Protecting Kids Online

Scott Repasky
Written by
Last update:

View from the Experts:

Getting control of what your kids are browsing online can be a difficult thing to do if it is something that you don’t know much about. If you have an idea about the kinds of things that you don’t want your child to be exposed to, then it becomes easier to filter and control the internet usage. There are many different programs that you can use to filter the content as well as restrict the kind of activities that your kids are doing. Kids can easily let the time pass by on the internet without realizing it, and it becomes even more frightening when they stumble upon porn or pornography.

Parents need to stay involved in what their kids are doing on the internet and how they are doing it. It helps to keep the computer in the family area for everyone to be aware of what the kid is up to. When you keep positive and healthy internet activities in the family areas, you can better gauge what the kids are up to. Parents should also consider using software to block unwanted and explicit sites. This might be an alternative to filtering the internet as it can help the computer to block unwanted sites already. You can then monitor the kind of sites that your child is visiting, and you can also learn more about what he or she does online.

Internet Cyber Security Tips

Protecting kids online is serious business. Whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, or leader in your community, you need to educate yourself about internet cyber security to protect the children and teens you are responsible for.

Today, most kids have access to a mobile device that allows them to be connected to the internet 24/7. With a few easy steps, you can help to protect kid’s safety online.

Set Simple Ground Rules

Discuss the internet's potential impact and show compassion for your kids. Using examples from the news provides facts that back up the importance of the rules you’re implementing.

Be Prepared

Assume that when the kids are online, they will encounter anything that could be considered material unsuitable for kids. Keep discussion groups, emails, and chats open for inspection. Use the internet yourself to actively monitor, saving the chats and monitoring the online activity in real-time to spot red flags such as cyber bullying.

Know when to Say No

When you feel that your kids are responsible enough to be online without constant supervision, set limits and establish consequences. Establish consequences that will deter them from using the internet inappropriately, and take internet use privileges away if they do.

Password Protection

Passwords are the primary firewall between most kids and the online adult community. Pin numbers are not effective because kids memorize them and tell others. Filters don’t work because kids can simply Google search or text another friend to find out what the filter is.

Many kids don’t even know the password to their email. They’ve been told NEVER to give their password to anyone but on the chat room, in the chat with kids they won’t know, it’s common for them to make arrangements to trade passwords, or exchange cell phone numbers so they can view the pictures or videos that each other have.

Password protection doesn’t have to be difficult. While talking with your kids about online safety, you can also share your own approach to passwords. Start by urging them to create passwords that are easy for them to remember. They can let an adult know their password, and you can call them if something upsets you about the online activity.

When kids are ready to access or post online, a good security system is good password choices. But then you can step in. If you start with good passwords, you won’t have to worry about other methods. If they hear about someone else’s password, they should tell someone right away.

Antivirus Protection Software

With the increasing awareness about the need to protect computers and mobile devices from virus and malware, the demand for antivirus software has increased. This has made antivirus software a potential buy for everyone and not just the ones with important data and important machines.

When you are looking for antivirus protection software for your kid, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Do not go for the software that promises full protection. This is just a gimmick to get the buyer to purchase the software. Go for the software that offers you maximum security within your budget. You can then spend some time in making your system secure.

Sometimes, some antivirus service providers offer some trial antivirus protection software which you can just download and use for a limited period of time. If you do not have the time to go through the details and for making an informed decision, choose this option. Apart from finding the right antivirus software for your kid, you need to educate him or her about the need to take care of the device they use for surfing the net.

Software and Application Updates

You may have heard about the problems with Flash from security experts and news media. "Adobe Flash Player has a zero-day exploit that puts you at risk. Don't rule out Firefox." Mozilla announced in October 2014, before it launched its Firefox browser.

"Adobe is the industry leader in professional software tools for creative and marketing professionals and enterprises," Adobe asserts on its website. "Threats against Flash have been an active area of research over the years, and we are aware of attacks for the following classes of vulnerability: memory, use-after-free, information disclosure, type confusion, integer overflow, out-of-bounds read, and arbitrary code execution."

Of the major browser makers, only Google and Mozilla support the use of Flash in their browsers. There are popular browsers for both the desktop and mobile devices and they do not support the use of Flash.

