Online Safety & Cyber Security: Updated Guide for Parents
In the digital age, it’s crucial to arm children with knowledge of how to protect themselves and their information online. This article provides tips to help parents guide their children in maintaining online safety.
The Importance of Online Safety
The internet is a vast and exciting place, but it also holds potential dangers, especially for young users. It’s important to teach children about online safety as they start using the internet with greater independence. This knowledge will not only protect them in the present but also in the future – a concept many kids may not fully grasp.
The Grandmother Test
One of the first things to teach children about online safety is the concept of the “grandmother test”. This means thinking for a moment before posting something online and remembering that once it’s online, it’s out there for everyone to see. If they wouldn’t be comfortable with their grandmother, a teacher, or future employer reading that post, perhaps it shouldn’t go online in the first place.
Children should be aware that they can’t always be sure of who they’re talking to online, and they definitely can’t be sure of who’s watching or reading. If an unexpected message pops up from someone they know, they should be careful. It might be someone pretending to be that person.
Protecting Personal Information
Whether they’re chatting with someone or using an app or a service, it’s crucial for children to protect their personal information. This includes their full name, birthdate, school, and location. If someone or something is asking for these details, they should ask themselves why. Who are they, and why do they want this information? What do they want to do with it? If something feels off about the website or app that’s asking, they should trust their gut instinct and stop what they’re doing.
Using the same password on every service and app might seem like the easy thing to do, but it’s a really bad idea. Sites and services get hacked pretty frequently, and hackers will often post a big data dump of all the email addresses and passwords they gather during that hack. Then they take those email addresses and passwords and try them out on other sites and apps, and sadly it often works. The solution is really easy: Use unique, strong passwords on every site and app they use.
For the accounts that are really important, taking an extra step to keep them out of a hacker’s hands is really worth doing. A lot of services, like email, social media, and games offer what’s called multifactor or two-factor authentication. This is an additional measure of security to add to their account that goes beyond passwords.
Children should be taught to think before they download anything. They don’t want to do anything that might make their device stop working properly, or that could put it under someone else’s control. They should only download apps or browser extensions from trustworthy sources.
Checking App Permissions
It’s important to take a good look at any permissions an app asks for – does it really need all those permissions? If it seems excessive, it might be best to remove it.
This one might sound like a no-brainer, but children should be reminded not to share their passwords with friends. If their friend gets hacked, then they’re locked out too!
If they’re at a public computer or using some other kind of shared device, they should remember to log out of any accounts they log in to.
Questions you maybe asking
What is online safety?
Online safety is the practice of protecting oneself from harm while using the internet. This includes protecting oneself from cyberbullying, online predators, and other forms of online abuse.
What is cyber security?
Cyber security is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. This includes protecting against hacking, malware, and other forms of cyber attacks.
Why is online safety important for children?
Children are especially vulnerable to online risks because they may not be aware of the dangers or how to protect themselves. Online predators can easily pose as someone else and gain a child’s trust. Cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on a child’s emotional well-being. And children may not be aware of the risks of clicking on links or downloading files, which can lead to malware infections.
What can parents do to help their children stay safe online?
There are a number of things parents can do to help their children stay safe online. These include:
- Talk to your children about online safety. Explain the dangers of online predators, cyberbullying, and other online risks.
- Set rules for your children’s online use. These rules should include things like not talking to strangers online, not sharing personal information, and not clicking on links or downloading files from unknown sources.
- Monitor your children’s online activity. This doesn’t mean you have to read every email or text message your child sends or receives. But you should be aware of the websites they visit and the people they interact with online.
- Use parental controls. Parental controls can help you block inappropriate websites and limit your child’s online time.
- Teach your children how to protect themselves online. This includes things like creating strong passwords, being careful about what information they share, and reporting any suspicious activity to you.
What are some resources for parents about online safety in the UK?
There are a number of resources available to help parents learn more about online safety. These include:
The NSPCC is the UK’s leading charity for children. They have a number of resources for parents about online safety, including tips for talking to your children about online predators, cyberbullying, and other online risks.
The UK Safer Internet Centre is a government-funded organisation that works to make the internet a safer place for children. They have a website with information about online safety for parents and children.
Childnet International is a non-profit organisation that provides resources for parents and educators about online safety. They have a website with information about online safety for parents and children, as well as a helpline for parents who are concerned about their child’s online safety.
These tips are just a part of the ongoing conversation parents should be having with their kids. Yes, parental controls exist to set limits on screen time, app access, and even transactions as you feel appropriate, and these can be very useful. However, they are not foolproof – and one day, like training wheels, they have to come off. That’s why it’s vital that, when that day comes, your kids are well-equipped with the knowledge to allow them to take control safely.
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Remember, the internet is a powerful tool, but it’s important to use it safely and responsibly.