Every parent should know all the ways they can keep their kids safe in the online world. In McAfee’s 2013 study, Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids, it was found that:
- 86% of kids think social sites are safe and post personal information such as their email addresses (50%) and phone numbers (32%)
- 48% have looked at content their parents would disapprove of
- 29% of teens access pirated illegal digital media
- 12% of teens met a stranger online and then in the physical world
- 54% of kids say their parents aren’t involved in their digital lives at all
- 42% say their parents simply don’t care what they are doing online
- 17% of parents believe the online world is as dangerous as the offline world
- 74% of parents have thrown in the towel and are exhausted with their kids digital lives.
That last stat isn’t just scary, it’s sad. Because protecting your kids online isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. This isn’t a technology issue, it’s a parenting issue. And parent who say “I give up” are giving up on protecting their children from harm.
Here’s a basic road map of what to be aware of:
- Dirty sites- This just doesn’t mean a porn site that a teen decides to check out after accidentally stumbling upon it. There are sites that promote weapons, drugs, school cheating, even how to starve down to dangerously low body weight.
- Harmful contacts – Your child can be in contact with anybody in the world, without you even knowing it, and this contact may be a pedophile building up trust in your child—a trust that leads to an in-person meeting.
- Information overload – Do your kids know what and what not to blab about in the cyber world? Going away on vacation soon? The whole world may find out (and the whole world includes burglars) after your chatty kid tells all on Facebook.
- Sitting sickness – Sitting at the computer for hours on end not only can interfere with sleep and disrupt alertness the following school day, but excessive sitting can result in weight gain and bad posture, plus proneness to snacking on junk food.
- Online bullying – Yes, words (even typed) really CAN hit harder than a fist. Cyberbullying leaves marks that are just as invasive as a swollen black eye.
- Pirated content – If your kid has no money, but tons of digital files like movies and music, he may be a pirate. Law suits are being filed against parents who don’t take control of their kids online activities.
- Hacking – Today kids are either hacking other or being hacked themselves. Knowing what your kids are doing and how to protect your devices is essential.
What can parents do?
Treat your kids as you’d want them to be treated. This includes online. Lay down specific rules regarding computer use and where they can visit online. Instruct your kids to promptly report any threatening or insulting online behavior.
Consider installing parental control software. A parental control program in its fundamental form will allow a parent to decide which category of sites are off-limits and how much time a child can spend online. The software is designed to prevent the child from disabling it. McAfee Family Protection allows parents access from any PC.
Parental controls also come in hardware form, but can’t provide more sophisticated control. Parental control apps exist for mobiles, yielding stronger control than software that’s filtered at the router level. Apps are available for Android, iOS or both.
What’s illegal for your boss at work to do to you is perfectly legal for you to do to your kids: use spyware to track their keystrokes, take screenshots, snag passwords, etc. Spector Pro and PC Pandora are examples. However, for most kids, this level of control isn’t necessary. But they’re invaluable if a troubled child may be interacting with a pedophile, or if your very curious child is just plain rebellious.
Install security software. It’s not enough to have antivirus, antispyware, antiphising and a firewall. You must also protect all wireless communications with Hotspot Shield VPN which locks down their devices Wifi preventing hacks.
Know who they are communicating with. At any given point and time it should be required that parent can check devices and openly discuss any conversations being had. If the parent can’t meet the person or the persons parents, then the child shouldn’t be talk talking to them.
Require device and account passwords. No matter where they go online or whatever devices they own, the parent should have full access at all times.