The downside to being a 21st century kid is obtaining an online presence long before you’re able to make fully informed decisions. Through smart phones, tablets, computers, and games, children amass a large amount of data. According to Wired, 92% of the children in the United States will have a digital footprint before they turn two years old. The ramifications of this only increase in importance as children grow up and use technology more frequently and more independently.
When people consider the consequences of young people and the Internet, their essential concern is social media. Their fears focus on the idea that short-term pictures can cause long-term problems. Sound social media decisions are undoubtedly important, but they aren’t the sole worry of online privacy violations. When security breaches occur, the hackers are mining for both personal and consumer information.
Fortunately, there are several safeguards that parents can employ (along with their kids) to help protect their safety and security online.
Start the conversation.
For young children, especially, the thrill of using a fun new app or device surpasses any concern (or knowledge) of risks. Discuss with them the importance of privacy; that passwords shouldn’t be shared with anyone other than a parent or teacher, and that an authority figure needs to approve an application before it’s purchased or downloaded.
Check privacy settings.
After a new app’s initial set up, go back and make sure you’ve handled the privacy settings. Disable location sharing and the application’s request to post on other social media platforms. For apps that include messaging ability, make sure to choose “friends only” to filter users who are allowed to send your child messages.
Disable location sharing.
This one has can lead to serious repercussions, but it’s often overlooked when setting up a profile. Be thorough with reviewing the location settings on your kids’ devices and apps. Likewise, set expectations for photo sharing as it relates to location; it’s not prudent to publicly broadcast a vacation, for example, due to home security reasons. Young people need guidance to make prudent choices.
Read the fine print.
Terms and conditions are tedious, but they’re key to understanding what you’re agreeing to. Read the T&C together with your kids, modeling meticulously good online habits. This way, if something appears that you don’t feel comfortable with, you can cancel the download without unintended consequences.
Use parental blocks.
Parental blocking technology is designed primarily to protect children from illicit material and unknown Internet dangers. It’s important to keep your own information safe as to not accidentally provide your kids with administrator access. While there is no replacement for vigilant supervision from real parents, a parental block can help provide another layer of protection.
Establish a VPN.
If you’re interested in greater Internet anonymity, you may want to consider a Virtual Private Network. There are two primary benefits to using a VPN. The first is that all of your family’s data will travel through an encrypted virtual tunnel, making you less susceptible to cyber attacks. The second benefit is that this tunnel also hides your IP address (the online equivalent of a postal address). This provides you with more anonymity and less vulnerability.
The Internet provides countless advantages. But with more interconnectedness and information sharing, the importance of privacy intensifies. These precautions will help you and your children enjoy the use of your devices while knowing you’re protected.