Internet Safety And Its Importance Explained For Parents

13 min read by Bogdi

published un an în urmă, updated 5 luni în urmă

Internet safety is something that many parents will worry about, especially for their kids. In this online age, staying safe on the web comes with many challenges. As a parent, you may ask yourself: what is the importance of internet safety for my kids?

Staying safe on the internet is important for parents and kids. The internet technologies are developing at a rapid rate, making it more difficult to stay safe on the web. With this rapid rate, parents must keep up. This is especially true of younger generations who are growing up online.

There are many steps that can be taken to protect your kids while online. Following these various steps will help in keeping your family safe from the dangers that lurk on the internet. Keep reading to learn about internet safety and its importance for parents and kids.

What Is Internet Safety Important?

Staying safe on the internet is a challenge that is constantly evolving. The internet has changed rapidly since its inception. There are more changes with each passing year to the internet and internet-based technologies. There are various issues to deal with online, including but not limited to:

  • Hackers
  • Phishing
  • Identity Theft
  • Cyberbullying
  • Age Inappropriate Content
  • Online Grooming
  • Viruses and Malware

This is a shortlist of the many issues a parent may encounter with their child using the internet. These challenges do not just affect the kids, but also the parents. Children and young adults are usually unaware of these risks, as are some parents. As a parent, the more you are aware of the risks, the better prepared you will be to deal with them.

As mentioned, the internet changes all the time. For every solution created, new challenges arise. It is good to stay ahead of the game and know what areas to look at specifically. Remember, these issues will not only affect your kids but you as well.

Hackers and Internet Safety

Hackers have existed since the beginning of the internet. Where there is internet access, there will be hackers. This makes internet safety even more essential now with the increasing expansion of the internet and the constant threat posed by hackers.

Hackers usually work in groups and tend to go after big prizes such as access to bank accounts and other financial holdings. Many hackers are also adept at working with viruses and other malware to infect and take over your computer or device. Hackers usually have their hands in other online schemes.

  • Your home computers or laptops are not the only things at risk from hackers. Smartphones and tablets, which have access to the internet, are also at risk. Hackers can just as easily take over your phone or tablet, which can also store your personal information and passwords to your accounts
  • Be wary of allowing your kid access to your phone and tablets for online purposes, especially gaming and social media

Be aware of hackers and where they lurk. In the internet age, with everything connected online, any device can be subject to hacking. If you accidentally give away sensitive account information or notice strange activity on your child’s account, the best thing you can do is reset the password and notify the security team for the account.

Phishing and Internet Safety

Phishing, much like hacking, has been around since the internet was created. Phishing usually consists of fake emails or messages claiming to be from someone you know or a reputable organization. These messages are meant to coax you into revealing personal information or giving money.

  • Phishing is an act of tricking people into divulging personal information (such as passwords, Social Security numbers or bank information)
  • Phishing can also be used for sexual reasons, as a way to lure unsuspecting people into dangerous situations

Phishing is common in both email boards and social media. Even the popular term “catfishing” is linked to the general term phishing. The object is to lure unsuspecting people into traps through convincing messages. The usual targets, as mentioned, are personal information or money. Some, such as catfishing, may be trying to lure someone into dangerous situations.

Phishing is also difficult to combat. The success of the phisher depends on how convincing they are. Phishers will often assume the identity of someone you know or an organization that seems legitimate. Hackers will often use phishing schemes to gain access to a person’s computer or device, especially to steal someone’s identity.

Identity Theft and Internet Safety

Identity theft is among the most common challenges of the internet age. Identity theft is generally when someone steals your personal information (such as a SS number or credit card) and uses that information to commit fraudulent activities in your name. It is widespread and easy to have your identity stolen online.

