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WE PAID A CYBERSECURITY SPECIALIST TO TELL US HOW TO KEEP CHILDREN SAFE ONLINE.

Our security consultant works for one of the Big Four firms, holds Comptia Pentest+ certification as well as the ISC2 System Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) certification, and specializes in Security assessment, Maturity Assessment, and Penetration Testing.

Before we begin we would like to point out useful Australian-based resources for parents.

Online Child Cyber Statistics

We were shocked right out the gate with the statistics our specialist highlighted.

  • 1 in 5 has been sexually solicited
  • 1 in 4 has encountered unwanted pornography
  • Almost 60% of teens have received an e-mail or message from a stranger, and half have communicated back

(source: http://www.sdcda.org/preventing/protecting-children-online/facts-for-parents.html)

Read time 10 minutes

Our specialist says, in this day and age, with the readily available access to internet-connected devices, it is becoming harder and harder to regulate kids’ internet use. As adults, we all know there are some things on the internet that no child should see, and often inappropriate material surfaces out of nowhere. Kids face a lot of danger online, and as parents, this danger is often overlooked when it comes to kids being given phones, iPads, tablets, etc. Kids are vulnerable when using the internet from strangers online, fraudsters, and even friends who may send them links to inappropriate things. With schools using online platforms more and more, it is time to consider how you as parents can protect your kids when they use the internet.

monitoring your kids technology use

Why is monitoring your kids online a good idea? I realise that it is easy to overlook the risks of using the internet when it comes to giving your kids use of a tablet or phone, but the internet is no joke and kids see things they shouldn’t on a day to day basis.

Some Scary Statistics

Attention

Of the 45 million kids between the ages of 10 and 17 who use the internet, many of them have been victims to various forms of abuse. Among them:

  • 1 in 5 has been sexually solicited
  • 1 in 4 has encountered unwanted pornography
  • Almost 60% of teens have received an e-mail or message from a stranger, and half have communicated back

It should be clear that monitoring your kid’s online activity is a necessity in order to keep them safe. So the question is, how do you keep your kids safe online? In this article, we will run through the biggest risks kids face online and how you as parents can keep them safe.

Risks Faced by kids Online

Online crime is the fastest growing crime in the US and children are the fastest growing victim group. There are numerous risks faced by kids when it comes to internet use. Kids are innocent and it’s for this reason that fraudsters and other bad people on the internet may target them. Since there are next to no rules governing the internet, anyone can set up a website about anything. As such, people have jumped on this opportunity to create less than good sites such as:

  • How to buy and sell drugs
  • Encouraging hate speech
  • Sell stolen goods
  • Guides for creating counterfeit money and identification documents
  • Quick rich schemes which put your finances at risk
Online awareness

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and if you were to go looking, you would find much worse sites than those mentioned above. Now you may be thinking I am overexaggerating here and that you have never come across sites like those mentioned above so they can’t be that easy to come across, but ask yourself how hard have you looked? Kids have an abundance of time on their hands and I guarantee you if they go looking for inappropriate material, they will find it. Still don’t believe me? Google some of the items mentioned above and see for yourself.

Social Media

No matter what CEO’s such as Mark Zuckerberg says, social media is not safe for kids. There are a number of people on social media who use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and chat forums to initiate contact with kids.

Social media safety

Kids use of social media should be monitored regularly. Your kids should be taught about using the internet securely and not to trust anybody that isn’t your real-life friend. This is a good rule to stick to in general when checking your kid’s activity online. The reality is, if your kids don’t know the person in real life, it could be anyone they are talking to online.

X-Rated Content

X-Rated content is everywhere on the internet and it’s too easy for kids to accidently access it. A quick google search of anything related to adult content will result in a barrage of inappropriate material.

censored content

Fraud

There are a huge number of get-rich-quick schemes out there on the internet which can put your financial stability at risk. With the explosion of young people becoming rich and famous through social media, your kids may fall for one of these traps.

interent fraud

Child identity theft is also a growing problem due to kids not seeing the harm in sharing their information online. Establishing clear communication with your kids can help prevent them from falling for fraudsters.

Strangers

There are a number of people on the internet who will attempt to make contact with your kids for different reasons. Some of them will attempt to sexually exploit your kids while others may attempt to steal money or their identity. With 60% of teens have received a message from a stranger online, you should prepare your child for what to do when a stranger does contact them.

Reinforcing the rule of don’t talk to strangers is important here. Rules should also be established around only talking to their friends that they know in real life as kids have no reason to talk to people they don’t know online.

How Can You Keep Your Kids Safe Online?