In "What Are the Dangers of Flash?" for one of the industry's top companies, Adobe, the company asserts that the absence of Flash would result in significant changes online.

Data and Location Tracking

One of the most important things when you are talking about safety for your kids in a digital space, is to understand how the internet works. It is important that you are aware of data and location tracking.

Largely, when you're on your computer, your traffic, and information, will be collected. Data, basically, is any information collected from a source, including websites and servers that are visited by your browser or that you visit. Data is collected when you go online, which includes all devices connected to the internet, such as smart phones or tablets.

Location tracking is a whole different issue! That information is gathered by systems, such as the GPS in your phone and can reveal your location. From this information, you could be tracked in an attempt to find out where you live.

Here are things you can do to protect yourself, and your children, when online and surfing the web.

Suspicious Downloads with Potential Viruses and Hacks

If you provide your children with a computer and internet access, just like we all know to watch out for drug dealers on the street, you should also be aware of similar dangers online.

The most dangerous danger for your kids is that they will encounter suspicious downloads offering free games and free software from dubious sites. This is potentially a virus and hackers catching kids when they are not aware of what they are doing. Kids love online games, that’s no secret, and if they have a computer and internet access, they'll probably encounter these sites eventually. If you are not aware of what they are doing, it may lead to damage to their computer and improper use of personal information and potentially other problems.

· Affiliate links (text or banner ads) are often and widely used in suspicious game offers.

· The types of links are usually a part of a larger banner ad or a text link.

· Suspicions are increased when the link leads to a page that offers downloads without providing reviews from previous users.

Phishing Scams

Do you find you're getting more spam emails from a friend, family member or co-worker? The message may warn you that your account is about to be deactivated, or you have a big bill to pay. This is a phishing scam.

The scammer is trying to get you to click on a link. When you click on the link you land on a website that resembles the real thing, to try to get your account information. Or they'll have you type it in – putting your information at risk.

You won't see the scammer's email address in the scam message, because they may be hiding it by using a spoofed email.

The real way to deal with this is to avoid clicking on links, even if it looks like it's from someone you know.

Never use a link in an email like this. If you do your account could get hacked.

Here are some other things to watch out for: If you're asked to make a purchase, and the site is asking for personal information

If you're asked to "verify your account" by updating your information, it's most likely a scam.

If you get an email from a company you're doing business with and there's a link in the email to update your account information, call the company to check.

Network Security for Online Transactions

Your Internet connection is not secure. If it were, there would be no reason to concern yourself with keeping your personal information private. The Internet is not like a sealed room, but instead works like a big switchboard for all of your information to be passed around to and fro. For this reason, there are different types of security for home networks.

Ensure Security for Home Network

If you're not as technology savvy, you can opt for a home network security system that allows you to plug your computer into an Internet router that is connected by wires to your modem. Your Internet service provider provides you with this router. The second router, hooked up to that one, provides the wireless network for your computers and other technology. You may be able to purchase this second router with the capabilities of monitoring and limiting your home network's Internet access, if you already have one. These are called NAS devices (Network Access Restrictions).

If you choose to set up your home network this way, your children will still be vulnerable to security risks while online, such as downloading unsecured software and videos, and visiting questionable websites. This is only one type of solution for your network security.

Extra Authentication Protection

Some services, such as Hotmail, require extra authentication when your account is accessed from a computer outside of the country. That means that if you try to access your Hotmail inbox while you are in another country, you may get a message stating that you can only access your account from computers in your home country. Similar services may require similar authentication. Fortunately, most of them allow you to add a second email address to their account and ctrl + click the link that allows you to add an email address, and add a Gmail account, or a Yahoo account. That way, you can access your Gmail or Yahoo account from a foreign country, and save any important email from your Hotmail account in your Gmail account, or in your Yahoo account.

If you absolutely don’t want a Gmail or Yahoo account, you can also create a fake Hotmail account in your home country, when you are at home. You can then login to the account when you are in your home country, and check all of your emails from that fake account. When you are in a foreign country, you can access your real Hotmail account from a browser, since Hotmail doesn’t require you to have a Hotmail account, only an account with an email address (which you already have). When you access Hotmail from your browser, you can access all of your emails and send and receive emails from your real account.

Use Only Secure IP Addresses

Take your child's or employee's computer to your local computer retailer, and demand to know if the Internet Protocol (IP) address is listed in a government blacklist. Ask for the IP address to be added to a blacklist.

