Gone are the days when kids couldn’t wait to get to the football field and score goals, or cool off in a swimming pool on a hot sunny day, or engage in bicycle races with each other. We live in times when children and teenagers are glued to their computers, surfing the Internet for hours on end, without a care about anything in the world. Online chatting, gaming, and networking have become their favorite pastimes. It’s an addiction that kids don’t even want to get over!
The cyber world can be your child’s best friend or his worst enemy. Children as young as 5 years old have now started using computers and the Internet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What can be bad though are the repercussions if young and impressionable children are exposed to inappropriate content or to people who may try to take advantage of their innocence.
It is said that prevention is better than cure, and as parents there is a lot that you can do to ensure that your child does not become a victim of cybercrime.
Mentioned below are 6 easy ways to protect your children from the potential dangers of the Internet.
1. Update to a Good Antivirus and Firewall
This is the first step you need to take to prevent your child from accidentally downloading bogus files, dodgy software, apps or app updates that you don’t know about, and other malicious content from the web. Children in their naiveté tend to download anything that catches their fancy without thinking about the consequences. This is where you step in with the latest versions of antivirus and antispyware software. This will keep viruses, malware, and Trojans at bay and make for safer surfing.
Make it a point to never turn off the firewall in your computer or laptop. A good firewall will keep your data secure and protected against hackers and cyber attacks at all times — even when you’re not on the clock. Make sure you use strong passwords (use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols) for your system and your Internet connection, and keep changing them regularly.
2. Make Use of Privacy Settings
Whenever you can, and wherever it is available, set your profiles to private. This will help though it will not completely secure your system. Even with the strongest privacy settings, anything you post can still be shared by those who see it. So think before you share or disclose personal or sensitive information online; it’s almost always a bad idea to do so. Educate your kids about online privacy and encourage them to use these settings. If they’re too young to understand, you can do it for them instead.
3. Suspicious Email
This is the most common example of spamming. Your kids probably receive lots of emails from friends and family members but no email ID stays safe from the clutches of hackers and spammers for long. Sooner or later kids are bound to receive spam which may well contain malicious or fraudulent content. Tell them never to open suspicious looking emails no matter how much they’re tempted to. Inform them that opening such emails is inviting trouble. They shouldn’t ever respond to messages asking for personal information, send their pictures to anyone, or call on numbers mentioned in emails they don’t know the source of.
4. Social Media Networking
If your kids use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, you need to be extra careful. Make sure they enable the highest level of security settings on these sites. Ask them not to reveal too much about the goings-on in their life on such sites and never add unknown people to their network.
Social networking sites have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Reports suggest that an increasing number of children are becoming victims of cyber bullying, mostly targeted by their own school mates. This can severely dent their confidence and in some cases even scar them. If your child ever complains about this, don’t take it lightly. Ask him to block the bully and take this up with the school authorities.
5. Install Safety Software
A lot of family safety software available today is advanced enough to effectively filter out and block dangerous content. It enables you to track your child’s online activities and provides you with options such as time management, remote monitoring and reporting, keystroke recognition to protect your child. Installing such software will make you feel at ease with the idea of your child using the Internet.
6. Talk To Them
You cannot monitor each and every online activity of your children, but you can make them aware of the dangers of the Internet. You need to ensure that your children are well-informed about what’s out there and how to avoid getting into trouble. You need to teach them the importance of not revealing their true identity, contact details, or the name of their school to anybody or on any website. Tell them they should inform you immediately if a stranger or a suspicious website tries to get them to divulge personal details.
The Internet has its merits and demerits. If used smartly and with good intentions, it can do wonders. If misused, it can wreak havoc. Although we cannot control how others use it, by taking the above mentioned precautionary steps we can certainly do our bit to protect our children from its negative effects.