The Internet can be a wonderful educational tool for children, as well as offer endless entertainment, but there are also risks. A growing number of parents are becoming aware of potential dangers on the web and taking steps to protect their children. According to a national poll by S. Mott Children’s Hospital, adults named Internet safety as one of the top health issues children face today, ranking just below drug abuse. With technology evolving rapidly, it his hard to stay up to speed with the most recent cyber threats, so here is a list of the most common hazards children face online and tips to help keep children safe from them:
Cyberbullying: The Cyberbullying Research Center reports over 27 percent of children surveyed say they have been bullied online. Unfortunately, only one in ten victims tells a parent or other trusted adult about the incident, and cyberbullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide. Remind your child to tell you about any hurtful or offensive messages they may come across and let them know they are not alone. Keep records of any harassment and report the problem to your local law enforcement agency. If your child is being harassed through social media, email, or instant messenger, block the bully immediately and strengthen account privacy settings to ensure Internet safety.
Identity Theft: Children are victims of identity theft more often than most people realize. Children are prime targets, because they have clean credit records and sometimes post personal identifying information online. Also, parents don’t regularly check their children’s credit report, which gives identity thieves plenty of time to use a child’s identity for years without going unnoticed.
Do not allow your child to post things online, like their full name, complete address, date of birth, and any information that can be used to steal their identity. Parents should also try to check their children’s credit reports at least once per year.
Sexual Predators Online: Research indicates 41 percent of parents who use the Internet are concerned about their children communicating with strangers online and approximately 20 percent of teens who regularly go online say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation through the Internet. Sexual predators use social media to learn about their victim’s likes and dislikes and to find out where they spend time.
Talk to your children about these Internet safety issues and explain the potential dangers in language that is appropriate for their age. Set privacy settings for them on social media accounts and follow their online activity, as well as keep the lines of communication open, so that they feel they can come to you to talk about anything.
Password Sharing and Hacking: Children tend to be trusting and sometimes share their passwords with friends. Unfortunately, this can result in their accounts being hacked. The hacker may post as your child and post embarrassing or hurtful content on social media or send emails posing as your child.
Help your children create strong passwords and keep track of them. Remind your children to not share passwords with anyone but you, and make sure usernames are not easy to guess. Also, keep antivirus protection up to date to help keep smartphones, laptops and other devices safe from hackers.