A Guide to Protecting Children’s Privacy Online

 “The online world is like another high street for kids and you need to be in it and parenting in it.”

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   -Vicki Shotbolt, the head of Parent Zone (the UK)


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Everything has changed since the time we were little children who were quite happy without trendy gadgets and the Internet.

It seems that not only adults but their children as well can’t imagine how they could live without the benefits which IT-specialists have created for us.


Children have incredible opportunities for entertainment and self-education on the web using modern digital gadgets. With this ultra-fast development of information technologies you might be wondering:‘’Is it safe enough for children to be online?’’, ‘’How can we, parents, keep our children out of danger on the network?’’


The problem of protecting children online is really a red hot issue nowadays. There are plenty of articles written on the topic, people have online discussions on social forums, governments make countries’ legal systems more rigorous as far as children’s online privacy is concerned. We may provide the examples further and further, but it is time to tell you about measures for kids’ safety on the network.


What do we expect from the guide? This guide presents the whole checklist of ideas how you can defend your child from potential online threats. Let us start with these online threats which can lie in wait of trap on the Internet.


The most common threats children can face online in 2017-2018

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Inappropriate content

The internet space is fulfilled with miscellaneous content. Not all the websites are allowed for children’s surfing. Nevertheless, they are not immune from visiting these websites accidentally, even if they did to intend to do it.

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Predators faking for ‘’chat friends’’

Such criminals may lurk their victims in social networks. They pretend to be a teenager who wants to befriend on the network. Then the predators are constantly trying to gain unsophisticated children’s confidence. In order to protect your children from them, you should convince them not to keep secrets from you and not to communicate with unknown people online.

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Bullying online

As the predators do not go outside in search of victims, bullies can also perform their misdeeds online. Youngsters are vulnerable to fall a victim to them. Children should understand that parents are always there for them. They do not need to withdraw into themselves, in case they were imposed to cyberbulling. What is more important, they should not chat with strangers on the net.

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Virtual scams

While adults are considered to be susceptible for scams on the Internet, children are even more vulnerable due to their unawareness. What are the most common online scams? They may receive letters offering something free or cheap, saying that they have won a powerful lot of money. So let your children be aware of such threats and say them not to open unknown letters without noticing you.

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Too much personal info online

In order to create an account for any social network, such Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram which have already become huge online platforms for online communication, people have to share some personal data. Children sometimes leave too much information about themselves, which can misused by suspicious characters surfing on the net in search of poor victims.

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Viruses and malware

The network teems with cyber viruses, ransomware and other malicious programs. Of course, children are not advanced computer users and can’t identify them. Still you may warn them about the outcomes of such virtual threats. You may tell them how much they would need to repair the computer infected with malware. Explain them how it is important to avoid visiting suspicious and unknown sites.

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Internet addiction

Teenagers spend more and more time online for different reasons: entertainment, gaming, self-educating and others. We often hear of parents complaining about their children surfing too much on the Internet. If you don’t want your child suffer from so-called Internet addiction, try to involve them into various activities which do not require computer usage.

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Unexpected bills for app stores or gaming

Children are often careless in terms of surfing the network. They are vulnerable for spending unexpected amounts of money for games, apps which they are crazy about. Unfortunately, it is actually parents who suffer from this careless behavior as they have to pay for the bills.


Thus, there are numerous online threats to children. Unfortunately, some of them are extremely dangerous and may lead to terrible consequences. Parents are concerned about the issue and constantly try to keep their children away from it.


Look at the data:

In 2015 the specialists from the Statistics Portal conducted a survey among parents and asked them about potential online threats. As you can see on the diagram, the biggest online threat to their children is inappropriate content on the network (45% of the respondents). Communicating with strangers online is as big as the previous one (41% of the interviewed).



The next section of the guide will be dedicated to each particular virtual threat to children. We’ll provide you with detailed tips which will help you to protect them online.


What content is not appropriate for children?

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Surfing the Internet, children can come across some web-content which is not suitable for children’s viewing. Of course, what sort of content is inappropriate for their minds will depend on their age, and it may differ from your child’s view on the situation.

Still the following pieces of information are considered to be undesired, even forbidden for children seeing it:

  • material with swearing;
  • any pictures, video clips or texts encouraging vandalism, crime, terrorism, racism, even suicide;
  • gambling sites;
  • pornographic content;
  • unmoderated chats – where there’s no one supervising the conversation;

It is pretty difficult to provide 100%-monitoring of your child’ s online activity as they are able to use not only a computer but any other internet enabled devices or they may encounter offensive material by accident. That is why you should prepare your child for it.


