E Safety Guide for Parents and Kids To Stay Safe Online

E Safety Guide
for Parents & Kids | to keep kids safe Online

Are you worried about your kids’ safety online? These days, having a computer along with an internet connection is essential to the educational and social needs of young people. However, parents must acknowledge the dangers lurking in the digital sphere.

If you’re unsure how you can safeguard your children from digital threats, this guide is for you. Here, we’ll identify the many things that put kids at risk and reveal what you can do as a parent.

Contents

Digital Threats to the Kids

Oversharing of Personal Information

How Social Networking Apps Put Kids at Risk? ​

Sings and Tips to Prevent Cyber Bullying

Problems with Online Gaming

Exposure to Inappropriate Content

What is e-Safety?

The first thing to understand is the concept of e-safety. According to the Merton Safeguarding Children Board, e-safety refers to the protection of young individuals when they use gadgets and the Internet. Thus, it’s concerned not only with online activities but also with how children use their smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

E-safety hopes that children can reap the many benefits of the Internet and digital innovations without becoming vulnerable to attacks or abuses such as bullying and hacking. Likewise, e-safety is a concern not only of parents but schools and governmental organizations as well.

Parents and kids alike should be aware of e-Safety because people nowadays live with so much technology around. It’s not enough that children have superior technical knowledge than adults when it comes to gadgets. What’s important is that they realize that careless use can have dire consequences.

What are the Digital Threats to Kids?

Now that you know what e-Safety is, it’s time to learn just how children can be put at risk online. Below, we’ll explain the dangers of each threat and identify ways to fix and prevent them.

Cyberbullying

One common yet very problematic issue facing kids today is bullying. In the age of smartphones and the Internet, this comes in the form of cyberbullying. Children can experience this not only through social networking sites but also through online gaming.

Platforms of Cyberbullying

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram regularly contain text and image posts that are demeaning to others. Making fun of others online is a bad thing, but what’s worse is when these posts have a public privacy setting — allowing even strangers in other countries to view them.

People sometimes create Facebook pages or groups solely to bully others. Also, cyberbullying can be done through chat or direct messaging. Children could get automatically to a group chat where they are targeted.

When kids play online games, strangers or even friends can bully them through chat or voice chat. There are even times when others reveal sensitive information about a kid to the whole community. Furthermore, others could impersonate the child to ruin their reputation.

Statistical Information on Cyberbullying

According to DoSomething.org, 81% of young individuals believe that cyberbullying is less risky than face-to-face bullying. Furthermore, almost 43% of them have experienced it, with one in four having done so at least twice.

About 70% of students often see cyberbullying when they use the Internet. And while one in 10 young people will report to parents or authorities that they were cyberbullied, 90% of teenagers would just ignore the attacks.

Moreover, girls are more likely than boys to be victims of cyberbullying — but this does not mean that boys are the top bullies. Interestingly enough, girls are twice as likely to commit cyberbullying. Perhaps the grimmest statistic is that victims of bullying are up to nine times likelier to consider suicide.

What are the Signs of Being Cyberbullied?

From the statistics alone, don’t expect your kid to always report any incidents of cyberbullying. According to Cyberbullying.org, you should take note of the following warning signs that your child is being bullied online. 

  • Looking mad, annoyed, or sad after browsing or playing online
  • Overeating or not eating enough​
  • Loss of interest in their hobbies
  • No longer wants to discuss their online activities
  • Overeating or not eating enough​
  • Oversleeping or lacking in sleep​
  • Suddenly stops using their gadget
  • Looks anxious when using their smartphone or computer
  • Does not want to go to school or outside

What Your Kids Can Do If They’re Cyberbullied?

Children don’t have to keep their troubles on their own. Regardless of whether your child has suffered from cyberbullying or not, you should teach them the following helpful tips as noted by ConnectSafely.org:

  • Be direct with the bully if you want them to stop, but only if you feel safe and comfortable.
  • Seek help from others such as your peers and family members if you’re unsure of what steps to take.
  • Don’t fight bullies because that’s exactly what they want and this doesn’t solve anything.
  • Record proof of cyberbullying attempts through screenshots or using a camera.
  • Use technology to block, remove, and report the post and account of cyberbullies.
  • Don’t blame oneself because it’s the bully that has a problem for harassing others.

Here is a Helpful Video About Cyber Bulling: 

What Parents Can Do to Address Cyberbullying?

Parents don’t always know what their kids are doing with their smartphones and laptops, but that’s not a big issue. What matters is that you know what to do if your child gets cyberbullied.

  • Cooperate with your child and listen to them instead of just telling what to do.
  • Seek different perspectives from the persons involved to know the larger context of the situation.
  • Be careful with taking the issue public when it can be solved without others knowing.

