If you have kids, you know that parenting in the modern age presents some unique challenges. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center, two-thirds of parents say parenting is harder today than it was two decades ago, and many cite technology like smartphones, social media, and computers as the primary reason.
While technology is inextricably woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, it can present a danger for children. As a parent, you want to protect your children from the dangers of the online world, but it can be difficult to understand where to start.
In this post, we share our top tips for parents who want to make the internet a safer place for their kids, and a few tried-and-true ways to keep your family’s data safe and secure.
5 Ways to Ensure Child Safety Online
While the internet brings many conveniences and opportunities for connection into our daily lives, it can also be a seedy place that’s not safe for kids and young adults.
For example, at the time of this writing, 70% of children ages 7-18 years old have encountered online pornography, while 20% of teenage internet users have been the target of unwanted sexual solicitation. As if all that isn’t bad enough, 91% of 18-24 year-olds say they network online with people they don’t know.
As you can see, these things add up to a troubling picture of what online security looks like for kids and young adults. Fortunately, you can step in to decrease the risk with these five smart tactics:
1. Look for red flags
If your child has a smartphone, chances are he or she already uses it a lot. That said, it can be difficult to distinguish normal use from abnormal use. Noticing any of the following “symptoms,” however, is a red flag that something may be amiss in your child’s digital life:
- Your child seems anxious or nervous about receiving instant messages, texts, or emails
- Your child quickly exists computer or phone screens when parents or other caregivers approach
- Your child seems cagey or unwilling to share information about their online activities
- You’ve noticed unexplained anger, depression, or anxiety in your child - especially after they’ve been online
- Your child seems to receive an excessive amount of email or text messages or is corresponding with people he or she does not know in real life
- Your child has started to experience trouble sleeping at night or an unwillingness to go to school
If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms, start by having an open conversation with your child. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on his or her behavior to note if it changes or worsens.
2. Find out if your child has a credit report
Wondering how to protect your child from identity theft? Like adults, children can easily become the targets of fraudulent online activity.
While most credit report request forms require driver’s license numbers (which minor children may not have), you can use Experian’s free Child ID Scan service to scour the internet for credit reports in your child’s name.
Alternately, most credit reporting agencies allow you to submit a written request to check if your child has a credit file, and request a copy of the report, if so. You’ll have to contact these agencies directly to request forms. Most companies will require you to provide documentation to verify your identity, such as a copy of your driver’s license.
If you find that your child does have a credit report, freeze it immediately.
3. Teach your child how to protect sensitive information
The internet is a fact of life for kids today. In light of that, kids need to learn about digital safety as early as possible. Here are seven things to teach your kids about protecting their online privacy:
- Talk about online child safety. Discuss the risk of the internet and the importance of keeping personal information private with your kids. Keep the conversation going and be vigilant about identifying areas to follow up.
- Never share personal information. Kids should know never to share personal details like their name, age, phone number, physical location or address, email address, or account passwords. In addition to keeping your kids physically safe, this can protect them from phishing and fraud in the future. It may even prevent bad actors from compromising your child’s social security number.
- Create private profiles. If your children use social media, make sure all their accounts are private. Show them how to find and enable these settings.
4. Register their domain name
While buying a domain name for your child may seem unnecessary, it can be a critical privacy step for a few reasons. On the surface, securing your child’s domain name ensures that they can claim their domain when they’re old enough to use it.
Additionally, however, it keeps bad actors, hackers, and others from filling the domain with sensitive or unsavory material, which could harm your child’s reputation down the road.
5. Lead by example
Finally, lead by example to demonstrate good digital safety habits. Here are some things to implement as rules in your household:
- Think twice before opening strange links or attachments
- Verify private information requests
- Protect your passwords by changing them often and using a password manager
- Keep devices, browsers, and apps updated
- Backup critical files
- Store sensitive information in a safe place
That last tip is easily one of the most important. Fortunately, Pillar is here to help. Offering bank-level encryption and a secure, convenient, easy-to-use platform, Pillar App makes it easy to protect and store all your personal, medical, and financial information and paperwork.
Communication is the Best Defense
While it’s easy to get anxious about the perils of the internet and protecting kids online, today’s kids are digital natives. That means they’re uniquely equipped to handle the complexities, dangers, and pitfalls of the digital world. Your job as a parent, then, is to maintain an open line of communication and help them — and everyone else in your household — make good digital privacy and security decisions.
At Pillar, we want to make that as easy as possible for you and your family. Ready to learn more? Start your free 14-day trial today.