Keeping Kids Safe from Online Threats

If you thought it was tough to keep kids off the internet before COVID, it’s almost impossible now. With many schools moving to digital formats for schoolwork, kids are surfing the internet and playing online games more than ever before. While the internet can open up a whole new world of learning, discovery and fun, it is also wrought with potential dangers. 

Parents need to be aware of the risks, maintain open lines of communication with their children about online activity, and take steps to protect their children from bad actors. Fortunately, there are many tools available that can help parents manage and monitor their children’s internet access.

Top Threats for Kids Online

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying involves the act of sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false information or personal information about the target that can cause embarrassment or humiliation. The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Youtube, and through online gaming, text messages, instant messages or email.

Online Predators

Online predators target kids and teens through social media and online games in an attempt to gain their trust and exploit them for inappropriate purposes.

Exposure to Inappropriate Content

Kids can be exposed to inappropriate content through general web surfing or through direct contact with child predators. Predators may pose as someone their age to gain trust and develop an online friendship before attempting to exploit them.

Immediate Steps to Better Online Security

As a parent, it is important to educate your children on ways to stay safe online. Talk over these 4 steps for better online security:

Make sure websites are secure

You can check to make sure a website is safe by looking for one letter: “s.” Every website address starts with the letters “http,” but you know a site is secure when you see “https.” That means the website itself is taking measures to keep users and their information secure while they use the site.

Safeguard personal information

This can be tricky in an online learning environment but personal details need to be guarded closely. Chances are, your child probably already has a student identification number but make sure they know to never release additional information online or in an online discussion group. This includes full first/last name, social security number, birthdate, address, phone number or photographs. 

Setup parental controls

You don’t have to purchase parental control software to protect your child during online learning. There are already a lot of helpful tools built into your device hardware, software and internet browser.

Keep everything updated

Activate automatic updates on your devices and browsers. Updates can seem like a pain, but one of the biggest reasons companies come out with new versions is to deploy security patches that address the most recent and innovative threats out there. Plus, an outdated operating system or old version of software can render your parental controls and privacy settings useless.

What To Do if Your Child is Targeted by a Scammer

  1. Stop all communication with the individual, it is important to not respond.
  2. Keep a record of dates, times and people involved for law enforcement.
  3. Report! 
    • File a police report. If you feel you or your child are in immediate danger, call 911. 
    • If your child is being bullied and it is not of a violent or sexual nature, file a complaint with Stopbullying.gov.
    • No matter what type of cybercrime incident, reporting cybercrime incidents to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is very important! The more national reporting data that is collected, the better the chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease online crime. Although the FBI does not resolve individual complaints directly, they will make your report available to local, state and other law enforcement partners. If you believe that you’ve received a phishing email, please forward the email directly to reportphishing@apwg.org.
  4. Reinforce. Once you have notified the appropriate authorities it is time to reinforce your online safety. Review all of your security and privacy settings, implement multi factor authentication on all accounts and talk to your kids about online safety. 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 right away!

For additional tools and resources on protecting your family from cybercrime, visit FightCybercrime.org.