The Internet…Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. We certainly couldn’t live without it at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were all locked in our homes, and the only escape from our demanding children and spouses was aimlessly scrolling on social media to see what our neighbors were cooking for dinner or to find out which local supermarket had toilet paper.
For many, the increased screen time was a welcome respite and distraction from the monotony of daily life, especially during quarantine. Children also began spending significantly more time in front of screens and devices as schools across the nation closed their doors and virtual learning became the new norm. Playdates with friends, chats with grandparents, art classes, karate lessons, you name it- it all shifted online instantly with the help of platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet.
Now in 2022, life is slowly returning back to normal; schools are open, lockdown is over, and we can finally purchase toilet paper without causing a stampede at the supermarket. However, the way we use the Internet looks very different from what it did just a few years ago, especially for children.
The increased screen time during the pandemic has led to a heightened desire and addiction for kids to be on their devices. With this increased screen time comes increased risk, especially for children who are still growing and developing and do not have the same understanding of online safety as we do. Children can be exposed to scammers, cyberbullies, and inappropriate content in the blink of an eye.
Over 500,000 Online Predators Are Targeting Your Kids….
Every Single Day! That’s Scary Stuff.
In fact, what most parents don’t realize is that online thieves actually TARGET children for IDENTITY THEFT! Children typically have Social Security numbers that have not yet been used by anyone else, making them valuable commodities. Children also generally have a clean credit history, meaning thieves can open new accounts without detection. Once a thief has stolen a child’s identity, they can open new credit accounts, rack up debt, and even ruin your child’s credit score before they’re old enough to even understand what credit is!
How Can You Keep Your Children Safe Online?
Emphasize the Importance of Privacy:
This is CRUCIAL! Teach your kids, starting at a young age, about the importance of keeping their personal information private. Kids need internet safety tips before browsing the web. Make it clear to your children that they should NEVER give their name, address, phone number, or any personal information to someone they don’t know. You can role-play different scenarios with them so they can practice what to do if someone asks them for personal information.
Prevent Identity Theft:
Check your child’s credit reports regularly to ensure that no new accounts have been opened in their name. You can request a free credit report for your child from each major credit reporting agency once per year. Safeguard your child’s Social Security number and other personal information by keeping their documents in a lockbox, especially if your home has many people going in and out.
Many after-school care and activity organizers ask parents for their child’s Social Security Number on sign-up forms. However, in most cases, this information isn’t actually necessary. If you’re ever unsure about whether or not to share your information, err on the side of caution and don’t provide it. You can always contact the organization directly to ask what information they really need. If they do need some sensitive information, try to work with them to find an alternative solution.
Do Your Research:
While there are many safe websites and apps that are very enticing for kids to explore, not all of them are harmless. Just because it looks appropriate at a glance doesn’t mean it is. That’s why it’s crucial for parents to know exactly what their children are doing online. Do some research on the websites your child frequents, especially if you see your child on an unfamiliar site or application with an unknown logo. Thoroughly explore the page or app on your own and decide if it is something you feel comfortable with your child using. If something feels too risky, it probably is. Follow your gut!
Parental Controls For Kids Online Safety:
Most Internet-enabled devices come with built-in parental controls that allow you to set limits on what your kids can do and see online. These controls include restrictions on app usage, Internet browning, and in-app purchases. There are also many third-party apps that offer more comprehensive control over device usage. The limitations you set will vary widely based on your child’s age and what feels right for your family. But, it is important to know a plethora of resources are available to help you set those boundaries.
Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity:
Always monitor your child’s time online, particularly younger children. The younger your children are when they get online, the sooner their personal information is exposed to the Internet. Keep the computer or devices in a common area of the house so you can keep an eye on your child’s activity. This doesn’t mean that you must constantly be hovering over their shoulder, but you should definitely check in from time to time to see what they’re doing.
Protect Those Most Vulnerable-Our Children:
While the Internet can be a great educational resource for kids, it can sadly also be a very dangerous place. By following these tips, you can help keep your children safe while they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the Internet. It only takes one second, one click, for your child to become exposed to the dangers of the Internet. Equip yourself with the knowledge and resources necessary to keep your kids safe online.
This post is sponsored by The Kids Guide to Staying Safe Online.
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