The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of schools and cancellation of in-person gatherings in an effort to control the spread of the virus. This has resulted in a massive spike in screen time for children as they attend classes via remote learning, watch videos and play games online.
A survey conducted by Parents Together on digital media usage found nearly half of its 3,000 respondent’s children are spending more than six hours a day online, which is said to be a startling 500% increase from before the pandemic.
But even more worrying is the fact that many survey respondents related stories where their children encountered all manner of negative experiences online ranging from online bullies to sexual predators.
Digi has identified a few useful tips parents can put into practice to teach their children the importance of protecting their privacy online. Without further ado, let’s get straight to it.
1. Have conversations about online privacy
Many parents may be wondering where to start in educating their children about online privacy. But the best place to start is by having an open discussion between parent and child on the subject.
Talk with them often about what they do online and engage in healthy dialogues about what privacy means to them as well as identify what information is allowed to be shared online and with whom. At the same time, parents should be aware of their children’s online activities.
Besides that, parents should also lend a listening ear for their child. Encourage them to approach you should they have any concern or questions about their online activity.
2. Secure your child’s device with a strong password
In this age of remote learning, children need to stay connected be it on a laptop, tablet or smartphone to connect with teacher and classmates online. But very often these same education devices double up for games and entertainment too.
Entrusting an internet ready device to a child can be scary because left to their own devices (pardon the pun), you never know what sort of trouble they could land themselves in. So, ensure that your child uses a strong password for their online accounts. Just to be safe, install the latest security features on the device your child frequently uses.
After setting up the security on their devices, remind children not to share their password with anyone. It is advisable that parents do a security check of their child’s device, at least once a week, to ensure that there are no threats present on the devices.
For younger children, parents can employ parental controls to monitor their internet usage and block inappropriate content. Parents should also block games and apps with in-app purchases to ensure children do not buy digital goods without permission.
3. Don’t provide apps access to everything on your device
When you download games or apps from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, some will ask for permission access information on your phone like your location, camera, audio recorder or contact book. Parents should advise their children to pay close attention to the permissions requested by new apps. Some apps may request access for your current location or even ask permission to record audio or video automatically.
Encourage your child to always be cautious when granting permissions to new apps. If they are unsure whether an app should be granted access to a particular piece of information, it is best to err on the side of caution and disallow it. For example, a picture editing app shouldn’t request access your contacts or address book.
4. Only download files from verified sources
Another important point parents should teach their children, is how to safely download files from the internet while avoiding malware. Teach them how it is important to only download files or software from trusted sources and websites.
It is also worth mentioning, that they should always question the authenticity of the source before clicking on the download button. The most dangerous type of files to download are executable files, these normally sport an .exe extension at the end of their filename.
Warn children about the dangers of downloading from unknown sources as there is always a chance that your child may unknowingly install a piece of malware on their laptop, smartphone or tablet. Sophisticated malware may allow hackers to easily access your data. Even worse, it may send information back to them and allow them to turn on your webcam to spy on you.
5. Be careful about the information you share online
Educate children on the importance of keeping personal information safe and private. Explain to them why it is important to refrain from disclosing private information online and how it is similar to why you wouldn’t tell a complete stranger your full name and home address.
Let your child know that they should always check with an adult when they are signing up to a new service or app. Make sure that they don’t unknowingly reveal too much personal information.
For example, when registering or signing up to a new site, children may be prompted to share private information such as their name, mobile number, home address or even a photo of themselves. Sometimes websites offer the choice to use your Facebook credentials to log in. While this is convenient, this could allow other apps to access more of your personal information, so whenever possible sign up through another method.
6. Set up your privacy settings for social media
Social media has become a great tool for people to stay in touch and engaged with one another be it on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. But get your children to stop and think for a moment how the information they share on these platforms can be potentially be seen by those outside their circle of friends and family.
Have a talk with your children on how to set their privacy settings on social media accounts to be private whenever possible. Each social media platform has a different way of controlling its privacy settings. You can help your child to set which social media posts are visible to everyone, only friends or friends of friends.
Explain why they should keep certain information private or share it with only people whom they trust. This would include things like tagging their current location on Instagram.
7. Refrain from oversharing online
Sometimes it can be easy to share too much information online. Caution children from sharing too many photos of themselves or their friends online. Similar to the earlier points, content like photos and videos can compromise their privacy and security. It is also helpful to remind them not to share photos of others without their consent.
That being said, parents can sometime be guilty of sharing too much information. The term ‘sharenting’ is used to describe the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. There are concerns that the act of ‘sharenting’ may violate a child’s sense of privacy when they are older and cause them to distrust their parents.
8. Only browse secure websites
The web is a treasure trove of information but it has its dangers too. So, it doesn’t hurt to teach children to be cautious when browsing online.
Advise them to always choose websites that start with HTTPS instead of regular HTTP. This is because HTTPS helps encrypts your connection between your device and the website you are visiting, making it difficult for someone to spy on your internet traffic, intercept or steal your data while in transit. Most major, websites are HTTPS-enabled, and a padlock icon should appear on the address bar to indicate it’s safe.
Use technology wisely
Technology can be a great asset and tool for us to enrich ourselves with knowledge or help us stay connected with friends and family. But it is especially important during these times, when we communicate online more than ever, that we equip our families with the know-how to make safe and good decisions when online.
Just like how parents will often advise their child to always look left and right before crossing the road, it pays to teach children good online habits that will keep them safe.