Protect Kids Online Child Internet Safety And Online Privacy

As parents, you want to ensure your child’s safety online and in real life. Online privacy is not an important issue for most children, so it’s up to you to stay informed about how to protect your kids online.

Like so many other facets of parenting, staying informed about child Internet safety issues is your most powerful tool. It’s absolutely vital that you know what your children are up to online so that you can recognize online privacy threats.

Child Internet Safety and Personal Information

As an adult, you understand that giving out your personal information online is like shouting it out at a crowded bus station for all to hear–something you would never do. Children and teens often lack the perspective and experience to understand this, or to understand why sharing personal information online is a bad idea.

A 2007 study conducted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Cox Communications, Inc. on teens ages 13 to 17 reported the following startling findings:

  • 58 percent of teens report that they believe it’s safe to share personal information online.
  • 47 percent of teens aren’t concerned about others using their personal information in unwanted ways.
  • 45 percent of teens have had someone they don’t know request personal information online, but only 21 percent of teens have told an adult they receive such requests.
  • 30 percent of teens have considered meeting someone they’ve met online.
  • 14 percent have actually done so.

Educating Your Child About Online Privacy

Taking steps to educate your children about the importance of online privacy can protect them from those seeking to exploit them online. Protect your kids online by sharing the following computer safety tips with them:

  • Define what constitutes “personal information.” Personal information includes addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, locations that are more specific than state and last names. Help your child understand why online privacy is important.
  • Forbid online purchases. Never let your child make an online purchase using your credit card. Instead, let him place the order and have you put in your address and card information.
  • Warn against chatting online with strangers. Teach your child to be wary of strangers who ask for personal information. Explain that child predators can pose as peers, subtly gathering personal information over a matter of weeks or months.
  • Warn against meeting online “friends.” Explain to your child that she should never, under any circumstances, meet with someone whom she has only met through online interaction. This is especially true if that person made first contact.

Child Internet Safety and Online Predators

The chances of your child being solicited online, then hurt by a stranger are small. However, the chances of somebody your child knows casually doing the same thing are substantially higher. Although you may not be able to keep tabs on every single person your child interacts with, you can protect kids online by recognizing the signs of an inappropriate online relationship. These include:

  • Phone calls to numbers you don’t know
  • Pornography on your child’s computer
  • Receiving phone calls, mail or gifts from someone you don’t know
  • Spending lots of time online, especially late at night
  • Turning off the computer or switching to a different website when you enter the room
  • Using online accounts that belong to somebody else
  • Withdrawing from family activities.

Spending time with your child is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure child safety online. If you’re active in your child’s life, he’ll be less likely to seek attention and engagement from outside the family.

Child Internet Safety and Cyberbullying

In the information age, bullying can humiliate kids in front of an audience of thousands of people from all over the world. Cyberbullies torment their victims by:

  • Posting pictures of their victims online without the victims’ permission
  • Pretending they are a trusted friend in order to obtain personal information, which they later share with others
  • Sending nasty, threatening or explicit email messages
  • Spreading rumors about their victims online.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council (2007), 43 percent of teens polled have been cyberbullied, many of whom reported feeling angry, hurt, embarrassed and/or scared.

Online bullies do what they do for attention and the victim’s response. Teach your child to ignore or block the bully, or withdraw from social media sites in which she has been bullied. Encourage her to refrain from bullying in return.

If bullying happens repeatedly, you can help your child by recording all incidents and reporting them to the appropriate authorities. School staff is one type of authority, but you can also bring it to the attention of online forum moderators, Internet service provider (ISP) management or your local police department.

Computer Safety Tips to Protect Your Child Online

The best tools in your child Internet safety arsenal are: awareness, understanding and communication. Some practical ways to put these into practice are listed below:

  • Go over your child’s cell phone statement each month. Do this with your child, and use it as an opportunity to teach budgeting and responsibility, while simultaneously getting a better idea of their text and Internet activity.
  • Install Internet filter software on your computer. Internet filter software allows you to block certain objectionable websites and social networking sites, as well as monitor your child’s online activity from your home computer and his mobile device. It’s a good idea to check computer hard drive files as well, to see what your child has stored on your computer.
  • Install good anti-virus software and learn how to use it. Kids and teens are more likely to install privacy-threatening malware accidentally than adults are.
  • Keep the family computer in a high-traffic area. Keep the computer in a central area where anybody can casually see what’s on the screen. Don’t allow kids to have a computer in their bedrooms or take a laptop to a private area.
  • Know your child’s whereabouts. Know where your child goes when not at home, and whom she goes with. This was good advice for your parents, and is important for child Internet safety as well.
  • Talk with your kids frequently. Talk to them with as little judgment as possible. If they feel they can come to you with their problems, they’ll do exactly that if they have trouble online.