Internet Safety for Teens, Kids, and Students
The functionality and convenience of today's Internet are truly staggering. At the same time, it can be an immensely dangerous area for children, students, and even non-tech-savvy adults.
Children of all ages spend considerable time surfing the Internet, it’s therefore vital that both parents and teachers are forewarned about dangers that lurk online. As importantly, they must be taught how to avoid them.
Below I have prepared Internet safety tips against the most common threats for parents and teachers that will help to protect kids online.
The guide goes far beyond the simple usage of a VPN service. Here I will answer the following crucial questions:
Let’s start without further ado.
To begin with, I want to quote Dr. Aric Sigman, a British musician and psychologist:
The problem with this generation is that we accept there should be limits on the consumption of many things, such as sunlight or sugar and salt, but screen time is not something that is thought of as consumption.
It is still true that today, despite the many warnings and news stories, safety on the Internet is not considered to be a serious matter by parents. This is, quite literally, a deadly mistake.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a survey and revealed that today children start using the Internet from the age of 3.
Another survey, which was carried out by parenting website Netmums.com, found out that parents seldom know what exactly their children do on the Internet. Moreover, they are not aware of how many hours their children spend surfing the Net. Meanwhile, the number of threats children can face on the Internet is enormous and growing.
The opportunities offered to students and children by the Internet today are too numerous to list. Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and philosopher, underlines that:
The Internet could be a very positive step towards education, organisation and participation in a meaningful society.
While undoubtedly true, parents and teachers must admit that the dangers of the virtual world are just as real as its benefits. Being fully aware of the threats posted on the Internet is the key to protecting kids online.
However, before covering online dangers for kids of all ages, I want to emphasize that not only school children but college students are also at risk while surfing the Net. (Actually, in today’s complex cybersecurity environment even adults should take some steps towards Internet safety.) Staying on college campuses, students use their university email accounts, which are vulnerable to “phishing” attacks.
I also cannot but mention how addictive young people to cell phones are. They spend 8-10 hours using their mobile phones: sending emails, checking Facebook, surfing the Internet, etc. 60% of college students admit they might be addicted to their smartphones. Meanwhile, exactly mobile devices are considered to be extremely vulnerable and can compromise students’ privacy.
According to Digital Information World, young people at the age of 16-24 spend on average 3 hours per day on social media. They spend far more time on the Internet than people from other age group generations.
Now, when we know the statics and facts. It’s high time to know what online threats for kids exist. This will help parents and teachers to learn how to protect children on the Internet. As for online threats for college students, I will cover the topic a little bit further.
What are the exact dangers children of all ages can face while surfing the Internet? Let’s have a look.
And then, in the next section, I will cover several safety rules that teachers and parents should follow in order to ensure online privacy and anonymity for kids.
What online dangers for kids exist today?
In today’s Information Age, cyberbullying is a new form of bullying. It is considered to be even more dangerous than in-person bullying because it can occur at any time and wherever a child is. Needless to say how difficult for children to avoid cyber harassment.
According to Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying organization, 17% of children have experienced cyberbullying. They also revealed that it had the following impacts on children:
- 41% developed social anxiety;
- 37% developed depression;
- 26% had suicidal thoughts;
- 26% deleted their social media profiles
- 25% self-harmed;
- 24% stopped using social media;
- 20% skipped classes;
- 14% developed an eating disorder;
- 9% abused drugs or alcohol.
The key here is that cyberbullying is able to impact a child’s mental health and increase the chances that a kid will have poor social relations during all his life.
The same survey found out where people are cyberbullied more frequently. It turned out the Instagram is the least safe social network for kids. Facebook is the second one.
Protecting a child online, parents and teachers should know who are cyber predators, or online predators. They are those people who use the Internet in order to exploit children for various purposes (most often sexual).
According to the University of New Hampshire, as of 2010, 9% of kids received a sexual solicitation. The New England Journal of Public Policy claimed that chat rooms, social networks, chat rooms of multiplayer games are the most common areas where contacts with online predators happen. The journal also has information on those children who are more susceptible to victimization. Among them:
- Boys who are gay;
- Children who have already experienced sexual or physical abuse;
- Children with poor relationships with their parents;
- Children who have risky online behavior or talk to unknown about sex.
However, it doesn’t mean that only these groups of kids are cyber predators’ victims.