Identity theft generally comes in four categories. The four categories are as follows:

  • Medical Identity Theft
  • Criminal Identity Theft
  • Financial Identity Theft
  • Child Identity Theft

For the purposes of internet safety, the two types of identity theft to watch out for are:

  • Financial Identity Theft. Financial identity theft is the most common, usually someone trying to use someone’s financial information to buy goods or services
  • Child Identity Theft. Child identity theft, while rarer, occurs with those who may know your children and assume their identity for malicious activities

Since kids will probably be totally unaware their identity has been stolen, this makes them a prime target for identity theft. While it may seem like a problem only for adults, identity theft can also affect your kids. Both parents and their children have an interest in watching out for potential identity theft.

Cyberbullying and Internet Safety

Cyberbullying is among the greatest challenges for kids on the internet. Bullying has always been a problem for kids, yet the internet creates a situation where bullying does not end when the child leaves school.

  • Cyberbullying is when someone uses the internet to bully and threaten people, usually kids and young adults
  • Cyberbullying is difficult to deal with, as many kids and young adults do not admit when they are the victims of it

Cyberbullying can lead to drastic consequences for youth. One study found an alarming rate of kids and young adults are victims of cyberbullying.

  • 47% of parents with kids aged 6-10 reported cyberbullying
  • 56% of parents with kids aged 11-13 reported cyberbullying
  • 59% of parents with kids aged 14-18 reported cyberbullying
  • 54% of parents with kids aged 19-older reported cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has also been linked to increased youth suicide rates. In 2020, the National Center of Health Statistics (NCHS) found that suicide was the second leading cause of death among the US population ranged from ages 10-34.

While the NCHS study did not conclude cyberbullying was the cause of said suicide rates, many researchers are now beginning to link the two. For concerned parents, watching out for signs of cyberbullying is important.

Age Inappropriate Content and Internet Safety

The internet can be a madhouse of content. There are many sectors of the internet with content not appropriate for children and young adults. While many adult themed and graphic websites do their diligence to block underaged people from accessing their content, many will fall through the cracks.

Many parents may think of pornography when they think of age inappropriate content. While this is a large sector, there are many other areas that are not explicitly pornographic yet are also not age appropriate.

  • Many violent or graphic content is available on YouTube and other streaming services that youth can find ways to access
  • There are video game services that offer games and other content inappropriate for youth that can still be accessed

There are many avenues on the internet where kids and young adults can be traumatized or exposed to inappropriate material. Even their favorite gaming hubs or streaming services can expose them to inappropriate content, which can be traumatic for both kids and parents. Be mindful of where your kids like to be online and what content they have access to there.

Online Grooming and Internet Safety

Predators lurk in many corners of the internet. Many predators seeking out kids will never present themselves as such at first glance. The internet makes communication with the entire world easy, and naturally there will be bad actors reaching out to kids.

  • Grooming is an act of an adult working their way into a child’s life, preparing them for sexual activity
  • Groomers come in many shapes and sizes. Groomers do not have to be strangers, either. They can also be someone you know, perhaps family or friends that happen to know your kids personally

Protecting kids from grooming can often be difficult. It is often hard to spot a potential groomer before it is too late. As mentioned, groomers do not have to be strangers. There are signs to be wary of such as:

  • Is there an adult that has taken an unusual interest in your kids?
  • Do your kids know someone online that fronts as someone of their age yet behaves in a way that seems uncharacteristic of someone in that age range?

The signs are not always easy to spot, especially for friends and family members that few would ever suspect. While not easy to spot, staying vigilant of potential groomers online is important for the safety of your kids online.

Viruses, Malware and Internet Safety

Viruses and malware, like hacking and phishing, are as old as the internet itself. As long as the internet has been around, there have been malware and viruses. These are also among the most common challenges with internet safety.

  • Malware is an umbrella term that simply means “malicious software.” Malware can come in many forms and be used for different things
  • Viruses a type of malware that replicates itself, infecting other computer programs by inserting its code

Malware, as mentioned, can be any form of software performing malicious activities on your computer or device. Viruses specifically are meant to multiply and take over a computer by infecting their programs.

Viruses are especially dangerous as it is easy to catch one on a computer or device, even with protections in place. Computer viruses, much like real ones, will adapt to new immunities against them. New types of malware and viruses are generated every day, and can be capable of taking over entire systems.