Have an ‘’internet content’’ conversation with your child!

  1. When your child starts using the Internet, you’d better talk about the content they might see on the network. Explain that they mustn’t see it, if they come across such things. Talk to them as regularly as possible.
  2. Make sure that they know about age limits on certain websites. For instance, YouTube and Facebook is allowed to visit for individuals who are over 13.convince them that age limits are aimed at protecting them from offensive material.
  3.  Ensure your child that they can trust you and they can tell you if they come across any unsuitable material.
  4. Teach your children how to escape this material if they stumble upon inappropriate content on the website. It is possible to exit the website with nasty content by hitting a combination of Ctrl-Alt-Del on the computer keyboard.
  5. Say that it is demandable to avoid visiting suspicious websites or having warning marks for individuals under 18 years.
  6. Offer your children to find reliable websites for their needs together. Make a bookmark for further visits.

Handle access to inappropriate web-content!

These simple hacks will help you to protect your children against disgusting content on the network.

  •  Set up parental controls on the broadband and search engines.
  • Apply any possible kinds of filters. Make all the private settings active on social networking sites. They will prevent children from viewing undesirable ads and web-content.
  • Find suitable websites for your child to access. Involve him or her to join you in this activity. Refresh the sites when they get older.

Where to install parental controls

How they are beneficial

Home broadband

  • Blocks access to some websites;
  • Defends children from unsuitable web material.

Search engines

  • Shows web-content appropriate for the child’s age;
  • Protects from accessing forbidden for children websites.

Beware of predators on the network

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The network can be used by potential criminals seeking there for victims. They contact boys and girls through social networks, forums, chat rooms and other internet services. Predators gain the information about their age, sex and everything they can find in the profiles for their accounts.


Grooming: what is it?

Sexual predators often use social networks to earn trust of the teenagers and young people for sexual purposes. This is so-called grooming. These people manipulate children’s behavior pretending they share the same interests as the children do. They constantly try to lure them at the place where the predator can sexually exploit a girl or a boy. If the meeting does not take place, these sexual offenders can persuade children to make intimate photos of themselves.

Some children may feel hesitant to tell about this to adults. Sometimes the predators threaten them not to reveal their ‘’secret’’. Being immature children become vulnerable to manipulation. How can parents prevent their children from predators’ manipulation?

 


Read these useful tips to protect your children against sexual offenders online:

  • You should educate your children about online predators, explain that they may be involved into offensive activities by the criminals. Your parental guidance is vital for children’s access the Internet.
  • Parental control apps are recommended for protecting children against virtual offenders. It will permit you to monitor online activity and block undesired web-content as well.
  • Check on what social networks your child has created accounts and whether they are allowed to sign up for this network. For instance, in the US some websites must get parental permission, if a child is under 13. Actually, badly-monitored chat rooms represent dangers for children as they can encounter sexual offenders there.
  • Put the computer which is used by your child in the common place where it will be problematic for predator to connect with him or her. You will be able to monitor for the potential threats.
  • Create your personal account and follow you child. It is a good opportunity for checking what online friends he or she has on the virtual social platform. But avoid abusing as teenagers hate when adults interfere with their private life too much. 
  • Tell your child that is dangerous to communicate with strangers online. They should avoid replying unknown mails or messages.

How to protect children against bullying online?

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  • Internet has good opportunities for keeping in touch with people via video calls, instant messaging or social networking platforms. Unfortunately, the network is often used by social abusers to perform their disgusting purposes. So-called online bullies offend, annoy and defame internet users.

What is bullying?                                                              

Bullying as a social phenomenon exists in two forms: real and virtual. With the development of internet technologies inline bullying takes place more often nowadays. Bullies may send unwanted photos or messages in order to offend a victim. They may do this even without any physical contact.


You might be wondering:

500 years ago the word bully implied “a friend”. Can you believe it? Now it has quite an opposite meaning.


Want to know online bullying statistics?

§   25 % of teens report that they were bullied by mobile phone, or online.

§   52 % of youngsters were bullied on the Internet.

§   55 % of teenagers that communicate via social media networks were witnesses of bullying online.

§   11% of adolescents and teens report that embarrassing photos were taken of their consent.

§   More than 80 % of teens regularly take use of cell phones; a common medium for cyber bullying.

§   One out of six teenagers’ parents know about the intensity of internet bullying today.



