Today’s parents are raising “digital natives,” meaning kids who were born into the digital age and have grown up with smartphones, tablets, social media, and the Internet in general as part of the normal landscape. Basically, anyone who remembers using a rotary phone or getting a VCR for the first time is not a digital native.
Although technology has infiltrated the lives of adults across the generational spectrum, we tend to have special fears and assumptions about the under-18 set when it comes to tech. Of course, parents are right to proceed with caution. Cybersecurity threats, identity protection, and privacy are issues that affect all of us, just to name a few, and kids can be especially vulnerable.
At Palisades Credit Union, we care deeply about the security and privacy of our customers and their families. In this article, you’ll learn about the latest cybersecurity issues and the steps you can take to keep your child or teen safe online.
Common Online Dangers for Kids and Teens
- Cyberbullying: Any type of bullying or harassment that unfolds online, via text message, social media, or other platforms. Talk to kids about being on both sides of the dynamic, such as the consequences of posting harmful pictures or rumors about classmates, or what to do if they experience cyberbullying from peers. If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, reach out to school officials for help.
- Online predators: According to the FTC, “researchers have found that predators usually don't pose as children or teens, and most teens who are contacted by adults they don't know find it creepy. Teens should not hesitate to ignore or block them.” A best practice for avoiding online predators is to avoid any conversations of a sexual nature online. Anyone who tries to initiate it is definitely a red flag.
- Sexting: Sending or forwarding sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages from a mobile phone. Like cyberbullying, teens can be in the position of requesting explicit photos or videos as well as sending them. Talk to them about the consequences of both and why it’s best to avoid this type of online behavior altogether.
- Child identity theft: Believe it or not, minors are just as much at risk of having their social security number and identity stolen as adults. When kids do have their identity stolen, they often don’t realize it until they reach legal adulthood and apply for some type of credit account. By then, considerable damage can be done. Help children and teens understand the importance of not sharing personal information online, such as last name and address, social security number, and more. Show them how to block unwanted texts, emails, or phone calls.
- Digital Reputation: If a college admissions counselor or potential employer enter your child’s name into a search engine, what will they find? Explain to your child why less is more when it comes to their digital reputation. Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want teachers, relatives, colleges, and future employers to see.
How to Keep Kids of all Ages Safe Online
Beyond having regular conversations about staying safe online, you can use parental controls and privacy settings to monitor your kids’ online activity and block certain websites.
- Filter and block specific websites, words, and images.
- Block certain outgoing content to prevent your children from sharing personal information online and via email.
- Set time limits for how long your children are online and the time(s) of day they can access the internet.
- Use monitoring tools to supervise children’s online activity without completely blocking access.
- If your teen has their own mobile phone, you may be able to turn off some of the features, such as videos and images, text messaging, and Internet access. You can also use location and monitoring settings to track your teen’s movements with GPS.
- Keep your firewall and security software up-to-date. Don’t wait to install software and operating system updates.
- Have kids use search engines that are specifically designed for them, such as YouTube Kids.
For further reading and ongoing education, check out these helpful articles and websites.
- Safe Online Surfing Interactive Games from the FBI
- PCU’s own "Stay Safe Online: Cyber Security Tips” article
- Online Safety Basics from the National Cyber Security Alliance
- Raising Digital Natives
- Google’s Safety Center
- Windows Security for Families
- Comcast’s Privacy Center
- AT&T’s Internet Security Suite
PCU is here to help you and your loved ones stay safe!
As a local credit union, the employees at Palisades Credit Union are part of your Rockland County or Bergen County community. Many of us are parents, too, grappling with these same issues in our own homes. If you have any questions about cybersecurity, contact us or visit our “Avoiding Fraud and Scams” page.
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