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Online Security for Kids: Having “The Talk” Before Anything Happens

A few short years ago I became an uncle for the first time. This was a pretty big deal as I had, and have, no kids of my own. I’m what they call “an eternal bachelor.” Think Barney Stinson, but with more comic books and nerdy cyber-ness …and slightly fewer ladies.

My brother, the father of said nephew of mine, is a roofer. He understands the architecture of homes perfectly well, but not the Internet. It came down to me to talk with his son when he became old enough recently to use the Internet. That’s what has caused me to write the online security for kids guide below.

I’ll look at practical security tips, and technical security tips. For all you parents out there, here’s a good place to start if you don’t know how to have “The Talk,” online security for kids style.

Practical online security for kids advice

Every single one of these should be attached to the stipulation “unless you bring it to mom/dad first, and they say it’s ok.” Online security for kids starts with yo knowing what you’re talking about, you need to be prepared as well. Here is what you should say to your child:

1.   Personal Information: Personal information such as addresses, telephone numbers of home, parent’s work, or school attended should not be given out. Follow all social media security issues when on a social site.
2.   Meetings: Never meet someone that you met online. Always suspect that the person you’re talking to is not telling the truth about who they are.
3.   Posting: Be cautious about the content you post online. If you don’t want it there forever, don’t post it. After working with the police in an official capacity, I can tell you that there are more pedophiles out there collecting ordinary images of children than you want to know. Be sure to take this advice yourself before posting any picture of your child online.
4.   Location: Do not post your location when you’re out in public, this can be used to stalk you. It’s ok if they post it after they have left and are back home that you had a great time at the library, but posting this publicly while they’re there is a risk.
5.   Messages: Encourage your children to talk to you about messages they receive that seem suspicious, threatening, or like the sender knows too much. The sender can be tracked if they are being threatening, you are not defenceless. This also applies to malware that is sent via emails, if you don’t know who it’s from then it shouldn’t be opened.
6.   Password: All of your passwords have to be secure. This includes the password for your computers, phones, WiFi connection, and social media accounts.

These are the basics of the practical online security for kids advice which need to be addressed. Not every one of them is as obvious to you as they are to a child. Remember how when you were young and you wanted to share your ice cream and trust everyone? That is now a password, and that trust is meeting someone in real life from online.
online security for kids

Technical online security for kids

As we well know, the Internet has a number of technical security issues that all the practical advice in the world can’t really cover, the online security plan for kids of yours that you put together needs to address this as well. Read on for those software issues that are best covered separately:

1.   Software: Instill the lesson that not everything downloaded online is good for your computer. Malware, keyloggers, and even programs that can watch you through your webcam enter computers every day from innocent seeming programs.
2.   Legal issues: You are not ever going to be completely untraceable, illegal activities carried out online can be traced through IP addresses. Be sure that your child understands what an IP address is, how the IP address shows your location, and how the police can track them if they commit illegal acts.
public wifi security3.   Public wifi: Never use a public wifi service unless you’re connected to a VPN. The public WiFi sphere is rife with man in the middle attacks. A VPN service can foil 99.9% of these. Be sure to teach your child what one of these is, how to use it, and what you particular service provider looks like when it’s working. I’d recommend IPVanish for your kid’s online security.
4.   Location sharing via apps: Many apps have location sharing as the default setting. Be sure to go in and change any app that has location sharing as the default, and explain to your child why this is turned off.
5.   Use a parental lock app: When your children are young and unready for the entire filth of the Internet, use a parental lock on the most hardcore of content. It’s surprising how quickly porn will come up from even the most innocent of searches. I’m not here to preach on what age is right to do this for. But legally, up until they’re 18 they shouldn’t have access to porn. Most search engines also have “Safe Search” filters which you can turn on.  For example, a search for “Bad kitty” in Google images can bring up some pretty weird Hentai that even I don’t want to see!
6.   Try a location tracking app: There are a few apps out there which will track your child’s location by tracking the phone’s GPS. It is doubly important to use a VPN to encrypt data over these when using them, but they can help you find out where you child is, or where their device is when they lose it. Be sure to talk to your kids about this – nothing breeds mistrust faster than secretly tracking them, and it’s a poor example to set when you violate their privacy.

If you don’t understand any of these basic Internet security needs, it’s time to learn so that you can protect your child. An Internet search will give you the basics, and you can follow the links that I’ve provided.

Online security for kids: A final thought

The last thing that you need to do, after you have talked with them using this as your guide, is to have your own list up next to the computer. That’s right, you have parenting work to do – Uncle Marcus can’t do it all for you!

Have this list there as a constant reminder to your child of these issues, and type it up using your wording. Make it personal for your child, don’t just cut and paste something from online and expect your child to feel a connection from you through it.

Baby and computer pictures from Public Domain Pictures.

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