There’s no doubt about it, kids are not safe online, but what can you do about it? Here are some tips you can take to help keep your kids safe:

Educate Yourself and Your Kids About the Dangers of The Internet

In this day and age, it is often the case that kids know more about the internet than their parents. Close to 62% of teens say their parents know little to nothing about the websites they visit. It is important that as a parent you know the dangers of the internet so that you can recognize when your child is doing something they shouldn’t online. It is also important you know how dangerous the internet is for kids in case your child comes to you with a problem. If you’ve never faced or researched the dangers, you may not know how to react to the problem.

internet danger

If kids aren’t shown what dangers lie in the online world, they are likely to fall victim to them. The sobering statistics above show one in four children are affected by some sort of unwanted interaction online and it is a case of being prepared for when that happens rather than hoping it wont happen. These figures will only rise with the increasing use of the internet among kids today. To prevent this, it is really important to sit your kids down regularly and talk to them about the bad people on the internet who want to cause them harm, and what to do if your kids come across them. This may be an awkward or unsettling conversation to have but it could save your child trauma in the future.

Establish Clear Lines of Communication About the Internet

It is important that your child feels like they can talk to you about anything they may find on the internet. This will prevent an already bad situation from becoming much worse if anything does happen. If your child does do something bad online, such as come across some inappropriate material, it is important not to scold them but to teach them why that content is so bad and how to avoid it

communication

Clear communication about the internet can be encouraged by surfing the web together with your child. This will not only show them how to use the internet safely but will also encourage them to talk to you about it.

Make Rules and Enforce Them

Establishing some ground rules when it comes to internet usage is a great idea to help keep your kids safe. Ground rules help keep your kids aware of what is ok for them to do and what is not ok and will also help build trust between them and you. There are a number of basic rules you can enforce in your home which can offer increased protection for your kids when online.

rules for safe internet use

Some rules you may want to consider include:

  • Keep screens and devices where you can see them
    • Monitoring your child when online is a good idea, especially when it comes to younger children. If you have a computer that they use, setting it up in a central spot in the house where you can see what they are doing and viewing online is an easy rule to establish. That way you can quickly see if they are ok when online and if anything inappropriate pops up, you are right there to handle it. Another good practice to enforce would be no using devices in their bedrooms. If they have to use devices in plain sight of their parents, it will discourage them from looking for inappropriate material and allows you to easily keep an eye on what they are doing.
  • Enforce the rule of don’t talk to strangers
    • Kids are innocent and for this reason there are people on the internet who will try to take advantage of them for one reason or another. Kids have no reason to be talking with anyone online who isn’t their real-life friend. It is very easy to pretend to be someone else on the internet and so you should monitor who your kids are talking to.
  • Establish limits to internet usage
    • Being on the internet all day or night is not good for kids. Sooner or later they will explore further than they should and find something that could be potentially damaging. Establishing rules, such as only using the internet between certain times of the day, will limit what your child can do in that time.

Make Use of Parental Controls

Personally, I think this is one of the main steps parents can take when looking to protect their kids when using the internet. There are a number of applications out there that provide you with complete visibility of what your kids do when online.

parental control

Parental controls provide you with full control over the content your child engages with online and so, they can greatly increase their safety. As a bonus, parental controls also provide you with a means of checking your kid’s activity online without them even knowing you doing it. If you choose, most parental control software will provide you with the ability to view your child’s activity through a website or your phone. This is a great way to check-in and makes sure your kids are being safe when on the internet, without constantly asking them or telling them you’ll be checking their activity.

Router Parental Controls

For example, a simple step to take is to sign in to your router and make use of the parental controls there, which are included in most modern routers. These parental controls work by using the internal IP address assigned to each device connected to the router.

router control

The router uses these IP addresses to determine the identity of the different devices and can be used to kick people off the Wi-Fi and limit the device’s internet connectivity to certain times of the day. While this step provides limited functionality, it is a step in the right direction.

Install a Physical Device – Circle

The next step up for even greater control is to install a device on your network which will allow you to control all devices using the network. For example, Circle is a small device developed by Disney and is truly amazing with the functionality and control it offers parents. The circle is a small device that connects to your network and sits between the router and all your devices. All internet traffic is passed through the device before being passed onto the router. This allows the device to analyze all traffic to provide visibility to parents about what kind of activity their child is getting up to.

control devices

Circle is controlled using an app for your phone and provides a huge number of features including:

  • Filter
    • Choose appropriate material or block inappropriate content based on age group. This can be customized to filter for individual members of your household and are then applied to social media, videos and games for both apps and websites.
  • Time Limits
    • This feature allows you to choose the amount of time your kids can spend on individual sites or platforms such as Facebook or Fortnite. Different categories can be created with their own limits for categories like games and social media. Specific apps can be given time limits also, for example if you only wanted your child to spend 30 minutes on YouTube a day, this can be set in the app.
  • Pause the Internet
    • This is another useful feature which allows you to cut off the internet for every family member or just one. This can be useful for enforcing rules in the home and internet access can be unpaused at any time.
  • Bedtime
    • This feature enables you to set a time which each child should be in bed at and will disable the internet for the child at the time you specify.

