In an increasingly connected world, privacy has become a key concern for people of all ages and from all walks of life. Online safety for kids is important too. While you’ve probably performed some research into safeguarding your own privacy, both online and offline, you may not have considered that you should place an equal amount of focus on the privacy of your children.
Children today are more social, and more highly networked than your own generation. With readily available access to the internet, they are continually at risk. If your child is regularly using a computer, or any internet capable device, then it’s time to take steps to protect their personal information.
How Much Information is Being Shared by Your Child?
Facebook is still the largest risk platform for children’s privacy, but other services like Viber, WhatsApp, and even various video game services, all have elements of social networking where your child could reveal private information without considering the risks or consequences.
If your child is using a social media, instant messaging, or community based platform, then you’re going to need to know what they’re sharing, and provide some boundaries for them.
The Facebook terms and conditions restrict persons under the age of 13 from joining the network, however, this restriction can easily be circumvented during the sign-up process. Even if you do allow your child to maintain a Facebook page, they must be made aware of the dangers of contacting people who they do not know. Privacy settings can be changed to limit the visibility of a Facebook account, and many parents find that adding their children as a friends and monitoring their contact list is a good way to find out who can see them online. Personal information such as date of birth, age, physical address, and even school, should not be posted on publicly visible profiles. Even on private profiles, it’s much safer to prevent your child from posting any personal information of this type.
For other networks, such as image sharing sites and even online gaming sites, it’s important that you educate your child about the risks of identity theft or data collection. They should never provide their name or other personal details to people who they don’t personally know, and they should be especially careful when joining public forums or chat rooms, or even when communicating over voice chat for online games.
Prevent Your Child from Joining Unknown Sites or Online Services
Almost every page on the internet will collect some information from a user, and although reputable sites follow policies of full disclosure, there are literally millions that do not. Your child should be educated about the dangers of submitting personal information for free offers, site registrations, mailing lists, and other services.
If you are worried about your child not following your advice, or even attempting to hide their online activity, then you can use software for both mobile devices and PCs.
Software from companies like Norton can block apps and even restrict screen time, and some operating systems like Windows 10 even have parental controls as a standard feature.
In some cases, your child may need to provide information for a legitimate service. Try to maintain an open trust with your child, and let them know that you are approachable in these situations, but that they must always ask before submitting any information. In this way, you can review the site or service, and decide whether it’s safe to provide information, and how much will be shared. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law that restricts how online information can be collected from minors, and requires that websites and other services gain parental permission before collecting information. Again, not all sites are based in the US and not all will follow the law, so you will need to be vigilant and sometimes firm when it comes to the online activity of your child.
Does Your Child Have a Bank Account with Online Access?
Your child should be just as careful with their general personal information as they are with their banking details. If you are teaching your children good habits when it comes to financial responsibility and security, then you may have an easier time when it comes to educating them about online privacy. Deposits with federally insured banks will have numerous protections, but the same cannot be said with the information that given to sites or persons online. Explain the risks of identity theft to your child, and how a lax attitude to online privacy is not just dangerous, but it can also be financially damaging.
Identity theft for financial gain is more common than most people would like to believe, so it is a good idea to check with credit reporting agencies to find out if any records exist for your child. In cases where records do exist, the FTC operates a program for reporting and overcoming identity theft.
When you are open with your child, you’ll be better able to explain the need for online privacy. Don’t be afraid to explain the risks to your child, whether it’s identity theft, or even unwanted attention from a stranger. While the conversation won’t always be comfortable, it’s much more important that your child is aware of the best practices that will keep them safe.