Preventive Measures Against Cyberbullying

While there is no guarantee that cyberbullying will be prevented, the following tips for kids will help reduce its likelihood:

  • Think before you post because what you say reflects your character and behavior.
  • Check first if the photo you want to upload is something your family and friends would be okay with because cyberbullies can save them to ruin your reputation.
  • Think before you post because what you say reflects your character and behavior.
  • Think before you post because what you say reflects your character and behavior.
  • Check your privacy setting and limit it to only friends, peers, and family you trust.
  • Keep your password strong and safe to prevent cyberbullies from using your account to post malicious things.
  • Check your own name on Google and other search engines to see if there is any sensitive information there that needs removing.
  • Don’t open messages from people you don’t know since these could either contain malware or demeaning content.
  • Learn what cyberbullying is to know what online behavior is acceptable or unacceptable.

Sexual Predators

The Internet allows people to gather and share information without having to disclose any personal information about themselves. What’s problematic about this is that pedophiles and sexual predators, in general, use the technology to find their next target.

Through forums and social media, sexual predators from different parts of the world can now gather and share their interests and tactics. Anonymity and fast communication allow pedophiles to work together. Eventually, they reinforce each other that there’s nothing morally wrong with pedophilia.

Sexual predators could easily spend hours on end looking for a target. Once found, they can create a fake account describing themselves as teenagers looking for friends. These people won’t find it difficult to find trending topics and hip terminologies.

Statistics on Online Sexual Predators

According to Enough.org, the number of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) cases in the United States reached 2,776 by 2013. Out of all the CSEC suspects, about 18% of them were held for child sex trafficking. The median age was 39 years old. As for the profile of these suspects, 97% were male and 70% were not married. Moreover, 97% of them were U.S. citizens and 79% didn’t have any felony convictions beforehand. Eighty-two percent were white individuals and 56% didn’t attain a college education. As of 2015, a report by WeAreThorn.org indicated that 42% of sextortion victims first interacted with the sexual predator online. ‘Sextortion’ is a form of sexual exploitation in which victims are forced to have sexual activities to prevent the release of any sensitive or intimate information.

Online Grooming

According to InternetSafet101.org, sexual predators will devote time and attention to get what they want. Pedophiles will lie about their age, location, and career to get the trust of children. They will change their way of talking to suit their target. The objective of grooming is to make the child believe that the predator is someone they can always talk to about anything. Sending compliments regularly helps children feel closer toward a complete stranger. Eventually, the pedophile will discuss sexual themes to check if the kid is comfortable with this subject matter. Even if kids shouldn’t see such content, the predators will begin sending them pornographic content. This severely affects the behavior of an innocent child. Worse, the predators could also send child pornography that is illegal. All of this is done by exploiting a child’s curiosity to know more.

Warnings Signs of Sexual Predation

The following behaviors are possible indicators that your child is interacting with a sexual predator online:

  • Expresses frustration when they can’t go online
  • Does not want to discuss their online activities
  • Has phone conversations with someone you don’t know
  • No longer interacts with family and friends as much as before
  • Starts downloading pornographic content
  • Turns off their device or switches to another screen when someone is nearby

What Parents Can Do?

Adults don’t have to feel powerless if their children become exposed to sexual predators. While it’s unlikely that they will open up about it immediately, here’s what you can do:

  • Keep communication lines open between you and your kids so that they won’t feel shy about sensitive topics.
  • You may prevent their access to certain sites by changing the settings and utilizing parental controls on apps and gadgets.
  • You can also keep sites open for access but you should talk to them about internet safety.
  • Do not react excessively if your children open up about talking to strangers or being part of a questionable online activity.
  • Be patient and calm when you ask your children if they met an online stranger and talked about sexual topics.

Oversharing or Giving Away Personal Information

Strangers can easily collect the personal info of others to ruin their reputation. Moreover, not every kid is fully aware of just how dangerous it is to disclose personal information online. The good thing is that parents can inform their kids and utilize the COPPA Rule.

Understanding the COPPA Rule

If you have children under the age of 13, you should be aware of The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The Federal Trade Commission ensures that the COPPA Rule is being followed by companies. It is designed to keep your children’s personal info safe in the digital sphere.

Simply put, the COPPA Rule requires companies that own websites and online services to let parents know if they want to gather the personal information of their children. ‘Online services’ includes apps, which children under 13 will likely use.

Without your permission, any website or service cannot just collect and use the name, home address, and email address of your child under 13 years of age. The COPPA Rule also means that you have control over your kids’ photos, videos, and even recorded audio files.