Offensive and inappropriate content
In general, the Internet for kids is far from being a secure neighborhood. Here a child can come across inappropriate and offensive content. In many cases, it even doesn’t require efforts to find it. Pornography or racist/hate messages may stumble upon a child accidentally. According to statistics on guardchild.com, 70% of children aged 8-18 have accidentally faced online pornography, while benign browsing on the Internet.
What’s even worse, 17% of kids at the age of 8-12 receive messages with inappropriate content. And less than 10% of parents know about it.
Computer safety for children is immensely important as well. Actually, cybercriminals often use malware in order to steal personal information. Malware is any malicious program or code that is aimed to do harm to systems.
Today hackers know well how to trick people to download such malicious programs. As a rule, naive children often rise to the bait. Just think about how appealing for children the offer to download a free game will be.
Protecting a child online, we shouldn’t forget that even adults fall to suspicious offers on the Internet. Of course, your child is hardly going to fall for a “Nigerian scam” offering him a huge amount of money. Though, such scams as free games or great discounts can appeal to children.
Together with mentioned above scams, there are also the following ones:
- Online contests: As children love to play and win, they are extremely vulnerable to this type of scams. They do not understand that the main purpose of such content is to collect information or identity theft. Nobody wins here and the prizes are not real.
- Fake membership: Small children are usually excited to become a member of a club. However, such “membership” can result in getting the bill for parents.
- Uncommon notifications: popping notifications that warn about viruses or using an old browser in most cases are scams that children should be aware of.
It is just a few examples of popular scams that school children can fall for. College bounds kids and college students are more suspicious of others. In this regard, it would be better to mention them in the section about online threats for college students.
Posting too much private data
What is the definition of "online privacy"?
In short, it is how protected you are on the Internet. In other words, it is your privacy and security level of personal information published on the Internet.
According to emarsys.com, today there are 3.2 billion social media users. It is about 42% of the population. Besides, 56% of children have their own accounts on this or that social network. The average age of teens who sign in for the account is 12.6 years.
However, children do not completely understand what data is better not to post on the Internet or social networks. Meanwhile, providing such personal information as a phone number or address can lead to identity theft.
The peculiarities of children's Internet use in Africa
Of course, not only European and US children suffer from cyber threats on the Internet. According to the “Kids Online” study, which was launched in 2016, the most common online dangers for children in Africa are sexual imagery/sharing and meeting up with strangers they met offline.
The following statistics is a source of concern: one in three children in Africa were exposed to hurtful messages and violent images on the Net; two in five children chatted with a stranger on the Internet.
To take the right steps towards children’s online safety in Africa, certain peculiarities should be taken into account:
- Most children in Africa access the Internet with the help of mobile phones but not tablets or desktops.
- Children often use the internet for learning, socializing, and playing games. However, they do not use it for school work. The Internet is mainly used at home.
- Teachers do not encourage students to use their phones during classes and usually check if learners’ devices are off.
- A child will rather share with another child in case of experiencing some upsetting things.
- Adults are not more technically advanced that children. Actually, they have the same level of this skill.
- Even though a large number of children in Africa dependent on elder family members as their caregivers, parents or grandparents are far not always involved in their children’s internet use and do not get a sense of what their children are doing online.
Taking all these into consideration, it becomes clear how crucial parents’ and teachers’ support around children’s safe internet use in Africa.
As you can see, the number of online threats for children is tremendous. Today every cautious parent has a question: “How to protect my kids?”.
However, child online protection is not an easy task. It requires knowing certain Internet safety tips for kids and teens. And in this section, I’m going to share them with you.
The rules are divided into 3 different sections in order to find online safety tips for kids of a certain age. They will be also useful for those teachers who want to know how to protect children on the Internet.
Ready! Let’s start then!
So what teachers and parents should do in order to guard elementary school children against online threats? Here are some ideas:
1. Make sure your kids use the Internet in secure and safe ways
In order to guard them against offensive content, it’s better to use safe search features of well-known search engines. This guide will help you to turn it on for Google.
The home page of Kiddle, a child-friendly search engine
However, a more reliable way to avoid inappropriate content is to use child-friendly search engines. Here are some examples of search engines that are safer for children and do not contain ads:
- Kid’s search engine
- Teach The Children Well
2. Turn on screen pinning function
The function is immensely helpful for Android users. It allows pinning only one app, whereas other functions of a smartphone are locked.
I followed these steps to enable the function on my version of Android: Settings → Security → Other Security Settings → Pin windows.
