The internet is one of humankind’s most amazing inventions — but it is also a remarkably sophisticated and hazardous space for those who lack tech savvy and skill. Notoriously, the elderly struggle to navigate the web and use internet connected devices safely, and many succumb to scams that leave them with little to no savings for surviving retirement. Unfortunately, young children are similarly ill-equipped to explore online spaces safely — but many parents continue to allow their little ones to use internet-connected devices almost completely unsupervised.
Many parents forget about the dangers lurking online. This list of very real online risks to kids might help some parents realize the importance of investing in premium security services for their home devices.
Inarguably one of the most frightening prospects for parents is the possibility that their children might interact with a predator. Unfortunately, predators can lurk online, even in digital spaces that might seem kid-friendly, like multiplayer online games or kids’ social media groups. Once a predator builds a rapport with a child, they might coerce them to perform any number of unacceptable and illegal acts, such as revealing certain types of personal information or sending pictures. Some cyber-predators have even convinced children to meet up in person, leading to kidnappings and worse. Thus, it is imperative that parents teach kids to avoid online interactions with anyone they do not know in real life.
It takes time for children to learn appropriate topics of conversation, which is why preschool and kindergarten teachers often have hilarious stories of kids divulging family secrets. Unfortunately, the lack of filter persists in online spaces, where kids will happily post information that scammers can use to steal identities and worse. Contact information like phone numbers and addresses, physical stats like height and weight and financial information should all be kept offline, and parents should explain this early and often to kids.
Identity theft is a major crime that can follow an individual for the rest of their lives. If a child has their identity stolen, their family might not detect the theft for years, which can result in long-term effects on their credit report. Kids that suffer identity theft might find it more difficult to apply for student loans or buy their first car; they might suffer higher rates on their credit cards or mortgages. Therefore, parents need to be especially watchful of their kids’ online activity to ensure that they are not participating in behaviors that can result in identity theft.
One of the most common online scams, phishing involves criminals sending fraudulent messages through email or social media to convince victims to divulge sensitive information, like login credentials. Because children tend to be credulous, many will willingly provide information requested through online messages, especially if scammers pose as companies or familiar individuals. As mentioned above, parents should set rules that discourage kids from communicating with unfamiliar accounts online, and if anyone is making strange requests, kids should know to talk to their parents before acquiescing.
Hundreds of millions of new malicious programs are hidden online every day, and sometimes, even tech-savvy adults struggle to avoid it. Though parents should teach their kids to avoid clicking wantonly on links and never to download and install software without asking, parents should also protect their devices with premium security tools that thwart malware well before it has any negative effects.
The internet was made by adults for adults, which means it contains more than its fair share of content that should be for adult eyes only. There are many corners of the web that are filled with text, images and videos that can have profound effects on developing brains, and parents should do what they can to prevent their kids from venturing into these confusing and distressing spaces. Again, a security suite with parental controls can be of use, but parents should also set rules regarding what kids are allowed to do while using internet connected devices.
What happens on the internet stays on the internet — for better or worse. That means that pictures and posts made by kids might haunt them later in their lives, especially if they are using the web to explore controversial or downright harmful concepts. It might be difficult to predict what might online behavior be damaging to a child in the future, but parents should try to control their children’s posting and filter out potentially risky posts for as long as possible. It might also be wise for parents to give kids another outlet for their ideas and feelings, like a paper journal.
By no means are these the only dangers kids face while navigating the web. However, by committing to keeping kids safe online, parents will learn how to manage their kids’ behavior and avoid threats now and into the future.