Useful Tips to Protect Personal Information

Apart from the COPPA Rule, there are other ways to keep personal information safe. According to the University of Washington, you should let your kids know about these tips:
  • Don’t be afraid to tell your parents if you feel uneasy about interacting with someone online. 
  • Have an anti-virus application ready before you open any link or attachment sent by strangers or even friends.
  • .Ask permission and guidance from your parents first if you intend to meet a stranger you saw online in person.
  • Never provide any personal details to people you don’t know.
  • Make your password strong and don’t use easy passwords such as your name or phone number.
  • Use a username for your online accounts that do not reveal your real name.
  • Create another email account for apps or websites that require you to use an e-mail address.

Exposure to Inappropriate Content

Children today can be easily exposed to content that isn’t fit for their age with a simple click of a button. Whether they’re using a smartphone or laptop, there are a variety of ways to receive inappropriate content. Parents must do what they can to prevent kids from seeing what they shouldn’t.

As kids play free mobile games, an ad could appear and show indecent images. The websites that your children visit might contain video ads showing cartoons in lewd clothing. Furthermore, there are many forums or groups online that talk about violence, sexual themes, and other content not meant for kids.

Social networks, video games, mobile apps, and live streams can host inappropriate content. Kids should not see them at an early age because they won’t fully comprehend what they are. They might react to it in negative ways or develop an unhealthy attitude toward certain topics.

Statistics on Kids Seeing Inappropriate Content

According to InternetMatters.org, about ⅓ of British children between the ages of 12 and 15 saw posts depicting sexism, racism, or discrimination online. More than half of kids aged 11 to 16 have already seen explicit or sexual content on the Internet.

What Parents Can Do to Help?

Parents should take note of the following tips if ever their children spot inappropriate content online:

  • Ask them whether they accidentally saw the inappropriate content or they searched for it out of curiosity.
  • Let your kids know that spotting adult content by accident is nothing to be ashamed about.
  • Calmly talk to them about the sensitivity of the topic if they actively looked for inappropriate content.
  • Help your children open up about what they feel upon looking at the content.
  • Let your kids know that spotting adult content by accident is nothing to be ashamed about.
  • Seek organizations and counselors to help you talk to your kid if they won’t open up.
  • Utilize parental controls to prevent them from accessing adult-only websites and online services.
  • Check the age limit of the websites that your kids are visiting and explain to them why they need to reach a certain age to view them.

Problems with Online Gaming

Online games allow your kids to interact with other people without leaving home. However, mobile, PC and console games all expose children to a variety of issues. Just like social networking sites, games typically have chat and even voice chat features.

While chatting isn’t inherently bad, kids might divulge sensitive information to strangers without being aware of the consequences. Second, they might see or hear about inappropriate words that can affect how they talk in the long run. In-game items can also make kids use their parents’ money to become stronger.

Another problem is when kids become addicted to gaming and forget their studies. They could also search for ‘cheats’ but these could be malware in disguise. It’s also not uncommon for other players to bully others if they lose or simply want to aggravate others.

What Kids Can Do to Play Safely?

Children should not be banned from enjoying online games for no reason. Instead, they should take note of these tips outlined by GetSafeOnline.org:
  • Pick a username that does not show your real name.
  • Do not include your real personal info if a game requires the creation of a profile.
  • Update your antivirus program and check firewall settings before playing.
  • Do not get a pirated copy of the game since this might have malware and not run as intended.
  • Don’t share your password and make sure that it can never be guessed easily by strangers or even friends.
  • Update the game to have the latest bug fixes.
  • Be aware of players trying to scam you for in-game items or even sell real products outside the game.
  • Delete your game account and any personal information before deleting a game from your device.
  • Follow any restrictions set by your parents to avoid playing too much and forgetting your responsibilities.

Phishing

Phishing refers to the act of gathering personal or sensitive information from others by disguising oneself as a trusted entity online. In other words, a phisher will disguise oneself as your family, friend, or work manager to get info such as your name, address, and even credit card details.

Phishers will target anyone they want — and this includes both parents and their kids. They will create websites or emails similar to those you’re familiar with to trick you into divulging personal information. Usually, phishers will ask about verifying accounts, confirming transactions, and updating profiles.

Another way phishers get your attention is by sending an e-mail declaring that you won a prize. This will come with a link that will install malware in your device and steal your information or lock you out from your own device.

How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?