You should know certain tips to prevent your child to be a victim of bullying. Tell your children about the following preventive measures:

  1. It is not safe to place too much personal information on the social networks. It makes them more susceptible to bullying as anyone can access his or her intimate data and misuse them.
  2.  It would be better not react to any provoking messages or e-mails. There are ways to perform this:
    • One may eliminate unwanted users from online games.
    • In monitored chats it is possible to save an offensive text and send it to the monitor.
    • Many e-mail-programs offer blocking of undesired incoming e-mails.
  3. In order to register for any service it is demandable to provide only with required personal information. No additional data should left there.
  4. Strong passwords will prevent your child from e-mail and social network accounts.
  5. What is more important is that children must not be afraid to tell about the fact of cyber bullying to any adult.

Virtual scams: how to avoid them?

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The Internet is full of fraudsters who apply a lot of cunning tricks. A virtual scam is a widely-spread means of cheating on the network. Not every adult is able to identify and avoid them. So children are vulnerable to being a victim of such frauds.


What is a virtual scam?

It is a form of virtual swindle created by internet fraud. It can be an e-mail letter or instant message with a particular content. One may be notified of money prizes, free things and some other alluring offers. These virtual cheating tricks are targeted at ‘’babes and sucklings’’ who will easily fall for a scam.


Why are virtual scams dangerous?

The most common risk of virtual scams is ‘’phishing’’ which may take place when people respond to fake e-mails.

People are asked to provide with any personal information for any purpose. They trust them, because the letters can be sent by reputable sources.

But that is not actually true! In most of the cases the sources are nothing else but fraudsters.


Parents should teach children how to protect themselves against virtual scams. Have a look at 5 ‘’Ifs’’ for your children’s online protection:

  • you receive an e-mail or message from an unknown contact, it is likely to be a fraud!
  • something seems perfect, even without a hitch, you’d better avoid it!
  • someone offers you something very cheap or even free, don’t be agreeable to it!
  • you are notified about a huge money prize, don’t believe them!
  • you encounter any strange message, never reply it!

Personal information should stay private!

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Internet users have to place some sort of personal information on the network. Once it is posted on the net, it becomes available for other users and can be opened for use. It is not recommended to distribute your personal data thoughtlessly as online frauds may misuse them.


As far as children are concerned, they are not so cautious when sharing their private data. They do not care about potential threats for the sheer reason of unawareness. Parents who are not indifferent to the issue of protecting children online should take precautions and teach them how to behave on the internet space.


4 simple hacks to keep your children private on the network

#1 Never fill out your personal social network profile

Have a look at the profile of your child and apply private settings for it. Explain why it is important to hide your personal fact from ‘’spying eyes’’ on the net. Find suitable words to convince him or her as children, especially teens, are reluctant to be interfered in their privacy.

NB: Don’t forget about age limits determined for some social networking platforms. Do not allow your child to create a social account, if they are under the appropriate age!

Modern social networks offer a range of private settings for their users. For instance, some of the basic settings Facebook are ‘’Who can see my stuff?’’, ‘’Who can contact me?’’, ‘’Who can look me up?’’. You need to press ‘’Edit’’ and choose the options you need. (You can read more about Facebook privacy tools on their webpage where you can find any detailed information).



#2 Set private browsing configurations

Unless you want anyone to be to see where your child hangs out online, you should activate “private browsing”. The setting remove cookies, temporary Internet files and browsing history after a user closes the window.

Below you can read the checklist for activating ‘’private browsing’’ in Chrome.

You should click ‘’More’’ at the top right corner and then New Incognito Window. After that in the top corner of a new window, check for the Incognito icon  (Detailed information is provided here).



 

As an alternative, you can set up a “supervised profile” in your Chrome browser. Certain limitations will be applied for your children when they browse through Chrome. You may define a list of sites which can be visited by your child. Besides, you have the opportunity to ban some websites, and he or she will be able to surf any except those from the list.

NB: It is a good practice to install any kid-secure browser for your child’s usage. They are particularly created for children to use and considered to be useful for protecting them online.


Here is the list of possible kid-safe browsers:


#3 Be anonymous with a VPN when you surf the Internet

You may enforce protecting your children’s personal data online with the help of a VPN service. They are able to make their browsing safe, private and really anonymous. Want to know how?


How does a VPN make children anonymous and private online?

When children connect to the network, the IP address of your computer will be masked for the VPN’s one. A real IP becomes invisible for any netizen. Thus, no one will be able to trace your child’s online activity. Nobody will know that it is particularly your child surfing the websites.


