Guide on Keeping Children Safe Online

Online safety

Online security is a concern that everyone needs to pay attention as we don’t want people with malicious intents to get their hands on our personal information or payment details. To stay secure online, some people might use VPNs or other techniques to avoid eavesdropping, we have spent time on learning the best practices for safe online banking. But what about our kids?
They have computers, tablets, and phones that are all connected to the internet as well. They might not be doing purchases online but they have accounts on different social media and services. How can we keep them safe as well?

Online threats to children

The online security of our kids is very important, as they can be more easily hacked or scammed. If your kids are not aware of the threats online, they can’t see the difference between a malicious link with a clickbait title from the yellow paper news article. Kids have natural characteristics like innocence, curiosity, desire for independence and fear of punishment that make them more vulnerable.

As these devices are more obligatory than never before, it is very important to teach your kids how to use the devices safely. They have to use the internet for their school work more and more this is why it is so important to teach them how to use the computer correctly and safely. Be sure to be there when your kids get their first devices.

Steps on securing your children’s internet activities

There are many ways of keeping your children safe on the internet, read through the suggestions provided here and try to implement the ones that suit the best. Do not try to force the methods if they don’t feel natural, but try to modify the actions while keeping the main idea the same. We are all different and we have our own family routines, trying to force new rules isn’t always the best way to implement them. Try to explain why your kids need to do some things in a certain way so that they understand the benefits of doing things the correct way.

1. Be involved

When your kids get their first devices or they start using the computer, be there to help them on the right path. Go through some basics together and gamify the learning into something fun. Do some kind of a family project together using the computer or mobile device. May it be an email or research of an interesting subject or even gaming. It is also a good way to bond with your kids more.

2. Be open about things

It is good to be open about that there are threats when using the internet. The more your kids know when they encounter something suspicious, the more likely they are going to close the website and even tell you about the incident. Your kids shouldn’t be scared or ashamed to talk to you about the things that are happening online. Be sure that your kids now that they can approach you with any questions, concerns or incidents that have happened.

3. Set rules and talk about dangers

Make rules together with your kids and let them know what they are allowed to do and what not, depending on their age, knowledge, and maturity. Talk about the risks of sharing information about themselves, their location and who they are with. Teach safe use of chat rooms and social media platforms. The goal is not to scare them, but to make them aware of the different threats. Be sure that your kids understand that cyberbullying is as bad or even worse than bullying that is happening in school or any other place. Ask your kids to tell you if someone is bullied online, no matter who the bully and bullied people are. It is important for a parent to be actively against cyberbullying.

4. Set new accounts for your kids

If your children are using the same computer as you are, make them their own accounts. This way your kids won’t accidentally delete, replace or modify any important files you need. When your kids have their own accounts, you are able to set parental controls and modify the privileges their accounts have. For example, installing new software can be only done after typing in the administrator password. You will be able to control what programs they install. Any malware infecting the account will have the same privileges as the account, this helps you keep the computer safer to use for all. In this post is also included a short guide on how to create new accounts for your kids and how to change the parental settings of the account.

5. Implement parental controls

If you are worried that your kids might accidentally see inappropriate content, you can implement parental controls. These are browser settings that restrict the use of the web browser so that adult content is inaccessible. To set parental controls on your web browser, you need to go to the browser settings. In this post is also included a short guide on how to access the settings on the most common browser.

6. Monitor computer activity

Try to be aware what your kids are doing while they are using the computer. Ask and monitor what sites your kids are visiting and what they are doing there, depending on their age. If your kids are using email or instant messaging applications, ask them who they are talking with and if they actually know the people they are talking to. This includes the applications used with phones and tablets as well. Respect the privacy of your kids, but take action if you think it’s needed.

7. Keep your computer in an open area

If your kids are using the same computer as you are, try to place it in some open area at home. This helps you monitor what they are doing online and you are able to intervene if you happen to notice something they are not allowed to do. Try not to make your kids feel bad about what happened, as in future they will probably try to hide what they are doing.

Passwords

Passwords are an important part of online security and there are a few things to take into account when creating and using passwords. Here are the most important tips on passwords you should follow, notice that this is just a really short guide on passwords and you I suggest you dig into the subject more deeply. You can read our guide to passwords to get a better understanding of the reasons behind the tips on the list below.

  • The ideal passwords are at least 16 characters long
  • Do not reuse your passwords
  • Passwords should include numbers, special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Passwords should be random generated
  • Passwords should not include words, predefined numbers, names or anything related to you
  • Use a password manager
  • Use two-factor authentication, authenticator app, SMS-verification or USB-verification

 

As many of the list items can be too hard for your kids to actually use, like a password manager or different verification methods, it is recommended to create passwords yourself, so that you are able to remember them. There is a simple method for creating strong, memorable passwords, check it out on the post about passwords.

Common threats

The common online threats are basically different kinds of malware, which is the same for everybody. When it comes to kids, we have to be aware of the material that is meant for adults. Any parent doesn’t want their kids to see violent, pornographic or any other type of material that is not meant for people of young age.

Make sure your kids are aware that there are malicious websites which should be avoided and restrict the content your kids are able to view on the internet. Setting up user accounts for your kids and applying parental controls to their accounts is an easy way of keeping your computer and most importantly your kids safe from harmful content. However, the most important part is to be open to your kids and talk about these things with them so that they actually understand these things themselves.

Creating a new account

Creating a new account for your kid is easy and very beneficial as you can then control the applications and websites used.