It’s easy to get rid of phishing attempts if you know how to spot one. Both you and your kids should be well-informed about these attacks. According to Open Colleges, these pieces of information will help you protect you and your gadget from phishers:
  • Check if the email uses extremely upsetting or celebratory messages to attract your attention when you’re browsing your inbox.
  • Read the email address to see if it’s really an organization or person you know because a phisher’s email address will try to replicate these entities using similar words, symbols, and characters.
  • See if there’s a digital signature to serve as proof of authenticity.
  • It’s common for phisher emails to have no form of personalization indicating your name or any of your personal information since it’s sent to a multitude of people.
  • Some phisher emails are personalized but you can verify them by contacting the actual organization or person.
  • Do not send any personal information that a questionable email requests of you.
  • Don’t click any links or download any attachments sent by anyone you don’t trust.
  • Check if the website address you’re typing is accurate since there are fake websites meant to replicate genuine ones.

Malware

The final digital threat that parents and kids should be aware of is malware. This refers to computer programs developed to harm computers in a variety of ways. You can get them from links and attachments in emails to ads in unsecured websites.

Malware comes in different forms. Adware leads to unwanted advertisements popping up on your computer repeatedly. Likewise, spyware steals your computer data that includes your internet browsing habits and file information.

A Trojan horse, on the other hand, is malware that does not spread to other computers. This type of malware is deceptive as its name implies. It will disguise itself as a document or any ordinary app before revealing itself once you open it.

Things to Remember About Malware

Everyone should be aware of malware. Parents can lose valuable work files while kids can lose their academic documents or favorite programs. While malware itself won’t totally be eradicated from each and every computer, you can keep your devices safe by taking note of the following:

  • Document files and any executable files could harbor viruses while simple image and sound files won’t have them.
  • Any viruses or Trojan horses in an email won’t affect your computer unless you click or open it.
  • Scan the files you download especially if they’re from a site you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Have an antivirus program and keep it updated to identify new malware.
  • Provide a backup of all your important files in case the virus affects them.
  • Disconnect your device from the Internet if it becomes infected with a virus to stop its further spread.

How Social Networking Apps Put Kids at Risk?

Strangers can easily collect the personal info of others to ruin their reputation. Moreover, not every kid is fully aware of just how dangerous it is to disclose personal information online. The good thing is that parents can inform their kids and utilize the COPPA Rule.

Social media can host many of the aforementioned digital threats due to its features. Malware and explicit content can be sent to your children through group chats and direct conversations. From Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat, you will find many accounts that post inappropriate content.

Likewise, sexual predators use social media to lure kids. Children might not know that what they post is visible to the general public. Thus, the goal here is to be aware of the dangers of social networking apps so that you and your kids can enjoy them.

Snapchat e-Safety Issues

Unlike other social networking apps such as Twitter and Facebook, Snapchat has the appeal of automatically deleting messages. Millions of teenagers use these to talk to their friends and send images to each other. But even if it’s meant for people 13 years old and above, younger kids could still use it.

Furthermore, some teenagers use Snapchat to conduct sexting, which involves sharing sexually explicit texts, images, and videos with others. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to this since they can develop an unhealthy attitude toward sex — and they might be talking to a sexual predator.

It’s best to talk to your children about the consequences of Snapchat. Their privacy settings must be set in such a way that only their friends can talk to them or view their posts. They should know that even if their posts are eventually deleted, someone might still take a screenshot even if you’ll know about it.

Kik E-Safety Issues

Just like Snapchat, Kik has become a very popular choice for young people. It’s a free messaging app that has more than 300 million users. Apart from text messages and images, users can post surveys and stickers. Users don’t even need a phone number to begin talking to strangers on the app.

While the app is built for people at least 13 years old, it was given a 17+ app rating since it’s become a rather infamous platform for sexting. According to Who Is Hosting This, there are ‘cards’ that allow minors to easily talk to strangers and view explicit content from others.

You can help your kids use it safely by telling them to never share their personal information. In addition, they should block and ignore users who are asking them about mature topics. Lastly, you should ask them to only talk to people they know and trust.

General Tips for Using Social Media

No matter the social networking app your kids use, the following tips will keep them safe: 

  • Learn how to report posts and accounts.
  • Block questionable individuals who are approaching you online.
  • Delete any inappropriate comments made on your posts.
  • Add only the people you know and avoid randomly selecting people to invite.
  • Keep your posts and profile private.
  • Take screenshots or keep records of inappropriate messages from others.
  • Never share your password.
  • Check your message or file before you post them.
  • Avoid clicking ads on social media apps that lead to unknown and unsecured websites.
  • Disable location services so that no one can track you.

Conclusion

Overall, parents need to be more engaged with their kids as they begin to explore the Internet and use gadgets more prominently. You must be calm when you explain to them certain topics relating to e-Safety. Never get too strict and let them understand why they should be responsible users. Apart from the COPPA Rule, you can check out the Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety posted by the FBI. Remember that both private and public entities are available for contact if you need assistance regarding any e-Safety issue. Lastly, maintain a trusting relationship with your children so that they won’t be afraid to open up about any of their troubles.

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