The web can be a valuable resource for educational purposes and entertainment, but some people use the internet for more sinister things—and if you’re a parent with young kids this can be unsettling. In this installment of the digital detox series, let’s review online safety as well as some things parents can do to protect their children from the dangers of the internet.
Beware of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place online. This can be classified as a harassing text message, a threatening email, or a slanderous rumor posted on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Also called electronic aggression, internet violence (including cyberbullying) is a serious problem among adolescents—in fact, it affects between nine and 35 percent of young kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cyberbullying is illegal in some states and the consequences can be grounds for criminal sanction. As a parent, it’s a good idea to educate your children about the dangers of internet violence and to establish a set of rules if they encounter a harassing cyberbully. For example, encourage your children to:
- Never respond to cyberbullying with counter threats or harassment
- Kindly tell the cyberbully to stop his or her inappropriate behavior
- Block or “unfriend” the cyberbully and report them to a website administrator if the behavior continues
The Dangers of Identity Theft
The internet is littered with fraudulent scams that capture your attention and, ultimately, your personal information. You’ve probably seen this yourself—a spammy banner ad that promises “a FREE laptop when you sign up today.” Some of these deceptive techniques can be obvious to an informed adult, but they may seem enticing to a young kid.
Identity theft often occurs from downloading malware, or “malicious software.” This can be a computer virus that you accidentally install from a spammy email or harmful spyware obtained from visiting a site on the web. Criminals will use data obtained from malware to steal your personal information, apply for credit, and clean out your bank accounts.
To protect against identity theft, always maintain a “clean computer” with anti-malware software and make sure your passwords are strong (i.e., contain numbers, capital letters, and special characters). Be sure to talk with your kids about identity theft and make sure they don’t open email attachments from an unknown source or visit harmful websites.
Parental Controls for Improved Online Safety
Parental controls work well to add an additional layer of protection to your online security. This easy to install software can be a great way to know for sure where and what your kids are doing online when you’re not around to keep a watchful eye. So how does it work?
Parental control software can filter and block unwanted website content including social media websites and chat programs. They can also record every detail your child makes online including keystrokes, online search queries, and previous web history. Some parental controls can even email you a screenshot of your child’s computer when they’re on the web.
If you’re interested in learning more, TopTenReview has a list of the best parental software on the market.
How to Protect Against Internet Violence
The best thing you can do to protect against internet violence is to inform your kids about online safety. You can also establish a set of rules for surfing the web such scheduling a set time of day when your children can be online (this can be a time when you’re available to supervise their activity) and limiting the sites they can visit on the web.
Here are a few other safe internet practices for the entire family:
- Never give out personal information (telephone number, home address, school name, date of birth, etc.)
- People are not always who they say they are, so be careful about meeting with someone you met on the internet (if you do make sure you meet in public and don’t go alone)
- Don’t believe everything you read— don’t click on a link or open attachments if you don’t know the source
- Don’t give out passwords to strangers and be sure to logout of public computers when you’re finished
- Never give out photos of yourself to strangers on the web