Protecting Your Kids Online
As the internet plays an increasingly important role in everyone’s life – including children – the positives that it brings must be balanced with consideration to potential threats.
Primary school-aged children may know the internet as a place of printable templates to colour in, cat videos, and games. What they don’t know is anything about online privacy, social networking etiquette, sexual predators, phishing scams and viruses.
Threats to children online
Unfortunately, children may encounter sexual solicitations or offensive material online, or a range of threats and harassment.
For younger children, this can be confusing, and may result in them unwittingly engaging with predators. Although relatively uncommon, some adults create fake profiles that claim to be the same age as a child, and may eventually attempt to meet with the child in real life.
Email can also expose to predators or inappropriate material, such as via spam email with links to X-rated websites.
Online threats can also include viruses, exposure to racism or hatred, violent images or videos, or personal attacks by ‘trolls’.
Internet safety tips for your family
Exposure to these threats can be prevented in a large part by prevention. Start discussing online safety at an early age. When they’re still using the computer with you rather than independently, educate your children how to spot scams, fake profiles, and anything that seems too good to be true.
- Establish rules in your household about your kids’ internet usage, and what is not acceptable online, e.g. giving out personal information such as home address or phone numbers, or downloading and installing software without permission.
- Supervise their browsing by restricting internet usage to a shared space such as the dining room rather than their bedroom.
- Have conversations about the type of people they may encounter online, and explain some don’t have their best interests at heart.
- Encourage them to talk about who they interact with online. Explain it is okay to ignore or block someone who makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.
- Disable built-in webcams on devices.
- Ensure social networking profiles such as Facebook are set to ‘private’. Connections should be people they know in real life.
- Use monitoring/blocking software to reduce the risk of danger.
- Explain how to create a secure password, why these should be changed regularly, and why they should use a different password for each account.
As your children grow older, (especially as they join social networks), ensure they understand that what is written online is never deleted. What they say online may be copied or shared many times, and may come back to bite them, even later in life when they apply for a job.
Many parents are also concerned with the amount of time teenagers spend online. If you are concerned, lead by example and reduce your own screen time.
To find out more about how to protect your family’s digital lifestyle, visit the Australian Government’s iParent resources.