How to protect children online with a VPN?

VPN services provide online protection by data encrypting. The traffic passed through the network first gets in the virtual tunnel. Then it is encoded by means of data codifying protocols, and only after this it goes to the network. Encryption protects against snooping, hacking and other virtual threats.

Any further information about Best VPN services for 2017 is provided in our dedicated article.


#4 Use a password app for creating strong and unique passwords.

You children should know that it is completely unsafe to use the same passwords for a few accounts. Moreover, it is pretty important to create the one that would not be easy to crack. You can make a strong password by yourself, but it may be time-consuming activity. That is why it would be better to take advantage of a password manager. Creating a keyword with the help of special apps will protect your children from online phishing attacks. The appliance will create a strong and unique password for your child’s accounts.


Malware and viruses: how to defend your child’ computer?

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Teenagers and youngsters are vulnerable to online troubles that adults can deal with, such as malware, phishing attempts, and internet frauds. Children are believed to be even more vulnerable to these dangers than their parents. There are two sustainable motifs for it:

  • Children are not able to think critically, as they are too young.
  • They don’t make money on their own and pocket money they get from their parents is not enough to satisfy all the desires. That is why children seek for free games, films and music accessible.

If you check children’s computers, you will see that they download a lot of internet rubbish together with their favorite games and movies. Parents constantly struggle to confirm them to be more attentive not “to catch” a virus malware when surfing the net. But the point is they are not educated enough to prevent that. It is necessary to teach them to do it.

One should know that frauds and malware are created to gain personal data about users, such as credentials. It doesn’t mean that if children don’t possess credit cards they will not fall under cybercriminals’ supervision. You should explain to them that free copies are not reliable for a computer. You need to mention about the price of repairing the computer after some virus damages it.


You may be wondering how you can protect your child’s computer against malware and viruses:

Firstly, check what you child downloads on your computer as regularly as possible. It will make you aware of potential threats that certain websites might bring to the system of the computer.

Secondly, tell your child about possible viruses, the way they infect the computer and possible outcomes of such an infection. You can motivate your child not to download any internet rubbish by telling him or her how much money you would spend on its troubleshooting.

Thirdly, install a strong anti-virus program that will protect the system of your child’s computer. Don’t forget to upload the anti-virus software.

Finally, apply a VPN service for your child to perform secure internet connections.


Children’s Internet addiction: how to avoid it?

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It has been estimated that children spend approximately 44 hours a week in front of the computer. Parents are concerned that their children become internet –addicted as this virtual life robs them of real life benefits.

Almost 23% of youth report that they get "addicted to video games" (31% of males, 13% of females.)


How to identify potential internet addiction? 10 warning sites for parents

Have you ever observed certain changes in your child’s behavior and habits?

Does your child….

  1. get angry when online activities are interrupted?
  2. check e-mails more than once a day?
  3. get irritated when you limit his or her access to the Internet?
  4. surf the net instead of doing homework?
  5. become depressed when not online?

If you can answer ‘’yes’’ about your child to all these questions, you should worry that your child might get addicted to the Internet.

Try these ‘’limit’’ hacks that will be helpful to avoid internet addiction:

  • Limit time for your child to spend online.

It has been estimated that teenagers use their internet devices almost nine hours a day for various purposes: education, entertainment and others. In order to prevent internet addiction you’d better fix how much time you allow your child to spend in front of the computer. This will permit to arrange time and involve them into some real-life activities.


It will be also useful to:

  • Limit the use of the Internet for an hour before going to bed.
  • Limit the child’s desire to check devices at night time when they don’t feel sleepy.
  • Take advantage of an app that will impose limits on the time your child will spend online

One of the most popular apps for limiting computer access is the ScreenTime which is compatible with Android, Apple and Amazon gadgets. You don’t need to pay, if you are planning to use it for one child. The app allows parents to inspect the gadget remotely and scan child’s web history.


Some other helpful alternatives:


Have a look at the data:

As the Pew Research Institute reported, 50% of parents use parental controls for inspecting, blocking and filtering their children’s online activities.



After all, you should be careful with too demanding as you may lose your child’s trust!


Online gaming: the checklist for parents

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Children all over the planet are crazy about computer online games. According to the recent statistics for the UK, children of all age groups have spent more and more time gaming weekly for the last 4 years. As you can see on the screenshot, British teenagers spent 10.7 hours per week in 2013, in 2016 the time has increased up to 13.4 hour weekly.