There are a number of free or paid services online that will blacklist IP addresses. They can tell you if your computer has been compromised.

Even if someone is spying on you via an IP address, the password to your network will stop this intruder from accessing it.

A keylogger is a program that records every keystroke that you make on your computer.

This information is then stored or transmitted to an individual or a computer that is collecting information about you.

A keylogger will typically remain active even when your machine is switched off.

But there are a number of things that can be done to protect yourself from being 'key logged'.

Storing Credit Card Information Online

Storing your credit card information online is a very bad idea. When you create an account do not store your credit card information online. We (child safety experts) have been warning people for a long time about this. I personally have seen a lot of people impacted by this including family members who have had to cancel their credit cards.

Here's the Deal –

The truth is your information could be accessed by ANYONE with an Internet connection. Any of your little, or big neighborhood "friends" could see your credit card information – anyone… anywhere… anytime. Your online identity is subject to no laws and there are no boundaries. It is easier for someone to access your credit card information online, then it is to invade your home.

Do not store your credit card information online, it is not safe regardless of what your children tell you.

Security for Streaming Online Entertainment: Games, Videos, Music

If you have home-based wireless internet service – the kind that allows you to connect multiple computers, game systems, and other gadgets to your internet connection from your home – you know that wireless connections are open to unwelcome guests. The same is true on a wireless internet service provider level.

Because of the many access points, wireless internet providers are more susceptible than regular wired internet connections to hacking. When you’re streaming any kind of online entertainment in your home – streaming games, movies or music – your information is as vulnerable as your internet provider.

That’s why you need to add wireless encryption to your entertainment security system. You’ll know that your information is as well protected as your internet provider’s firewall.

Deciphering the Cloud

If you’re using cloud storage – applications that allow you to store your information and access it anywhere – to stream games, movies or music, you are placing your information at risk each time you use your cloud storage.

Online Gaming

The majority of children spend a significant amount of time each week playing online games. It is always great to know they are spending their time wisely, learning and making new friends. On the other hand, safety and security should always be a top concern for your family. A few safety tips for your kids online are listed below:

Encourage online safety and monitor your child’s activity. While you can’t completely control their time online, you can still make your voice heard and help them make safe and smart decisions.

Always know what you are allowing your child to do online. Set age-appropriate restrictions like games and on-line sites they can visit. This will prevent your child from visiting places that may put them in danger or fill their head with confusing content.

Set up an email address that is specific to your child. This is a great way for them to start communicating with others and will also help you recognize if they are being bullied or come into contact with internet criminals.

Teach your kids about internet safety from a young age. Show them how to protect their personal information online and how to better protect and secure their on-line accounts. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t give your personal information out to someone in real life then don’t give it out on-line.

Streaming Videos and Music Online

When it comes to online videos, the best place to start is taking a look at the audience demographics for the video you are thinking of watching with your kids. A video called "Gangnam Style" will not be appropriate for younger kids. If you hear your kids calling things "LOLZERS" and "LOLZERS ARE AWESOME", you probably have to look into what they are watching on YouTube. It is pretty easy to figure out who you are sharing a video with because if you see an age suggestion, it is probably pretty safe to assume this audience.

For music, there are some age-appropriate reviews on iTunes and other sites, but you can take a look around the web to see what age groups like what kind of music. This is important because when it comes to music, a song about sex is different than their parent talking about sex. You can have fun discussions about the difference between talking about sex and singing about it.

When your child goes online, they can easily find inappropriate content if you let them. Current day trends are all about freedom of information, but you as a parent also have the freedom of choosing what information you want to share with your child, and that is exactly what you want.

Plug-Ins

Even if your goal is to minimize your child’s use of technology, there are a few helpful plug-ins that might be useful. The first is called K9.

The K9 Web Protection software is a good bet if you want to control the sites your child visits online. K9 is specifically designed for Safer Surfing with Kids. By allowing users to block sites and customize their own website categories, you can control the type of content your child will be exposed to.

K9 allows you to set up safe search keywords, and in the unfortunate event that your child accidentally stumbles upon something inappropriate, K9 has a built-in reporting feature that can alert your Internet Service Provider and help to rid the Internet of some of the harmful material that may be out there.

