13 min read by Bogdi
published 2 ani în urmă, updated un an în urmă
So you’ve discovered that your child/teen has a VPN or is interested in using one and you’re not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. You may have heard that VPNs protect people’s online browsing but you may have also heard they make it harder to restrict access to specific websites you don’t want your kid visiting. What exactly should you do about this?
If you’d like to know some of the primary reasons why a kid/teen would want to use a VPN and whether or not it’s a good idea, you’ve come to the right place. In the following sections we’ll break down the basics of what VPNs are and what they do. Then we’ll explore the reasons why kids/teens would want to use them and how you can safely allow them to.
Before we get into the reasons why kids have VPN, let's first define what a VPN is in the first place and what it does.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Just as the name implies, it allows you to connect to your own private network virtually. The private network you’re connecting to is all in the cloud and can artificially make it appear that you’re anywhere in the world.
A VPN connects you to web pages through an encrypted tunnel, which essentially makes it impossible for anyone to track your browsing habits or gather data on you for advertising. This ensures you have the utmost privacy when browsing online and keeps any information you have safe from hackers.
Initially, VPNs were developed so that business people could work online outside of the office without having to fear any privacy concerns.
In essence, they are now primarily used for protection online. VPN’s can help protect your identity, location, browsing habits and personal/financial information. They can also be used to gain access to services and pricing that is normally regionally locked.
There are a number of reasons why a kid would want to have a VPN installed on their computer or device. These range from the same basic security concerns that adults have when surfing the web to a simple desire to use blocked apps during school.
It’s important that you don’t jump to conclusions and narrow in on the worst possible reason why your kid might want a VPN. As these have grown in notoriety alongside ever growing security threats online, more and more people are considering them as basic and necessary as having anti virus software.
In the following sections we’ll lay out 9 reasons why your kid would want to have a VPN.
Believe it or not but there may be no malintent whatsoever behind your child or teen’s desire to use a VPN. These days kids and teenagers are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.
They know as well as you (if not better, let’s be real, they grew up in the internet age) that anytime they connect to a public wifi network, they run the risk of having their data breached. If you’ve ever used their computer to help them order something off of Amazon, this is likely helping you as well. As your credit card information may hang in the balance.
Further, they may not just be afraid of strangers hacking into their data. In today’s world, where kids are almost ubiquitously tech savvy, they could have concerns about whether or not others they know at school could be breaching their online security in an effort to cyberbully them.
There are countless horror stories about kids hacking social media accounts, webcams and other private information in an attempt to bully others. That is much easier to do when you have access to the network the potential victim is using. With a VPN your child may actually be safer from these kinds of attacks.
If you browse directly on your home network, everything you do while online is visible to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). This means they know exactly what you look up and how long you spend on each and every website. Oftentimes they gather this data and sell it to advertisers, who proceed to bombard you with advertisements.
If you don’t use a VPN yourself and you have social media, you have likely seen the results of this in your own life. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve been thinking about (and liking browsing for) a particular product or service, you’ll suddenly see ads popping up for it on your social media accounts?
This happens in large part because your ISP has taken information concerning your browsing habits and sold it to advertising companies. Some people don’t mind this as they want to buy those things anyway, while others see it as a violation of privacy that goes beyond the pale. If you fall into the latter group, it’s likely that your child/teen does as well.
Their attempt at using a VPN may not be for any diabolical reason but simply because they too feel that their privacy is violated by ISPs. Like you, they don’t want to be bombarded with targeted ads they didn’t ask for.
If you do happen to allow your child/teen use social media sites when they’re at home, they may simply want the extra protection that can come with a VPN. Predators and other unsavory characters that know what they’re doing online can find out where someone is simply by the network they are connecting from.
This means that if they want to prey on a child or teen using services like social media sites, they can carefully discover their location and where they are from. In much the same way a VPN can scramble your location to get the most out of subscription services, it can also scramble it so that predators have a harder time tracking you down.
This is one of the better benefits VPNs can offer to help put your mind at ease as you give your child/teen more and more online freedom. If you want them to use it for this reason, make sure they also know to turn off location sharing on the photos they take with their smart device before they upload them online, to further solidify the privacy of where they are.
We should note here that one downside to your child/teen having the ability to hide their location is they can even hide it from you. If you use location finding services on their smart device to make sure they really are where they say they are, the VPN can complicate things. You may have to go back to the old fashion way of driving by to ensure they are where they should be.
Depending on the country you live in, services like Hulu and Netflix will have slightly to dramatically different content. On your home network you’ll only be able to watch the shows and movies that are available in your particular country because the network provides information about where you are.
Using a VPN however, can allow you to “fool” the given app or service you’re using into thinking you’re connecting from just about anywhere in the world. This means that when you use something like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, you’ll now have access to titles you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to see.
While this might sound like something that can get them into trouble, it’s actually perfectly legal and one of the primary selling points of VPNs. As long as the content they are accessing is appropriate for their age, you really shouldn’t have any worries. Of course, because of the VPN it can be harder to know exactly what they are watching or listening to.
This also works with other services that have different pricing based on region. For adults this usually comes in the form of things like airline services. It’s possible that your child/teen has found this to be the case with some service they would like to use and are trying to save money.
Nearly every kid and teen these days consumes some form of online content. This can be in the form of YouTube videos, podcasts and video streams. Many of these content creators get sponsorships through companies like NordVPN.
If your child or teen is really into a particular content creator or show, they may be hearing daily advertisements for VPN services. This can spawn them into feeling like they need to use one whether they fully understand what they’re capable of or not.
This is part of why it’s so important that you have open communication with your kids/teens about their online activity. If they want to try something because they heard an ad for it from their favorite Twitch streamer, they’re likely going to share that with you if you just ask.