Unfortunately, the situation is not better in other countries. Research specialists came to the conclusion that kids spent too much time gaming online. Just as important, online games may presents potential virtual threats which were described earlier in the guide



Online gaming tips for parents to protect children on the network:

Keep your computer free from virtual dangers

  • Never forget to check whether your child’s computer has the updated security software, web browser OS, anti-virus software. It is pretty prominent to have the latest versions of them to protect the computer against cyber attacks.

Create a long password for gaming accounts.

  • The keyword should be strong enough so that nobody can crack it. A complicated password is usually a sentence of at least 12 characters. It would be better to make a positive sentence to easily remember it, such as ‘’I like funny comedies’’ or something like that.

Show that you are interested in games, too


  • Children should understand that they can come to you, when they feel depressed in case of losing in a game. You may play sometimes together. It will make your relationships closer.

Always check ratings

  • If you want to know what content your child will view when playing games online, you are able to scan ratings on the net. By means of that, you will prevent your children from accessing inappropriate web-content.

Teach your children how to cope with problems

  • Children should be aware of the ways to protect themselves against bullying when they play online games. Make sure they know how to handle this situation. Show them how to record a conversation. If your child notifies you of bulling, you can inform a game’s publisher about it.

Personal data should be protected

  • Tell your child not to use his or her real name for the game’s username. It may be something like this: fox23, table45. It is not recommended to have an actual picture in games, they should use an avatar.

Defend your identity

  • In case your child plays online games with live chats, they have to disguise their voice. If the feature is not provided, do not allow them to play it.

Internet connection through VPN

  • Obtain a VPN subscription for connecting to the network. It will provide you with safe and encrypted internet usage. (Read our dedicated article for details).

Playing time should be limited

  • Parental control is offered by some gaming consoles. Parents can decide how much time their children may play, who they may play with and sometimes it is possible to disable the ability to hear the games online chat which sometimes has a ‘’warm language’’.

Place the computer in the common place

  • This will permit you to monitor your child’s online activity.

Speak about privacy

  • Explain that it is allowed to send any personal information to another gamer. It is not safe!

Parental controls on!


No downloads without your permission

  • This implies cheating programs for better performing in games which may contain malware or viruses.

Prohibition is not affective

  • Your child will always find a way how to play online: at school, at friend’s place. You‘d better tell your kids about the risk and convince them to be careful on the network.

Conclusion

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We hope that this guide is completely informative for you. We tried to collect the most useful information for you to protect your children online. And now let us recollect briefly the key moments of our guide:

1.The most common online threats to children are believed to be unsuitable content, ‘’fake friends’’ and bullying, virtual scams ad malware. Leaking of personal data is as dangerous as the previous ones. Moreover, you should not forget about the risks of children’s internet addiction.​

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2. The Internet is fulfilled of predators and bullies that lurk in search of poor victims. Parents must take precautions to protect their kids against them online. We’ve provided you with step-by-step instructions for the issue.

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3. Children are vulnerable to fall into fraudsters’ hands. Explain then how to deal with unknown letters not suffer from possible negative outcomes. You read about virtual scams in one of our guide’s sections.

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4. The Internet space has a lot of malware and viruses which can get in your child’s computer. It is you who is able to enforce their computer with the highest level of protection. You can always consult our guide to defend your kid’s computer system.

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5. Everybody knows that spending too much time online causes internet addiction. Children are even more vulnerable to it. Before they fall a victim of virtual space, it is high time for parents to manage the time their kids spend online. We hope that you have found our tips useful and will apply them to avoid your child’s internet addiction.

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6. If your kid is crazy about online games, you should be concerned about potential virtual threats: malware, bullying, inappropriate content and others. It is vital to take precautions in order not to impose your children to risks. Now you know how to protect your children when they play games online.

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7. Parents can easily keep their kids away from inappropriate web material. You shouldn’t forget about age limits for social networks and efficient ways we have provided you with in this guide.

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8. There are plenty of helpful apps developed for protecting children online. They allow parents to monitor children’s online activity, block inappropriate websites and content and even set limits on spending time online. As you remember the examples of such apps were provided in the guide.

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The last thing, we would like to say is that all children and youngsters have the right for safety online but they are not able to it on their own. They need help. The fundamental goal of all parents is protect their children not only in a real life, but in a virtual one as well. Take care of your children! All the best to you!

 

In case you have comments, suggestions, and, of course, any corrections or just want to share your personal experience with our followers, please, contact us via email or write your comments below.


   by Ronald Adamson

   IT Security Expert

 
 
Update: 29/11/2017