Girl looking at phone cybersecurity for kids

Kids these days. What are they like? Well, when it comes to the internet, they’re pretty much just like adults these days. Heads down, scrolling a lot of the time. Whatever you think of it, we’re all spending more and more of our lives online. In reality, few adults know exactly how to best protect their privacy online, so we can’t really expect kids to know what to do without our support and guidance. Here’s a brief rundown, with links to our in-depth family guide: Internet Safety & Privacy For Kids where you’ll find more detail about all areas of cybersecurity for kids.

What’s the problem? The basics of cybersecurity for kids

If you’ve got kids right now, you’re parenting through unknown waters. Back in the day, if a kid-related problem cropped up (as it seems to do nearly every other day if you’ve got little ones!), you’d just ask your parents or aunty or friendly neighbour. They’d likely dealt with it multiple times before and they knew exactly what to suggest. But when it comes to keeping our kids safe online, those wise old folks we used to rely on have no wisdom to pass on.

Current parents are the first generation to tackle the problems of cybersecurity and cyberbullying. Just like every other area of life, we have a responsibility to be aware of potential risks so we can protect our kids. It’s easy to assume that your kids understand how the internet works and how it could be harmful, but it never hurts to remind them of the facts in a child-friendly way.

Information you share yourself

Once you share something on the internet – no matter what device or app you’re using – it is no longer private and it is to a certain extent out of your control. It can be shared in ways you don’t intend and there is no way to know exactly who will end up seeing it. It also stays online indefinitely, so it’s important to think about how info you post now could affect you in the future.

Information about you that can be used in different ways

Apps and sites all have different terms and conditions that mean they can use what you post and information about you in different ways. Check, check and check again to make sure you understand what you’re signing up for.

Things that aren’t what they seem

Just because you are who you say you are online, it doesn’t mean everyone else is. It’s very easy to set up profiles using false names and profile pics, so always be extra cautious about who you make contact with online.

Just as people online might not be who they say they are, any links, apps and sites might also be tricks to get you to spend money or provide private information. Be careful of anything you don’t recognise, didn’t sign up to or offers you anything for free.

Information about you that can be stolen

Passwords and privacy settings exist to protect against possible identity theft. That’s someone else using your information for their own gain. Think of protecting your online security like making sure your car and home are always locked to guard against theft of your belongings in real life.

Woman and child looking at tablet cybersecurity for kids

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So what you can do about it? How to keep your kids safe online

There are lots of national charities and organisations dedicated to child safety that offer guidelines and checklists to help you. Some even have helplines you can call for expert advice, so don’t feel like you should know everything already or cope alone. Keep up with the latest developments and potential issues at internetmatters.org (UK) and commonsensemedia.org (US).

Think of internet safety like road safety – talking to a toddler about staying safe is different to talking to a teen. Start as young as possible and have open and honest conversations regularly as your child grows up. Discuss the ground rules of internet use as a family and keep it as a dialogue so your children feel involved and listened to.

Here are some ideas about the kinds of things you could agree as cybersecurity ground rules for your family.

Information you share yourself

• Don’t give out your personal details including name, address, age, phone number, school, financial details, passwords etc. to anyone online
• Don’t say or do anything online that you wouldn’t do face-to-face
• Don’t share personal photos that could be damaging to you if the wrong people got hold of them
• Don’t share photos that reveal personal information e.g. street name, location, school or activity club locations (including school or sports uniforms)
• Don’t share photos without the consent of the people in them
• Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t be happy for your Grandma to see or know about
• Never reply to comments, messages, posts or emails that are frightening, bullying or threatening – delete them and report them
• Stop and think of the consequences, both now and in the future, before you click send. If in doubt, don’t post!

Information about you that can be used in different ways

• Check what you’re signing up to every time you add a new app or join a new site
• If you’re not comfortable with other people having access to your photos or info, don’t sign up

Things that aren’t what they seem

• Don’t enter any competitions, giveaways or reply to prizewinning emails unless you’ve checked they’re legitimate
• Don’t buy any in-app purchases without permission
• Don’t arrange to meet people you don’t know in real life
• Tell someone if anything happens online you’re worried, confused or scared about

Information about you that can be stolen

• Set complex passwords and change them often
• Check privacy settings, including location settings, are at the most private level. For more on privacy settings for all major platforms and games, see our in-depth guide: Internet Safety & Privacy For Kids
• Sign out after using public computers
• Use a screen name instead of your real name
• Keep apps, games and settings updated so you’re always getting the most advanced protection

Make your tech work for you, not against you

There’s so much to consider when it comes to internet security and privacy, that it can quickly become overwhelming. But most tech these days – whether it’s hardware or software – has settings that can help you take back some control.

• Start with setting up your home Wi-Fi router to help you limit or monitor what your kids can access.
• Set parental controls on all devices, games consoles, browsers and search engines.
• See more on checking your tech settings in our in-depth guide: Internet Safety & Privacy For Kids

Keep talking about cybersecurity with your kids

There’s no avoiding it, online technology is advancing at lightning speed. As soon as you’re up to date with the latest apps, ten more new ones come along to take their place. Because kids spend so much time online, they’re likely to be one step ahead, with us parents trying desperately to keep up! Focusing on the positive role tech and the internet can play in our children’s lives and continuing to have open and honest conversations is the way forward.

 

To learn more about your responsibilities now you’ve brought a new life into the world, take a look at our blog Now that you’re a parent.

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