Whether your children are toddlers or teenagers, it is very likely that they are connected one way or another to the internet. The internet surely enhances learning skills, literacy, and coordination for children. However, it can also expose them to risks that were not even imagined a generation ago. Better internet safety for kids is not a privilege but a necessity.
As a recent study shows:
“Fast-paced technological innovation and widespread and increasing accessibility of ICTs [information and communications technology], including high-speed Internet and mobile devices with Internet connectivity, have transformed societies around the world. Children, in particular, have increased access to ICTs and, in recent decades, have tended to adopt these technologies from an early age, resulting in ICTs becoming thoroughly embedded in their lives”
Unfortunately, both marketers and child abusers are very aware of this fact.
This leads to targeted campaigns that make use of your child’s innocence to create a demand for products that might be harmful. It is also a medium for all kind of predators that pose a risk even in the most common and accessible social media outlets, or even Google itself.
Your child’s digital footprint might be disproportionate to their shoe size…
As a rule of thumb, the bigger your child’s digital footprints are the more likely they are to get targeted by the wrong people.
Another study from 2013 indicates:
“While increased and more frequent usage of ICTs entails a heightened risk of infringements on privacy and safety for all users, children are at particular risk, as they often do not fully understand the threats associated with these technologies, especially when it comes to sharing of personal information, photos or videos.” (UNICEF, 2011. P. 5)
A 2008 study in the United States shows, for instance, that “one in five American adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 had sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves online. Young people frequently do not understand or are not sufficiently aware that they effectively waive control over such images once shared.” (Mentioned in Quayle, E., 2013. Commentary at the Informal Expert Group Meeting on the Effects of Information and Communication Technologies on the Abuse and Exploitation of Children. Vienna. September 23, 2008.)
Even though the US government is very well aware of the risks children face online, as stated in the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it is clear from numerous critics that it has no teeth. It is simply too easy for children to fake their age online.
5 tips that will keep your children safe
The bottom line is that children are highly vulnerable to online abuse and commercial manipulation.
Responsible adults should make sure their children have enough privacy protection when they go online.
Here are a few tips for doing that:
- Enable your search engine filters to prevent phishing and adult materials.
- Teach your children not to meet people they befriend online without an accompanying adult.
- Create a non-administrator computer account for your children so they can’t download or install new programs without your permission.
- Educate your children to use private search engines so neither hackers or public search engines can access their information.
- When using social media, teach them to set the right privacy settings or set it for them.
It might seem unlikely that someone would hack into your children’s computers and steal data. However, it is much easier than it looks to steal someone’s cookies and browsing information, which can be used to learn a lot about their age, preferences, and vulnerabilities. You can learn more about the risks of leaving a digital footprint in here.
Kevin Mitnick, sometimes known as “the world’s most famous hacker,” (now condemned to life as a security specialist,) says in his book The Art of Invisibility: “Kids with Facebook accounts are perhaps the most worrisome. They tend to fill in every blank box they can … Parents need to friend their kids, monitor what they post, and ideally, discuss in advance what is acceptable and what is not.”
With each passing day, new tactics to exploit your digital info are unleashed by the unholy trinity of aggressive marketers, governments, and predatory criminals.
Children by nature are curious and often unaware of the risks inherent in simple internet browsing.
It is our responsibility to protect our children and teach them safe internet practices.
I hope you find the tips above useful for that purpose, and take the time to learn more about private browsing and its importance.