The process of enabling screen pinning on Android
After enabling the function, open the needed app and tap the overview button. You will see a pin button in the bottom-right corner of the application overview, click it. Now you only have to confirm your actions. That’s it.
3. Add your kid as a friend on social networks
Do you know that 83% of parents are friends with their children on Facebook? Actually, it’s a good idea! It will help you to identify and avoid problems before something goes wrong. Don’t be too intrusive, though. Your kids can become more secret.
4. Limit time for online activities
Well… We have already known how much time schoolchildren spend on their gadgets. However, it’s important to set limits for elementary school children. According to centerforparentingeducation.org, children under 10 should stay online no more than 1 hour per day.
5. Talk to your children
Teachers and parents should talk to their children: educate them about risks they may face on the Internet and help to understand that they shouldn’t send photos to strangers or share their ages, phone numbers, addresses, names with unknown persons on the Internet.
Teachers may include Internet safety lessons for elementary students in the timetable. Tell kids that they should share passwords only with their parents and tell an adult if something creepy happens.
Keep computers in the classroom in a proper place. So you can see what children are doing. And, of course, view your own online habits because you are a role model for your kids.
If you aren't sure that you are good at some tech terms, here's a good dictionary.
Internet safety for middle schoolers includes the following tips:
1. Explain how cyberbullying “feels” like
Despite many middle school children know what cyberbullying is and how it looks like, they may still do not understand they participate in cyberbullying. The perpetrators think that they will not do much harm to the victim.
However, we have already known serious consequences of cyberbullying. In this regard, children should understand how cyberbullying “feels” like and know what is empathy.
For parents, it’s better to agree on clear rules on how much time your kid will spend on the Internet. Explain your child, what cyberbullying looks like, how it might feel and its consequences.
2. Teach children to avoid online scams
Despite there are a lot of types of online scams, it’s easy to avoid them if pay attention to specific signs. What are they?
- Harsh language
- Emotional manipulation
Tell your children about them. Offers for foreigners are also worth mentioning. Educate your children to ignore messages from unknown senders and those requests that require giving money or asking for it.
3. Tell about warning signals of an online predator
Protecting children online we shouldn’t forget to explain to them who are online predators. Otherwise, they will be not able to identify them on the Internet.
Here are some warning signals:
- An unknown person is overly friendly
- Asks for an in-person meeting
- Comments on the child’s appearance (on social media)
- Tries to scare a child
- Asks personal information
You should also make sure your children know what is grooming. It is a period of time when a predator tries to gain the trust of your child. A person may lie about his age and interests, try to find out the personal information of a child.
4. Protect students’ privacy
In 2017, children and parents: media use and attitudes report revealed that 46% of 11-year-old children and 51% of 12-year-olds have their accounts on social networks.
With that in mind, it’s highly recommended to make use of privacy settings on various social media.
Privacy Settings of Facebook
As today the main danger of social networks is that anyone can know a person’s location while making posts. It would be handy to turn off a location function in order to protect kids. It is also recommended to switch this function off on their smartphones.
5. Use parental control software
For those parents who take safety on the Net of their children extremely serious, I would recommend using parental control software. Such services will help you to monitor your child’s devices. With the help of parental control software, it is possible to block access for children to unwelcomed websites. Besides, you will be able to monitor children’s messages and contacts.
All tips that were mentioned above are suitable for this group of kids as well. However, taking into consideration the age peculiarities of high school children, I would like to provide additional tips for the children from this age group.
1. Create strong passwords
Creating strong passwords for children’s accounts is crucial. Remind your kids that their passwords shouldn’t be shared with others.
It’s recommended to use long and secure passwords, which do not include names or other identifying data that can be easily guessed by a malefactor. The password should consist of a combination of numbers and letters and look like gibberish.
2. Do not leave digital footprints
A child should realize that no matter what he or she has deleted online, this information will never go away. In this regard, teach your children that privacy on the Internet is in a big concern nowadays.
As well as middle schoolers, high school children have to set up properly their privacy settings on social media. It even would be better to make an account private.
Another danger related to social media is that a lot of scammers use social media in order to play a trick with a person. The try to incline a victim to click a malicious link or attachment. That’s why the following tip for high school children is…
3. Secure children’s computers
Malware is not simply a virus that does harm to a computer. Its main danger is that it can sneak into a computer and grab its user's personal information. There are a lot of different types of malware that can bring harm to your child, among them are worms, Trojans, spyware, and others.
The easiest way to avoid downloading malware is to install antivirus software on a kid’s computer. Trustworthy antivirus is able to prevent, detect, and remove viruses from a device.