Circle is a useful device for enforcing parental controls in the home and provides parents with a number of useful features. However, if looking for complete control there are better solutions out there. Circle won’t allow you to view your child’s online activity or see anything they are doing on their phone. Also, if you disable the internet for your child but they have a phone, they can simply turn on their mobile data and use this to bypass any restrictions you have set for them.

Install a Parental Control App – FamiSafe

If your want even more control than that offered by Circle, you can get an app such a FamiSafe. FamiSafe offers all the features offered by Circle above but also includes a range of features for greater visibility

parental control app

Some parents may feel this is going overboard but if you are concerned about your child, this may be the solution for you. Some extra features offered by FamiSafe include:

  • Alerts on Adult Content
    • The FamiSafe app uses smart analysis to determine if your child is watching adult content on YouTube or even if they are messaging someone they shouldn’t be. FamiSafe will pick up on content and words in messages and alert your phone if any are found. This is a really useful feature and can help you prevent your child from not only watching inappropriate content but also communicating with suspicious people.
  • Real-Time Location Tracking
    • This feature provides you with the ability to see where your child is at anytime. Although unrelated to their activity online, this feature can provide concerned parents with peace of mind.
  • Geofencing
    • Geofencing is the act of setting up a virtual boundary on your kids’ phone, possibly around your house. When your child enters or leaves this geofence you can set up the app so that you get alerts or so that as soon as they enter the geofence a ruleset is applied to their phones.
  • App Blocker
    • Prevent apps from launching on your kids’ phone. This is useful if your child is spending too much time on YouTube for example when they should be doing homework or in bed.
  • Activity monitor
    • Activity monitor will allow you to view which apps your kid uses the most and for the longest period. It will also show you the time for which the app has been in use and the timeframe which the app was launched, down to the minute. You can also view all the apps used on a specific date giving you full visibility into your child’s activity.
  • Web Content Filtering
    • A very useful feature, this allows you to block content based on a category such as Violence, Adult, Unknown etc. You can input specific websites that you want your kids to stay away from.
  • Screen Time Tracking
    • This feature enables you to see how much time your kids are spending on their phones each day. You can view analytics for the past 30 days and will show you how much time on average your kids spend on their phones a day.
  • Screen Time Limit
    • Phone addiction is a big worry for parents around the world, this feature can help offer some peace of mind. No matter where your child is, if you enable this feature you can set the time limit for your kids to use their phone. After this limit has been crosses, the phones apps will stop responding.
  • YouTube control
    • Despite what YouTube may tell you, there is a lot more adult content on their site than you would think. Using this feature of FamiSafe, you can keep an eye on what your child watches on YouTube. You will able to see a list of all the videos your child watches on YouTube.
  • Smart Scheduling
    • This feature is useful to schedule times in the day that your child will be allowed use their phones. For example, you may decide that your child can use their phone from 9am to 4pm, but then restrict it each day until 8pm when their homework is done. The schedule can be set to repeat on a day to day basis for convenience.
  • Location History
    • If your child like visiting new places or if they are starting school in a new area, it may cause tension in the household wondering where they are and if they are safe. With this feature, you will be able to see all the places your child has been as well as the time for which they stayed there.
  • Suspicious Photos
    • This feature analyses any photos downloaded or received by your child and notifies you if the app thinks they are suspicious in any way.

As you can see above. FamiSafe provides parents with complete control over the device. Parental controls can be controlled using the FamiSafe app on your phone or using the online web version, simply create an account and sign up. This is one of the best monitoring apps on the market at the moment and if you are worried about your child, it might be a good idea to use FamiSafe to give you some peace of mind.

Conclusion

No matter what others may tell you, including your kids, your children are not safe online. There are a number of bad people out there who will attempt to contact them for bad reasons. Establishing clear lines of communications and rules around internet usage is a great idea to help keep them safe online. On top of this, it is a good idea to monitor your kids activity online. Kids are naive and may not know that someone is trying to exploit them online. I feel as though using parental controls to monitor your kid’s activity online is hugely important especially for young kids. Monitoring your kids activities can help prevent them from becoming victim to seeing unwanted adult content and, more importantly, prevent a bad person from contacting them. As the scary statistics above show, it is a matter of when, not if, your child comes across inappropriate content or bad people online. As parents it is your job to be prepared for this situation and help prevent it by communicating with, educating and monitoring your child.

References

http://www.sdcda.org/preventing/protecting-children-online/facts-for-parents.html

https://www.ertheo.com/blog/en/parental-control-2020/

https://vpn-review.com/internet-safety-guide

https://www.consumerreports.org/digital-security/internet-safety-for-kids-how-to-protect-your-child-from-online-threats/

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/how-to-protect-your-children-from-online-predators-1.4111976

https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/ConsumerNews/tips-keeping-kids-safe-online/story?id=5197974