Also available is NetNanny, which actually features the same blocking features described above. But what makes NetNanny stand out is that it will monitor not only your child’s computer usage, but also your entire house! This software can be used on the computer, your mobile phone, and your TV.

Given the massive amount of time kids spend on screens, NetNanny (or K9) is a good way to protect not only your child and your family, but also your household from the harmful content online.

Use Only Legitimate Apps

At the same time, some popular apps have been compromised and users defrauded through games. Look at your child's app preferences, then look for a developer's contact information and read reviews. If a contact number or address is not attached to the app or game, avoid it however popular it might be.

Be sure your kid's apps and games display a privacy policy or terms of service that are consistent with your child's play. Select an app from an established developer that has a presence and contact information. If your child is using an app for education or entertainment, choose one with oversight from a reputable source.

Check that your kid's apps and games are using data responsibly. If the app collects some type of data, like an email address, present that information in a clear and readable fashion.

Be sure your kid's apps and games are not collecting or sharing their location. Similarly, look out for any notification of their location or contacts.

When choosing games for a younger child, choose one with parental controls or ask the parent if you are buying a game for someone else's child. Be sure you know how to use the parental controls, and that other family members are aware of the controls so that apps and games will not be unsupervised. Determine whether or not your child's app or game allows in-app purchases. If so, look for easy ways for them to quickly ask for your permission to make a purchase.

In-App Purchases

One major concern that many parents have is in-app purchases. With all of the app choices out there, it can be difficult to know which of the apps are the best for your kids to play with and which ones could have a complete waste of money. Luckily, there are a few ways for parents to know if the apps that they download for their child are safe.

The first way to be sure the app is safe for your child is to look at what age range is recommended for the app. Most of the good apps have a recommended age of 4 years or older. Next, if you’re not planning to download the app on an actual mobile phone, you can check out the app in the app store to see if it has a safe rating. The safe rating is free for all to see and it can be found on the right hand side of the app page under the picture of the app. Lastly, if your child is at the age of using an app but you are still concerned with in-app purchases, you can turn off in-app purchases and app purchases on your phone completely.

Social Media and Video Chat/Streaming Platforms

Social media and video chat/streaming platforms are popular with today’s youth. The sites feature a wide variety of communication tools and simulations that can dispense information and even access to strangers … and potential predators. Online predators misuse communication forums as a free hunting ground that can put your kids at risk of being exploited in many ways; physical, emotional, and sexual. While there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of your youth experiencing an online threat, the most effective protection is for your child to learn self-protection techniques.

By keeping lines of communication open, you can avoid creating a wall of silence and keep your child from closing off from you. Your child may be facing issues online, or may even be cyber-bullying someone else. When you allow your child the freedom to express themselves, they are more likely to be successful at self-regulating and self-protecting.

Have a seat and do a little role-playing with your kids. How would they respond if an adult, stranger or online friend or peer showed inappropriate behavior that made them feel uncomfortable? By practicing common scenarios, your child will be able to communicate effectively if faced with a threatening situation. It’s recommended that you use a combination of role playing and having your child write down a series of actions they can take in any situation.

Social Media

Video Chat

Chatting face-to-face with your children over the Internet has become as popular as sending Facebook messages, tweets, and instant messages. Software that allows you to video chat with your kids via the Internet is available from sites such as Yahoo!, AOL, Skype, and many others. There is also free software from Google and Apple that allows video chats with Google Hangouts and FaceTime. Then there are other things you can do to help protect your children when using these websites and software.

“Keep your kids’ accounts private and make sure they use privacy settings when chatting online,” suggests the National Crime Prevention Council.

“As a precaution, get to know the people your kid is chatting with. Also, if your child is using cell phone chat, sometimes you can limit the people who can contact him or her.”

Personal Video Streaming

One way to protect younger children is to use personal video streaming filters. These filters are specifically for Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services and offer the adult user customizable options for what is allowed to be seen on the screen.

The various filters allow for blocking different elements from the screen, such as profanity, sexual situations, nudity, violence, and a host of other things that parents may want to prevent from being seen on the screen. This way, if the child clicks the wrong button or somehow types in a specific term or phrase, there is still at least a little bit of protection.