Undoubtedly, those online threats that kids can face on the Internet are also risky for college students. However, in this section, I want to cover more specific dangers for students when staying on the college campus.
Let’s continue without further delay.
Do not confuse cyberbullying with cyberstalking. Their main difference is that the last notion refers to criminal actions. To be more exact, according to ojphi.org: "Cyberstalking represents a new form of behavior where technology is used to harass one or more individuals."
Here are just several examples of cyberstalking:
- Hacking a victim’s account and posting offensive comments or material;
- Creating a malicious website, writing fake posts about a victim;
- Posting fake or real sexual images of the victim.
According to statista.com, people at the age of 18-30 are the most susceptible age group to cyberstalking.
As you can see from the infographic only 2% of children under 18 have experienced cyberstalking. However, it does not mean we shouldn’t stay alert.
Cybersecurity experts call phishing the use of email in order to trick people by posting malicious attachments or links that a victim will click. The impacts of phishing can stay far beyond monetary boundaries. It is used not only to disrupt computer reputation, steal money but also destroy important information of a victim and even ruin the reputation.
Taking into consideration that college students use their personal and university email accounts, it is vital to know how to avoid phishing.
Besides, wombats’ research shows that adults aged 55 and older know better what is phishing. Only 61% of US respondents between ages 18 and 29 answered this question correctly.
I have already mentioned which scams target children. However, there are also other scams that college students can fall for. What are they? Here are some examples:
- Fake credit cards: Scammers know how students love credit cards. They create fake ones in order to get valuable sensitive data of a user. That’s why it is crucial to select only reputable and well-known banks.
- Fake Jobs: It is necessary to know that real jobs on the Internet do not require paying a fee, let’s say, for fake equipment or training. Students should stay alert and do not allow scammers to play a trick on them.
- Tuition scam: Scammers can also inform a student that he or she is about being behind on their tuition and if a credit card payment isn’t made immediately, a student will be dropped from classes.
Among other college scams, there are upfront fees for something, behavior blackmail (where college students are captured on video in order to ruin their reputation), housing scams, etc.
Particular attention should also be paid to such technology-related scams as free public Wi-Fi or phishing scams.
College students themselves are responsible for their privacy and security on the Internet. Staying on the campus, they do not always have access to a secured network. Together with such online dangers as malware and data theft, they may face cyberstalking, phishing and other threats.
Though, the following tips can help them to take some steps towards safe online browsing:
1. Learn to identify phishing
Today phishing is one of the most widespread methods of cybercrime. According to the Data Breach Investigation Report, phishing takes about 32% of all types of cybercrime. In this regard, it’s vital to know its warning signals. Among them are:
- Grammatical errors
- Threatening language
- Misspelled domain names
- Suspicious attachments and links
- The message asks for personal data
Sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate a safe email from a malicious one. These samples prove how many various approaches malefactors use in order to steal your private data.
2. Use two-factor authentication
If you have the opportunity to use two-factor authentication, you should make use of it. Let’s say, a cybercriminal was managed to know the password from your Google account. However, he will not be able to sign in as he needs a verification code that was sent to your smartphone.
3. Use VPN and antivirus software
Have you heard about VPN software earlier? Meanwhile, VPNs, like NordVPN, are perfect tools that hide your IP address on the Internet. And if your IP is hidden, you are invisible on the Internet and safe. Today VPNs are the best services for guarding your private data on the Internet.
Together with VPN services, antiviruses are also extremely helpful. To avoid malware, install a secure antivirus program that will detect and remove viruses before they do harm to you.
4. Back up data
Another tip that worth mentioning is backing up data. There is always a chance you will spill a drink on your laptop or there will be accidental deletion of data that can be extremely important for your study. In this regard, it makes sense to sign in for an online backup service that will protect you against such failures.
5. Stay alert
Of course, the above mentioned online privacy rules are useful. However, they are worth nothing if you are not alert while surfing the Net. Think twice before clicking this or that link, be aware of suspicious messages, study what is cyberstalking and cyberbullying. And trust no one on the Net.
The facts and statistics that were covered above show how unsafe kids, teens, and college students are on the Internet.
Luckily, there are certain online safety measures that will help parents and teachers to safeguard children against various dangers. There are as well useful security tools like free VPN services that are able to upgrade children’s security level on the Internet.
Stay safe and be alert to danger signs on the Internet in order to protect kids against all types of cyber threats.
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