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September 9, 2022

Privacy Tip of the Week: Teach Kids About Online Privacy

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Millions of people around the world have never experienced a time before the internet. They were born into the fastest moving technological era of all time, some seemingly with an iPhone in their hands. In many cases, the youngest of children can operate a computer better than most adults. The internet is hugely beneficial to kids, as one of the most powerful teaching tools ever created. However, because the web is a natural part of their lives, many kids don’t recognize the ways in which the internet is also risky. By not understanding the importance of online privacy, an unwary child could put themselves and their families at danger. To avoid this, teach kids about online privacy. Here’s how:

  • Recognize the dangers of the internet and teach your kid to recognize them too
  • Start teaching while they’re young
  • Educate them on all devices
  • Use safe software
  • Read through privacy policies together
  • Check the settings with them
  • Educate yourself
  • Teach them smart rules of thumb

Recognize the Dangers of the Web and Teach Your Kid to Recognize Them Too

Everyone knows the standard threats of the web: hackers, misinformation, and Great Aunt Deb who always clicks on the malware links that abound on Facebook. Our blog has tips for recognizing and avoiding all of these threats. But there are some threats that children especially face. They include:

  • Inappropriate content. Young children might not understand what content is and is not age appropriate, which is why it may pose a threat to your kid’s safety. By not recognizing it, this content can be shared between friends and classmates rapidly, possibly exposing them all. Use age appropriate guidelines to help your child recognize and report content that isn’t acceptable online.
  • Cyberbullying. Bullying is no longer confined to the realm of the playground. Status posts, comments, and private messages are now popular tools for bullies. Because it happens online, it may also be harder for kids to recognize and for adults to respond to. Help your child understand how to recognize and report cyberbullying and work with them to put in place a family policy that allows you to monitor their online activity without abusing their privacy.
  • Online predators. It’s easy to pretend to be someone else online. Predators can use this power to target children. Set guidelines with your child about how and when to interact with people online in places like social media and gaming communities, and teach them to recognize behaviour that isn’t appropriate or safe.

Start Teaching While They’re Young

When your five-year-old can work your smartphone better than you can, you might think that there isn’t a whole lot you can teach them about the world online. However, a knack for internet navigation doesn’t mean they inherently understand more complex concepts, like privacy. Instead, they rely on you to teach them how to stay safe in all aspects of life.

Just like teaching them to look both ways before crossing the road once they know how to walk, you should start teaching them how to stay safe online as soon as they get a phone in their hands. Keep concepts simple at first, for example teaching them about online stranger danger as well as in-person stranger danger. Once they grasp the basics, just like with any form of education, you can step up to more complex ideas. The earlier you begin to teach kids about online privacy, the stronger their safety instincts will become.

Educate Them on All Devices

Most parents teach kids about how to use and stay safe on smartphones or computers and expect that those lessons translate to all internet-connected devices. Unfortunately, the things you can do on one device might not be the same as with others. For example, apps are a feature unique to smartphones. Plug ins are used in internet browsers. And most gaming consoles are also connected to the internet and come with their own set of recommended privacy protocols. By explaining privacy best practices on only one device, you create gaps in your kids’ safety that could have been avoided.

Use Safe Software

There are softwares out there that can help keep your kids (and you!) safe online. They include things like:

  • Safe search and parental restrictions. Many web browsers, like Google, allow you to turn on a feature called “safe search.” This feature will filter out results to questionable websites, photos and videos deemed inappropriate, etc. so your kids can’t even find it. Parental restrictions on websites like YouTube and Netflix can also prevent your kid from accessing content that is not age appropriate.
  • Virtual private networks. A no-log VPN service helps keeps users anonymous online, protecting them from snoops who may want the user’s address, search history, and more in order to target them.

Read Through Privacy Policies Together

We’re all guilty of automatically accepting the terms and conditions of the apps and programs we use without actually reading them through. However, when you teach kids about online privacy, help them develop the habit of actually reading those terms by sitting down and reading them together. Not only can you help them understand clauses that are confusing, but you’ll both develop a better understanding of the things you agree to when using an app that might affect your online privacy and safety.

Check App Settings With Your Kids

Kids might have a different idea of what’s safe online than you do. Not only can this affect their privacy, it can also affect that of you and your family. Instead of trying to impose strict privacy guidelines upon them that, while meant well, could create animosity between you and your child, sit down with them and come to agreement about what’s acceptable in terms of security settings and what isn’t. Go through each app’s privacy settings and choose them together. Not only will this protect them, it can protect you too.

Teach Kids About Online Privacy by Educating Yourself

It often seems that kids are tech geniuses who don’t need any help from unsavvy adults. However, kids often learn as they go which might lead to mistakes and privacy breaches that could have been avoided with a little bit of a privacy education from you. Before you take that education into your own hands, however, take the time to teach yourself about the topic so you know the wisdom you’re passing down is modern and relevant. You will also be able to answer any questions they may have on the subject.

Teach Them Smart Rules of Thumb

When it comes to online privacy, there are a few rules that everyone should follow, regardless of age. Some of those rules that you can teach your kids include:

  • Sharing Limits: Create a guide for your child about what they can and cannot share online. For example, their address, school name, financial information they may have, and phone numbers are all details that should stay offline. If they want to share photos with their friends, teach them to ask their friends for permission first.
  • Timeliness: There is a time and a place to share content online. For example, many kids love to share photos of vacations they went on so their friends can see the experience as well. However, the time to share those photos is after the vacation. Often, sharing photos while away from home indicates to criminals online that your house is empty and a prime target for robberies. Your child will not appreciate the grounding they receive if they inadvertently cause a burglary.
  • Check the News: Another good habit to get your child into is to have them monitor their own news feeds. Online security breaches happen all the time and, while you can help them make sure they haven’t been compromised, you can also teach them to be proactive on their own and take safety into their own hands.

You can’t monitor your child’s behaviour online forever. Instead, give them the tools they need to protect themselves by teaching them how to stay safe online.

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