Personal Video Streaming Filters

A separate rating system allows for one to choose what age group is appropriate to watch the specific content. There are also parental controls that help to eliminate the need for filtering and help to ensure that inappropriate content is not accidentally seen by children.

Messaging: Email, Texts and Instant Messages

Offering your child internet access through a smart phone or tablet, obviously removes the inconvenience of having to lug a computer around. By offering your children Wi-Fi access, rather than Internet Service Provider (ISP) connections, you will also have more control over their browsing.

In the battle for screen time, it’s understood that children over the age of thirteen can make their own choices in what websites to visit, but younger children need some parental oversight. Here are my suggested rules to consider:

{1}. –Never log in without you being present.
{2}. –Check your online browsing history regularly.
{3}. –Block inappropriate sites.
{4}. –Whatever age you think your kids should be, add another two years. This is a good guideline.

Never log in without you being present:

It’s understandable, they will have access to communication and will be able to play games and surf the net, but you need to be involved in their online activity. I’ve offered all of my children internet access, but I want to know what they are up to online, and I want to know they are safe.

Check your online browsing history regularly:

Email

An email address is your first line of email defense. It should only be used for emailing friends and family members for no reason should you ever accept an email from someone you don’t know. Keep in mind that a lot of people asking for money online are using email addresses (and sometimes names) of legitimate people. Once you determine that the email is a scam, never reply or click on any links. If you click, you could be exposing your computer to malware. You should also make sure that you have the most secure firewall and virus protection on your computer.

Never click on the links that are sent in the email. If you get an email from a friend or relative and they tell you they are in trouble or need money, be sure to check with relatives and other friends to see if they have really sent the email or if it is a scam.

And never, under any circumstances send money to someone you don’t know. If they tell you to send money to a certain account to help them out of a bind, they’re most likely trying to scam you out of your hard earned money.

Texting and Messenger Services

One of the most underestimated means of communication with children and adolescents is text messaging through the various internet-based phone services. This means that if you want to have direct contact with your child or adolescent, you are going to have to use their language. The national average for text messaging is 1,700 texts sent per month. While we may have only nine or ten messages per day, it is the norm for today’s adolescents.

There are two big cell phone providers for teenagers. Verizon and AT&T. Verizon has a larger market share of the overall cell phone market at 40% while AT&T comes in at 32%. Because of the texting phenomenon, these numbers have swung in favor of AT&T for cell phones in the 10-17 year old range.

And trends suggest these numbers will increase as people as younger as eight and early teens get cell phones. Parental needs are increasingly being addressed by separate applications that track activities, social network communication, location and even web searches. Allowing their children to have a cell phone is a more common parenting choice for parents of teenagers over their 8-12 year old counterparts.

Obviously these means of access are not just used to stay in touch with family and friends, but as communication platforms to organize illicit teenage activities and to reach out for help when teens need it most.

What are some things that parents can do to protect their children online?

Sexting

In recent years, sexting, or sending sexually charged electronic messages and photographs between friends, has become a common form of communication among teenagers and adults alike. While this may have become a normal form of communication, it is illegal in most states if someone younger than 18 is involved. Because of this, the United States Department of Health & Human Services recommends that parents take steps to ensure that their children do not become victims of sexting. Having open communication with their children about appropriate online behavior is the best method parents can have for preventing their children from becoming involved in sexting.

Steps to Prevent Teen Sexting

Have a family meeting to talk about sexting, and the laws that are involved with sexting.

Teach Your Kids about the Risks Involved with Sharing Photographs on Their Cell Phones

Have your children delete, post, and send only images and messages that they would be comfortable with many people viewing.

How to Protect Kids From Sexting

As a parent, the most daunting thing that you may have to deal with is your child getting exploited via the internet, in this case, by sending and receiving sexually explicit material. More particularly, you’re probably far more concerned with the sending end of it since it is widely presumed that girls are the ones who are most vulnerable and exposed to this activity. It's not entirely wrong. However, it is not much of a secret that some boys out there are very much into this activity as well. As scary as it may be, sexual exploitation is definitely not a one-way activity and boys usually face the brunt of it as well.

In simple terms, sexting is the act of sending and receiving sexually explicit material via text messages. Lots of people, young and old alike, are getting involved in this activity, and it's perhaps only a matter of time before this comes into the mainstream. What’s more, it is entirely possible for this activity to get out of hand and grow into something more dangerous.