For parents and their kids, the challenge with viruses can come from messages on social media or other chat boards where malicious links can be posted. Websites can also be infected with viruses and malware, even ones that seem safe enough. Viruses and malware can not only take over your devices, but also hack and steal your personal information stored on those devices.

How Can You Stay Safe on the Internet?

The challenges to internet safety may seem numerous and daunting. There are effective ways to keep you and your kids safe on the internet, however. The key here is knowing what the challenges are. Since many have already been established, knowing how to safeguard against them is important.

There are various steps that can be taken to protect yourself and kids on the internet. These steps can include, but are not limited to:

  • Do not post personal information online
  • Only use reliable websites
  • Create strong passwords
  • Use a VPN
  • Use Anti-Virus/Malware Programs
  • Keep your computer software updated

You are safe online offers a handy quiz that can be taken to determine how secure you are on the internet. This cyber security live quiz is good for both parents and kids alike. The quiz can help parents and kids know just how safe they are online and how much they know about internet safety.

Following the various steps listed will help parents protect their kids and themselves from the challenges of the internet. Doing these measures in tandem will probably be the most effective way of staying safe on the internet.

Personal Information and Internet Safety

Many will struggle with what personal information should or should not be put on the internet. Many parents and their kids have social media accounts and will sometimes accidentally reveal personal information.

  • Do not place private information on the internet. Confidential information cannot be stolen if it is not online
  • Some personal information should not be placed on the internet in most cases. When there are times you need to divulge such information, it is good to create separate attachments and encrypt the file
  • Do not share account information through the internet
  • Do not share your address over the internet
  • Share as little personal information about yourself or life as possible as hackers can use personal information such as those to figure out passwords

Understand that the internet is almost permanent. Even after you delete something, the information will still float around the web for some time to come. Employers will also look up information about you on the web.

For kids, having them understand the risks of putting personal information on the web is crucial. Any personal information they put on the internet will not only harm them, but could also potentially harm you. As a general safety rule, instill in your kids the importance of not placing any personal information on the internet.

Reliable Websites and Internet Safety

Many search engines will usually have tags next to website listings detailing whether the site is safe or not. Google, for example, uses color coded tags next to site listings to warn whether a website may have malicious activity. Websites are the easiest ways for kids and unsuspecting adults to catch malware and viruses on their devices.

  • Do not create accounts with unreliable websites. Search engines, as mentioned, will give you warnings as to a website’s malicious activity. If a website is tagged as unsafe, then do not create any accounts or upload any personal information there
  • If a search engine does not reveal a website’s safety level, check the website address line. There should be a padlock icon at the very front. That means the website is encrypted and should be safe to use

There are other things to look out for when examining websites. When you examine certain sites, look for the following:

  • Website pages look neat and a generally free of errors
  • Grammar usage in the text bodies are consistent
  • Images fit the screen width properly
  • Any ads on the page do not obscure the page itself

Knowing what to look for in a malicious site will help parents stay ahead of the game in terms of internet safety. Kids are curious minds and will often wander on different websites they find interesting. Teaching your kids what to look for in malicious sites will help avoid them altogether.

Strong Passwords and Internet Safety

Having the perfect passwords is challenging for both kids and adults. Many internet users generally choose simple passwords for their accounts. Simple passwords are usually short and easy to remember, such as someone’s birthday. This is the wrong way to use passwords.

  • The best passwords are ones with at least 12-15 characters. They should also be composed of symbols, numbers and both upper and lower-case letters
  • The more complicated the password, the better. There are password generators available to help with those who struggle to create complex passwords
  • Do not use numbers or letters in any sequence. Try not to spell out whole words or number sequences in order. The password needs to be as random as possible
  • Do not substitute numbers for letters and vice versa. Hackers can still figure out general phrases even with substitutions

As tedious as password safety may seem, it is vitally important. Hackers are looking for weak passwords every day to crack. One weak password can be the difference between safety and losing vital information. As mentioned, there are password generators to help those who cannot come up with complex passwords on their own.

