlock code, and you can give your child their own unlock code that will take them to a profile with some app and browsing restrictions.
2. iOS Parental Controls
Setting iOS parental controls is a bit more in-depth for iPhones and iPads. These parental controls, or restrictions can be set within the device in a few easy steps.
Here’s how . . .
First, tap settings on the Home screen and scroll down to the “General” tab.
Next, scroll down and tap “Restrictions” if they are off.
Now you can enable restrictions and choose which apps your child can access.
3. Mac Parental Controls
Mac browsers are certainly one of the easiest to adjust when it comes to parental controls. If the whole family shares a computer, or if your child has their own laptop, it is vital to set some parental parameters and guidelines for internet use.
To get started, click on the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen. The “System Preferences” box will pop up.
You will see “Parental Controls” readily available. Click and continue.
Click the lock in the bottom left corner to make adjustments.
Here you can set restrictions for apps, web, people, and even set time limits for use.
Protecting Kids from Online Identity Theft
Kids often find themselves in places they shouldn’t be online. It is important to discuss the dangers that lurk online, but let’s face it, kids are just naturally curious. This makes protecting their identity vital, because not all dangers are online child predators.
How do you do that? If your child is old enough, explain the prevalence for online identity theft, and how it can be very problematic to their future. The next step is doing an annual credit check.
You can often get at least one free credit check per year. This allows you to see if there is any activity on your kid’s credit report, which there shouldn’t be. You can also invest in identity theft software or services to further your efforts in protecting your kids online.
Monitoring the entire family’s credit, bank accounts, and other financial statements is essential in the digital age.
Teach Your Kids to Browse Anonymously
One of the advantages parents have today is the multiple advances in online protection. There are a few tactics you can teach kids to assist them in browsing anonymously.
Here are a few to keep in mind . . .
- Giving false personal information when signing up to sites and apps, including last name, birth date, home address, and phone number. The lesson of honesty here can be blurred, but it is better than having your child’s personal information online for all to see.
- Use Ad Blockers while browsing. Ad blockers have become the norm, and they should be used when your child, or any family member is browsing the internet.
- Use “Incognito” mode or other web browsers other than Google. Google is collecting data and information every time you use the browser. You can browse anonymously via “Incognito” mode, or simply stop using Google all together. For example, other search engines that may protect your kids online are DuckDuckGo and StartPage.
Employ These Methods and Protect Your Kids Online
It is certainly challenging to keep your kids safe from all online dangers. However, these tips and tactics are a big step in the right direction for any parent. You can also pair these tips and tactics with a third party online protection service like TeenSafe.
One of the most impactful things you can do to protect your kids online is to open up the lines of communication. Being transparent about online dangers and developing a plan together will ensure success.
You can set up as many parental controls and adjust all the privacy settings available, but without a collaborative effort between you and your child, those settings will be changed. Be proactive and build trust when it comes to online safety. The rest will fall into place.