Windows 10
  • Navigate to settings
  • Click on Accounts
  • Click on Family & Other users
  • Add a family member or someone else from the plus buttons
  • Fill in the information asked
  • You have now created a new account

 

macOS
  • Go to the Apple menu
  • Select System preferences and click on Users & Groups
  • Click on the lock icon to unlock it and enter administrator name and password
  • Click the add button located below the list of users
  • Open the pop-up menu New Account and choose the type of the user
  • Type in the name for the new account
  • Type in a password for the account
  • Click Add account
  • You have now created a new account

 

Parental controls

Using parental controls is an easy and efficient way of keeping your kids from seeing any content that is not meant for them.

There are parental controls in the operating system itself, but also in the web browsers. So when you create new accounts for your kids on the computer, you can easily change the parental controls at the same time. After you have set them up in the operating system, you can block websites with the web browser.

Windows 10
  • Open settings and navigate to Accounts
  • Click on Family & Other users
  • Locate Manage family settings online and click on it to log onto Microsoft Family
  • Click on the name of the account you want to monitor
  • Review and change the activity reporting settings if necessary
  • Block sites or applications that have been previously accessed (only works for Edge and IE)
  • Click on Recent activity to access other parental controls
  • Go through the settings and do whatever changes you wish

 

macOS
  • Go to the Apple menu
  • Click on system preferences and then click on Parental Controls
  • Click the lock icon to unlock and type in administrator name and password
  • Select the user and click on Enable Parental Controls
  • Now you can set a wide variety of different restrictions to the selected account

 

Google Chrome
  • Click on the three dots on the top right corner of the browser
  • Select settings from the dropdown menu
  • Locate section called People
  • Click on Add person
  • Enter the details asked for the new profile
  • Review and change the settings as you wish
  • Click Add to activate the new account

 

Public WiFi

Free WiFi hotspots are more and more common because of the effect it has on customers. If a coffee shop next to you doesn’t have WiFi, but the one across the street is offering one, a customer with a laptop is pretty likely to go to the one with WiFi. Public WiFis can be found everywhere nowadays.

Public WiFis are very handy but they also have downsides. It is easy for a hacker or scammer to set up a fake coffee shop access point with the same name as the real one. If you are connected to the network that is not the legitimate network, the attacker might be able to see all your traffic, including usernames and passwords. If you have made sure that you are connected to the correct network, you are still at the risk of being eavesdropped. Try to avoid doing any sensitive stuff while connected to public WiFis. If it’s possible, you can use your mobile connection instead of the public network, just make sure you have used a strong password so that no one else is able to connect to your mobile network.

If you are using public WiFi, make sure that the sites you visit use encryption, this way the data you enter on the website is encrypted. These sites use HTTPS instead of HTTP and it can be checked on the URL bar of your browser. Keep in mind that if a site is using HTTPS or it even has an SSL certificate installed (indicated with a green lock in the URL bar), it doesn’t mean that the site itself is legitimate. Hackers can use HTTPS and install SSL certificates on their fake sites as well.

The easiest way to deal with the risks public WiFis have is to advise your kids not to use them at all. If your kids are old enough to understand and follow the guidelines mentioned above, then I don’t see a reason to not let them use them.

Social media

Almost every kid who has access to the internet is using some social media platform. As social media is meant for people to share thoughts, images, and videos and usually include the location and who you are with there, it is important to talk with your kids what is ok to post and what not. It can be hard to understand the damage sensitive information can cause when it is posted online as the consequences can come after many years.

Sensitive information that can help anyone trace, or steal the personal information of your kids pose a threat. Full name, social security number, address, birthdate, phone number or any other information that could lead someone to the right track on finding the real identity.

Compromising content like photos and status updates that may have a negative effect on what people think about you. This is something to think about as it might affect the future prospects of your kids. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that everything should be posted publicly.

Angry or unkind content that is targeting themselves or someone else is usually better to not post. Usually, this kind of content is only going to have bad consequences. A simple rule to follow is that if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s just better to stay quiet.

Ask your kids what social media platforms and applications they are using and go through the privacy settings with them. Privacy settings are suggested to set to the strictest, it’s also a good idea to check the location and geo-tracking settings. It is advised to only connect with people they actually know.

Mobile security

When it comes to mobile security, the number one priority is to keep your mobile device physically safe and keep your applications up to date.

If only you have physical access to your device, it makes it a lot more secure already. Malicious people aren’t able to download and install software outside of the application store. Keep in mind that not all the applications in the application store aren’t always safe either. It’s a good practice to read through what requirements the applications have, do they need access to your camera, voice, location, address book or other personal information. Some of these are needed for the application to work, but when a flashlight app requires access to location and address book, I’m getting suspicious. Delete applications that you are not using to improve your security.

If you are on a vacation, you might want to wait when posting your pictures online. Posting the immediately shows that your house is empty and someone can track you based on your locations in the pictures.

Don’t keep remote connections enabled. If the WiFi is on, it means that the device is actively looking networks to connect into. It is also broadcasting the name of the networks it was recently connected to. Only turn on WiFi when you intend to connect into a WiFi network. Disable Bluetooth and any other remote connections if you are not using them.

Ask your kids what applications they use and introduce them to the recommendations talked above.

Online gaming

I have included online gaming to here as it is very popular and especially kids are playing a lot of games with their mobile devices as well as with computers. As games are a fun way to spend time and even learn new things, it is the parents’ responsibility to control the age and content restrictions.

The main harm that games can cause is for sure the other gamers. There are a lot of cyberbullying happening in online games where you are able to interact with other people with text or voice. Make sure your kids know how to mute, block or even report gamers that are offensive or bullies. Also, monitor how your own kids are behaving when they are playing games and advise them to follow

 

 

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About the author

PC Rookies is a one-man-project to offer basic information about computers. The writer is studying computer sciences and a computer hobbyist.

1 comment on “Guide on Keeping Children Safe Online”

  1. Jacqueline Reply

    It’s actually a great and useful piece of information.
    Thanks for sharing.

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