Teenagers today have never known a world without the internet and smartphones. They learn to manipulate a touch screen before they can walk or talk; games even exist on smartphones for very young children!
Parents have different opinions about how much harm, if any, using digital devices can do to a child’s development. But one thing that most parents do agree upon is the need to monitor childrens’ privacy online. Why is it important?
Because marketers collect personal information such as names, email addresses, location, and preferences to target online marketing at users. But an even bigger threat is identity theft and financial fraud. Most teens today not only share photos of themselves online, but they use their real name, they specify their hometown or school, and even their birthdate. All of these things are exactly what a fraudster is looking for, and there are apps and websites that specialize in collecting this kind of information. But the concept of privacy for today’s teens is a much different one than it is for their parents.
Luckily there are things you can do to protect your child’s identity and privacy online. According to US News and World Report, there are at least 5 strategies parents can use to monitor their children’s privacy:
- Set ground rules. For young children, don’t allow them to surf the internet unless you are in the room. To enforce this, you can set up passwords on all devices in the home. At the same time, it’s important to teach kids the difference between private and public communication, which may not be apparent to kids using Facebook where everything appears to be private when it’s actually not.
- Follow them online. It may seem like snooping, but monitoring your child’s online history and their activity on various pages and social networks could protect them from potentially dangerous situations or fraudulent websites that earn money by collecting data. Websites exist which can censor the internet for children, but nothing compares to parental supervision.
- Mind the photos. Kids today are prone to share any and every photo of themselves they take. Technology today provides instant gratification, and teens like to see how many likes and shares their photo will get online. But many teens don’t think about the consequences of sharing photos that may be “too private”. It’s important that all profiles and shared photos are marked “private” and not “public”. Another measure of prevention is to have your children use an alias for their online profiles–in other words, using a fake name. Another option is to ban the sharing of personal photos altogether, but this can be complicated when family members and friends are also uploading photos. Also, avoid adding the location to family photos taken at home or on holiday, which could make it easy to target people in certain geographical areas.
- Check their friend list. Monitor your child’s “friend” list on their social network profiles, and make sure that everyone is someone you know; it’s a good idea to check the friends list of their friends as well, and discuss the matter with their parents. This ensures that they aren’t sharing private information with strangers, or potentially dangerous people who prey on children online.
- Use an app. Kid-friendly apps exist now that block websites from gathering data on the users. Other apps don’t allow access to certain non-kid-friendly websites, so it’s like having a “walled garden” for children to explore online.
After all those suggestions, you may be thinking that the internet is a dangerous place for kids. But it’s no more dangerous than the real world, as long as constant parental involvement and supervision is at play. Children today will live their lives online, and it’s up to parents to teach them how to protect their privacy–even if they don’t yet understand why.
Have you ever thought about these strategies with your own children?
What kind of rules do your children have as regards internet usage? Social media?
We love to read your thoughts in the comments section below!