It is no secret that children are curious. In fact, even as infants, they tend to act on natural instincts of curiosity when exploring new things. In the spirit of discovery, the curiosity doesn’t end there. As children grow into pre-teens and teenagers, they’re more exposed to an abundance of unfiltered technology that can act as a new world for them to explore. From laptops to smart phones, the ways in which children can be exposed to both positive and negative online experiences are countless.
In order to protect your child or other children in your life, it’s important to make sure they’re mindful of some basic Internet safety tips. As parents, guardians, and role models for children, taking the necessary steps to educate youth about Internet safety and Internet etiquette should be a priority. If you’re unsure about where to start, here are some simple safety tips that you can share with the children in your life:
1. Understand what information is personal, and don’t share it.
Many times, children don’t know that the information they are sharing is too personal. Although they may not think there is harm in sharing information like the school they attend or their phone number with strangers they meet online, this could leave them vulnerable to cybercrimes and even some real-life threats. Not only does the Internet run rampant with cybercriminals and cyberstalkers, who deceive children and use their information to steal their identities, but they can also track their whereabouts and become a physical concern if not careful.
It’s important that children and teenagers know the risks of sharing too much information on public social media platforms, and knowing the dangers of interacting with strangers online. Experts recommend avoiding last name use on public forums when possible, as well as school names, hints at future locations, current locations, phone numbers, and email and physical addresses.
2. Always check privacy settings on smart phones and other devices.
Tech-savvy cyberstalkers and criminals know that, sometimes, all it takes is an exposed location to track someone’s physical whereabouts. It can be as easy as tagging a location on a public Instagram post, or enabling location settings for Snapchat friends to see exact locations minute-by-minute. Keeping track of your child’s privacy settings for each downloaded app, and making sure location settings are disabled and profiles are set to private mode will help to protect their privacy. Although it can be difficult to monitor every activity your child does on his or her phone, getting the basics squared away can help to prevent bigger problems from occurring.
3. Be careful when sending or posting pictures.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and, the truth is, they may be even more telling than one may think. When posting pictures online, children and adults alike may not be paying attention to what is around them. The backgrounds of pictures may be hiding some private information, such as bills with personal details, house fronts, and license plate numbers. This information can be collected overtime for criminals to use however they wish. Make sure your child takes time to look through their photos before posting them, as it could protect them in the long-run.