If VPNs are something they’re interested in exploring, it’s better they do it with your guidance rather than on their own.
In much the same way you and I wouldn’t want someone looking over our shoulder at our computer screen, even if we’re just working, many kids also desire the same degree of privacy. Even if they aren’t doing anything wrong, a lot of kids see a VPN as a gateway to greater independence and privacy.
It’s really the parent who must decide whether or not their child is mature and responsible enough to shoulder that degree of independence and the responsibility that comes with it. Some kids will be ready while others still need the guidance of parental controls to keep them safe.
As we pointed out in the intro, VPNs are increasingly becoming a standard part of anyone’s computer set up. It’s quite likely that your kids want to use one simply because all—or many—of their friends at school are using them.
While this isn’t a good enough reason on its own for your kids to have one, it does point towards a future where they will be seen as a fully standardized part of browsing the internet. Getting your kids used to VPNs and the responsibility that comes with them while they’re still under your thumb, isn’t a bad idea.
Now we get into a not-so-nice reason why your child or teen might want to use a VPN. If they are using one of the big name VPN sites (and not one specifically designed for kids) they may be trying to take extra steps to cover their browser history.
Even incognito mode on their browser won’t give them the degree of cover using a VPN will. With incognito mode their browser history won’t be saved to the “History” tab, but there will still be a record of any insecure sites they visited within the network itself.
With a VPN on the other hand, none of that information is sent to the home or school network. It’s instead scrambled by the VPN and isn’t even accessible to the government.
Because you’re using your own private network (even if it is just virtual), you're not bound by the restrictions placed on the regular network. You can think of this like remotely accessing someone elses computer through yours. Even if your computer doesn’t have certain games or apps, the one you’re accessing might. They can be used because you’re accessing it virtually.
Oftentimes kids will exploit this feature and use sites that you don’t want them on and have blocked from your regular home network. For example, if you’ve told your child they can’t have social media profiles until they are a little older, they could use a VPN to go in and set up an account without you ever knowing.
At school this gets used all the time to access gaming websites. Now-a-days, at many schools almost every kid has a laptop. They’re asked to do research projects in class, while the sites they visit are monitored remotely. If they’re playing games on the school network, administrators can immediately shut it down or just have it blocked ahead of time.
With a VPN on the other hand, they can be playing games any time the teacher is at the front of the class, and quickly minimize the tab if they start walking around the room. As someone who works in education, I can assure you this happens everyday.
The first thing you want to do if you discover your child or teen is using a VPN, is to take a step back. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are using it for nefarious purposes because there’s a good chance they’re not.
Instead you should ask them why they feel they need one, and start an open dialogue about their online activities.
While there are risks associated with your kid using a VPN, it’s likely overall a net positive that they have one installed. In fact we would recommend that everyone have a VPN installed on their computer.
While there are risks to them abusing it to go on sites they aren’t supposed to, they can find ways of doing that without a VPN. The VPN however, will provide them with ever increasingly necessary security. Those security protections extend to warding off advertisers, online predators and cyberbullies to name a few.
If you want to ensure your child isn’t using the VPN solely for negative purposes you can take the following steps:
At the end of the day, there will be some kids whom you probably shouldn’t allow to use a VPN. However you’ll only know that if you pay attention to their behavior, keep up with their performance at school and regularly talk to them.
While we believe that there are more benefits than downsides to a child or teen using a VPN in general, there are some specific situations where that may not be the case. It’s important that you look out for warning signs that your child might not be ready to handle the responsibility of a VPN, to prevent any issues from cropping up in the future.
The following struggles may indicate that your child or teen is not quite ready to take on the responsibilities that come with using a VPN:
None of these problems are to say that there’s anything wrong with your child. It’s just that we all mature at different rates and we all struggle with different things when growing up. Knowing your kids strengths and weaknesses is the first step to knowing whether or not a VPN is safe for them.
If you’re really concerned with keeping your kids off of certain websites and apps then you should consider using a VPN specially designed for kids. These VPN’s provide a similar level of security as the standard big name ones do but they also allow parents to go in and block specific sites.
If you, for example, want your child to stay off of social media until they are a little older because of the way it can correlate with mental health struggles, it’s as easy as plugging those sites into the settings.
We should also note here that while these label themselves VPNs, they aren’t really VPNs in the strictest sense of the word. Instead they are tools you attach to your own network which act a lot like VPNs and prepare children to use real ones when they are ready.
Below we’ve gathered two of the best VPNs that allow for parental controls but still provide a great service:
Child safe VPN is a service that provides all of the same benefits you’d get from a normal VPN alongside easy to use parental controls. This gives you the best of both worlds. Your child can enjoy the security and flexibility of a VPN without you having to worry about them misusing it.
Child Safe VPN forces your kid to use safesearch on Google and allows you to limit or block each of the following services, apps or websites:
Clean browsing is another kid friendly VPN like service. It too allows for kids to get the benefits of a VPN while still affording the parents some control over what they can and cannot look at.
Clean Browsing costs around $59.99 a year and is used not only by parents but by schools as well.
In the internet age, protecting your information online is becoming increasingly important. While there are some risks associated with allowing kids to use a VPN--like giving them access to ordinarily blocked sites--the benefits far outweigh the risks. With a VPN your child's location and activity will all be protected from the prying eyes of advertisers, predators and the government.
If you’re still not sure that you want to let your kids take advantage of something that could potentially be misused to visit mature sites or get into social media too early, consider a kid specific VPN service. Services like Child Safe VPN, will allow kids to enjoy the benefits of having a VPN, while still affording you the ability to set parental controls. It’s a win for everyone!
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