Search engines will also help store your passwords and encrypt them for you to prevent theft. Remembering complex passwords can be hard. Search engines have done a lot to prevent people from forgetting their passwords and keeping them safe from hackers.

VPNs and Internet Safety

VPNs (virtual private networks) are a great way of keeping your kids safe while online. When you connect to the internet, especially public Wi-Fi, people on the network can see you and your IP address. Once you are visible, hackers can use the Wi-Fi network to get into your computer or device.

  • VPNs create private networks through the public internet. VPNs will mask your IP address, making your actions untraceable to outside users
  • VPNs will hide sensitive data that goes across the internet
  • VPNs are great for any parent interested in keeping their kids safe while surfing the web, protecting every bit of sensitive information you may have on your computer or device

The primary drawback to VPNs is they may slow your internet speed slightly. This is primarily due to the fact that VPNs route your information through another server which takes up bandwidth speed.

VPNs are primarily for using Wi-Fi. Kids will be out and about, however, and will often jump on to public Wi-Fi while out. VPNs will help keep your kids safe from being tracked while on public Wi-Fi. Any steps that can be taken to counteract malicious actors on the internet should be taken within reason.

Anti-Virus Malware Software and Internet Safety

The most generic way of safeguarding your computer and devices is anti-virus and malware software programs. There are a multitude of anti-virus malware programs available on the market. These programs can also be tailored specifically for the safety of kids on the internet.

  • It is unwise to use the internet without anti-virus malware programs on your computer or device. Many computers and devices have free software to use in this case
  • There are more advanced programs that can be bought and subscribed to which will include more effective functions at combating viruses and malware
  • It is better to have some form of anti-virus malware software on your devices. The alternative could be catching a virus or malware which could leave all of your sensitive information open to hackers

As mentioned, there are a multitude of anti-virus malware programs available to the public. Norton and McAfee are two well-known companies that produce quality malware programs. There are many other companies you can find as alternative malware programs, but always make sure to check for certifications.

Again, these programs do not have to be paid for. Many computers and devices pre-install free programs in their software to this effect. It should be noted, however, that free programs may not be as effective as ones you pay for. As a parent, having extra levels of protection can be necessary.

Viruses and malware constantly evolve to crack through malware programs. Because of this, free programs can be fairly easy for hackers to get around. As a parent, looking into all advanced options is important for internet safety.

Software Updates and Internet Safety

Computers and other devices have to update their software regularly. Many internet users will notice the annual “your computer is ready for an update” notification. Many will often ignore these notifications. It is unwise to not update your computer software regularly.

  • Keep your software and apps updated as regularly as possible. Many apps will contain sensitive information. If your computer and apps are not updated regularly, this gives hackers a window to use new viruses and malware that older software cannot fight against
  • Software updates are needed for a reason. This reason is primarily internet safety, to safeguard against new cyber threats and hackers looking to crack the firewalls

Fighting against viruses and malware is ever changing. As long as there is an internet, there will be hackers and malware. Keeping your software and apps updated is a small, yet important, step in safeguarding against these threats.

Software developers put a lot of effort into keeping their systems updated and safe from cyber threats. Since fighting against hackers and malware is never-ending, developers have to constantly work to stay ahead of the game and keep their products safe.

At the end of the day, those update notifications are more than a petty inconvenience to your internet surfing. They are vital in the fight against cyber threats. It is small, yet important, part of internet safety. Waiting a few minutes for an update is preferable to getting hacked and losing your sensitive information.

Conclusion

Internet safety is vitally important for parents and their kids to be aware of. There are a multitude of threats on the internet. There are also a number of ways to combat these threats. In general, it is good to know the various threats out there and how to deal with them effectively.

The best approach to take is a proactive one. The crux of internet safety is staying ahead of the game, knowing all the threats that can be posed to your child on the internet. Once you know the range of threats, it is simply a matter of taking necessary steps to avoid them altogether.

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