Accessing the internet has become an unavoidable part of our kids’ daily lives. During the summer, kids game online and keep up with their circle of friends by chatting on mobile apps. Once summer is over and the school year begins, kids are given homework assignments through Google Classroom and parents communicate with teachers through apps. Here are some updated cybersafety tips that can help your family avoid any hidden threats while using devices online.
Evaluate online games and apps before they are downloaded
Mature content or privacy risks can lurk in apps and games. Some criminals even develop apps that look legitimate but actually contain a ‘Trojan,’ a malicious piece of code that can compromise your computer or mobile device. Require your child to seek your approval before downloading any app or game onto any of your devices.
- The app should come from a reputable source (Google Play, iTunes or Amazon) and be rated for kids. Research the developer before downloading the app to ensure their legitimacy.
- Dating apps that share the user’s location and profile are meant for adults. They do not have the same safeguards and privacy standards as apps designed for kids. Delete any you find on your child’s phone.
- Screen the contents of the app, site or game thoroughly. It may look innocent enough on the surface but actually contain undesirable concepts, such as judging other users on their looks. Some simulation games may contain ‘worlds’ with mature content. You should also screen websites. Some websites contain characters that look like they are for kids but actually contain mature content.
- Be cautious about free apps. They often have embedded ads and may try to entice your child to pay a fee to upgrade and get more features. Disabling the ability for in-app upgrades can help prevent your child from accidentally spending large sums of money.
Teach your child to protect personal information
Teach your child to never give out personal information or chat with strangers online. Your child should never use his real name while gaming online or provide any information that might help someone identify him. Criminals sometimes pose as a child in an online game and may attempt to befriend kids while participating in the game, with the intent of piecing enough personal information together to steal identities and use them for fraudulent purposes. Even more concerning, sexual predators sometimes set up fake identities in online games and then try to lure a child into meeting in person. Keep an open dialogue with your child about what he is doing online and let him know to report to you any chat messages he is getting from a stranger.
Set up your online defenses
Remind your child to protect his online accounts by not sharing passwords or user names with anyone, and periodically review the privacy settings on your child’s apps. Protect your child’s email account from ‘phishing’ attacks by teaching him to only give his email address to family members and close friends and to not open email from someone he does not know. All devices should have up-to-
date anti-malware apps installed and you may also want to consider purchasing a parental control app such as Bark (bark.us) or Qustodio (qustodio. com) that monitors online activity or an app like Circle (meetcircle.com) that also limits screen time. In the end, educating your child is the best defense against the dangers that lurk in the shadows online.