If you’re worried about this, here’s some advice for you:

Engage your kids in open conversation.

Cyber Bullying: What Parents and Educators Need to Know

Cyber bullying is bullying and harassment using digital technology, including, but not limited to, cell phones, social media sites, and Internet communications. As technology is woven into virtually every part of our children’s lives, they are increasingly vulnerable to cyber bullying.

Know the Signs of Online Bullying

Unlike the types of bullying you might expect might lead to physical harm or violence, most victims of cyber bullying say they feel ignored or get mean messages or text bullying.

Cyber-bullying can make its victims feel worried, sad, angry, depressed, or even lead to changes in school performance. Many parents are not aware of the extent of cyber-bullying, and technology is often at the root of this issue.

How to Protect Your Kids from Online Bullying

The first step is to talk to your children about cyber bullying, make them aware of the signs, and look for changes in their behavior that might indicate they are being cyber bullied. Some signs to look for are withdrawal from loved ones and changes in behavior, sleep, and eating patterns.

Ways To Protect Children And Teens From Cyber Bullying

The Internet is a great resource for families and it brings with it a lot of benefits, but it can also be a dangerous place where predators, cyber bullies and online predators lurk. Studies show that one in five children have experienced online bullying and about 30% of teens say they have been cyber bullied.

Online bullying can be traced back to three primary factors: social anxiety, poor communication skills and aggression. Many kids become victims of cyber harassment simply because they are not comfortable with their communication skills. Just as children learn through observation, so, too, can they become desensitized to bullying from the online examples that they see their peers and family members exhibit.

Here are some helpful tips to help protect your kids from cyber bullying:

One of the best ways to educate your kids is to lead by example. Model online behavior that you would like to see from your kids. Always use respectful language and kindly accept others opinions and ideas.

Make a list of positive role models. Abusive language in real life and online can be a reflection of how a child feels about themselves. This is why it is so important to have positive role models for your child and to show them that it is okay to disagree without being disrespectful. The resources on this link provide your kids with positive role models to look up to:

Recognizing The Signs Your Child May Be A Victim Of Cyber Bullying

Online bullying is among the most rampant and serious of cyber crimes. If you are concerned about cyberbullying, always keep an eye out for the symptoms.

You may think your kid is experiencing cyber bullying more than you know. If you don’t ask them about cyber bullying, they might think you’ve never heard the word .

One of the easiest ways to tell if a kid might be the victim of cyber bullying, is if they get really anxious in class or if they act withdrawn from their friends. Keep an eye on their social circle, and if they seem to be hanging out less with friends and spending more time just staring at a screen , there is a good chance they are a victim of cyberbullying.

Additional Thoughts for Parents and Educators on Cyber Security

If you work in education, one of the most important things you can do to help students succeed online is to be an example of safe, responsible, and ethical use of technology.

If you teach kids about using technology, here are a few things you'll want to pass on immediately.

Instill a Sense of Safety: Teach kids not to give out any information, including name, phone, e-mail, or address, or to agree to meet up in "real life" with anyone who contacts them online or through an app. To ensure that kids know what they should and shouldn't share online, be sure to have them sign a responsible-use contract.

Teach kids not to give out any information, including name, phone, e-mail, or address, or to agree to meet up in "real life" with anyone who contacts them online or through an app. To ensure that kids know what they should and shouldn't share online, be sure to have them sign a responsible-use contract. Help Kids Stay Involved: Keep communication channels open. Be aware of what your kid is experiencing online and make yourself available to answer their questions. Keep an eye on their computer use, and make sure they have time away from technology.

Resources for Parents, Teens, Children and Educators

Schools and parents look for online resources to help protect kids from cyber bullying, cyber predators, sexting, Internet safety, computer radiology, online privacy, and technology addiction. The resources on this page are designed to help everyone learn about Internet safety, Internet ethics, and Internet civility.

Safety, education, and information on online safety for kids, teens, and teens with Asperger syndrome. Our mission is to inform families of teens with Asperger syndrome (who act similarly to teens with autism) about online safety and Internet civility, and how to safeguard teens with Asperger syndrome.

This site is not a substitute for professional help, medical, pharmaceutical, or other advice.

Please read the Terms of Use.