As a parent, your child’s safety is of the utmost importance. This is true both online and offline. Because you can’t be there to monitor your kids’ Internet activity all the time, it’s important to teach your kids about online safety. That way you can trust they’re staying safe without having to watch over their shoulder. Here are 5 simple lessons to teach your child about online safety for kids:
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Online safety for kids is a tough topic to broach at home, but it is an essential conversation to have. Even if you have parental controls in place at home and help your child set up privacy controls on their accounts, they can access the Internet almost anywhere, including through public Wi-Fi and computers at the library or school.
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Online Safety for Kids – the Essentials
Lesson #1: Never Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Everyone to See
Privacy settings these days are a little tricky. They’re not all black and white. For example, you might keep your Facebook privacy settings set to friends only, but once you tag your friends in a post, their friends can see it, too.
Even if you think you’ve posted something private, such as in a private message, it doesn’t mean it will stay private forever. Screen shots are powerful tools, and anything you say or pictures you send can always be preserved in screen shots and shared.
Not only that, but you can never delete anything you post online. Once it’s there, it lives on a server forever.
Continue to enforce this idea with your kids. Encourage them to think before they post. If they wouldn’t want you, their grandma, or a future employer to see it, they shouldn’t be posting it. And check their Privacy settings regularly.
Lesson #2: Don’t Talk to Strangers
Kids know all about avoiding strangers in public, but talking to strangers online can give your kids a false sense of security – especially if the stranger is good at chatting and they think they are talking to another kid.
Teach them not to reply to text messages, emails, or social media messages from people they don’t know. They should never click on links or attachments from strangers. There’s a good chance those links are a virus.
Avoiding strangers goes beyond viruses. Engaging with strangers online could put your children at risk of becoming victims of predators or cyber bullies. Teach them to only use the Internet to connect with people they personally know, and they can greatly mitigate their risk of getting into trouble.
This applies to semi-strangers as well. Just because they met someone through a friend once doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy.
Lesson #3: Be Suspicious of Public Wi-Fi
There are a lot of ways hackers can get ahold of your private information. One of the easier ways to do it is through public Wi-Fi. These hackers could compromise the network or set up a “man-in-the-middle” attack where all your data is routed through them first. They’d be able to see all your online activity, including any passwords you enter.
Even if you’re not accessing sites that contain sensitive data, hackers are smart and know that most people use the same username and password combination for many different sites.
Teach your kids to be wary of public Wi-Fi. If they need to access the Internet on the go, their data connection is a better option. If they can’t get service and free Wi-Fi is the only thing available, there are a few ways they can protect themselves.
- First, consider if you have to go online. If it can wait, it’s best to leave your Wi-Fi signal turned off.
- Second, make sure your Wi-Fi isn’t enabled by default. In some cases, your device might connect to the closest thing it can, putting you in danger without even realising it.
- It also helps to use anti-virus software on your phone to prevent getting viruses over public Wi-Fi.
- When your kids are older, they might consider a VPN to protect their information.
Lesson #4: Use Secure Passwords
It’s easy to underestimate how important secure passwords are. Using secure passwords is a valuable habit to teach your kids while they’re still young. Teach them to:
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters
- Use a different password for each account
- Change their passwords periodically, such as every six months
- Never tell their friends their passwords
- Avoid entering passwords over public Wi-Fi or on public computers
If your kids have trouble remembering their passwords, it’s okay to write them down as long as the passwords aren’t kept near their devices. To add an extra layer of security, they might use a “secret code” only they understand, such as by adding extra numbers and symbols so only they know which symbols matter.
They might also write their passwords in “tips” they will remember. For example, the password 1wdcft6 makes a “V” on the keyboard, so their “tip” would be “V.”
Lesson #5: It’s Okay to Ask For Help
It’s important that your kids know they can come to you with anything. When it comes to online safety, they should feel comfortable approaching you with concerns. They might, for instance, ask you about suspicious emails, which gives you a chance to reinforce what’s okay to open and what isn’t.
If they can tell you about messages they receive from strangers, you’ll be able to take action before they get into any trouble.
And if they’re being cyberbullied, they need to know they can ask for your help to deal with it. Communication is key to protecting your kids online.
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These lessons on online safety for kids can take some time to teach – particularly when your children are young – but if you make them part of the everyday conversation, it won’t take long for them to sink in. Lead by example, and be open to answering their questions or helping them out to reinforce the importance of online security.
What’s your experience of teaching your child about online safety for kids? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!