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Internet Safety 101: A Parent’s Guide to Their Child’s Safety on the Internet for 2021

Updated: July 6, 2021 July 6, 2021 By Rakesh Naik

A parents guide to children’s safety on the internet. Small kid is in frond of offensive  content on monitor

Worried about what your child is looking at on the internet? Are you sure your child is safe while using the internet? Wouldn't you like to keep your child safe while using the internet? This article is meant just for this.

In the article below, I discuss kids' safety on the internet, various dangers that they might encounter on the internet, and a few steps that you, as a parent, can take for keeping your child safe while using the internet.

This would include protecting them from online scams, violent or vulgar content, YouTube content intended to scar kids, and much more.

 

The Internet can be used as a place to have a greater positive impact on the world, There’s a ton of positive initiatives online. The web should be used to inspire others, not spread hate or to hurt others.

Justin Bieber

Since its inception in the early 1990s, the internet has enabled computers to function more efficiently through interconnected networks. While in its initial stages, the internet was a means of information sharing meant for a corporation setting, these days, it has become much more.

Different uses of the internet by different users such as laptops or smartphones

 Image Source – cisco.com

From sharing information to viewing various media and even making video calls, the internet has undergone a rapid revolution in the 21st century. Even with its accessibility, the internet has gone from being available only to enterprises; now, it's open to virtually everyone, including even little kids.

However, along with these benefits, there also are quite a lot of drawbacks due to the improper use of the internet. These are doubly effective when the users in question are kids. With even adults falling victim to various scams on the internet, it should come as no surprise that kids are vulnerable on the internet.

The main objective of this article is focused on keeping kids safe on the internet and helping them protect themselves by making them aware of the potential dangers of the internet.


Threats on the Internet

  1. Cyber Bullying

  2. Cyber Predators

  3. Accidentally Downloading Malware

  4. Sharing Sensitive Information

  5. Falling for Scams

Threats on the internet come in every shape and size, with younger users or kids being especially vulnerable. Most of these dangers affecting kids include cyber bullying, cyber predators, accidental malware downloads, divulging private information, scams, etc. Keeping kids safe should be of the highest priority.

Additionally, cybercriminals try to target kids specifically due to the ease of victimizing them without a lot of effort or sophisticated tools. Most online forms of harm are usually caused through violent or sexual content aimed at manipulating little minds.

  1. Cyber Bullying

    An image depicting the “monsters” on the internet that try to harm a casual user

    Image Source – bitdefender.com

    Cyber bullying basically is when a toxic person sitting behind a computer decides that other people using the internet are below him and need to be taught the same.

    Cyber Bullying, technically, is harassing or bullying an individual online and through electronic means. Cyber bullying is more common amongst kids and teenagers on the internet, with most of the bullies usually being, for the lack of a better term, keyboard warriors.

    Most forms of cyberbullying happen in social media and online gaming platforms where one person (the bully) tries to bring harm and establish dominance against another (the victim). Social media bullying includes hateful comments on Facebook media, YouTube content, and even Twitter DMs.

    The hate on gaming platforms is even worse, with most of the hateful content being in the chat section in the game. Most of the hate here is usually swear words, hurtful remarks, and even racial slurs.

    With almost 73% of the teens being online and using social media platforms with new ones joining daily, the rate of cyberbullying is on a constant rise.

    Prevalence of Cyber Bullying Among Different Genders


      Total Sample
    N (%)
    Boys N (%) Girls N (%) 95% CI
    %Lower - Higher
    Pure Victims 730
    (11.8)
    310
    (9.3)
    420
    (14.7)
    11.1 - 12.6
    Pure Perpetrator 312
    (5.0)
    220
    (6.6)
    92
    (3.2)
    4.5 - 5.6
    Victim/Perpetrator 337
    (5.4)
    219
    (6.6)
    118
    (4.1)
    4.9 - 6.0
    No Involvement 4823
    (77.8)
    2594
    (77.6)
    2229
    (78.0)
    76.7 - 78.8

    Source – ‘Traditional school bullying and cyberbullying: Prevalence, the effect on mental health problems and self-harm behaviour’ scholarly paper

    In a paper entitled “Cyberbullying Among Adolescents and Children”, surveys conducted show that the rates of cyber bullying have gone up from 13.99% in 2015 to over 57.7% in recent years.

    In another paper, "Comparing cyberbullying prevalence and process before and during the COVID-19 pandemic”, it been said that cyber bullying went up in rates, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an increase of almost 10%.

    While cyberbullying may not always cause physical harm, it will definitely create traumatic memories in your child’s mind that will forever stick to them and can even potentially lead to PTSD in young adults.

  2. Cyber Predators

    An online predator trying to manipulate underage kids into performing illegal or sexual and vulgar activities

    I am sure at least some of you have seen the American TV show ‘To Catch a Predator'; if not on TV, at least a part of the countless YouTube content.

    While you might think these only happen occasionally and that the police will arrest them all, you are very wrong dear reader. Cyber Predators are widespread on the internet, and one might be trying to influence your child right this moment.

    Online Predators Comparison Among Different Social Classes


    Non-Victimizers
    (n = 49)
    Child Pornographers
    (n = 6)
    Travelers
    (n = 43)
    Non-victimizer Age (YOA)  60.2 (± 5.26 SEM) 33.3 (± 1.934 SEM)

    Race/Ethnicity

    Caucasian
    African-American
    Hispanic
    Asian
    Arab/Middle Eastern

     

    100% (n = 6)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)

     

    74.4% (n = 32)
    9.3% (n = 4)
    11.6% (n = 5)
    4.7% (n = 2)
    0% (n = 0)

    Economic Status

    Wealthy
    Middle
    Blue-Collar
    Poor

     

    33.3% (n = 2)
    50% (n = 3)
    16.7% (n = 1)
    0% (n = 0)

     

    4.7% (n = 2)
    81.4% (n = 35)
    2.3% (n = 1)
    11.6% (n = 5)

    Employment Status

    Full-time
    Part-time
    Disabled
    Retired
    Unemployed
    Student

     

    66.7% (n = 4)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    33.3% (n = 2)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0) 4.7% (n = 2)

     

    74.4% (n = 32)
    2.3% (n = 1)
    9.3% (n = 4)
    2.3% (n = 1)
    7% (n = 3)
    0% (n = 0) 4.7% (n = 2)

    Education Level Post

    Graduate
    College Grad
    Some college
    High School
    High School & certificates
    GED
    Dropout

     

    0% (n = 0)
    50% (n = 3)
    0% (n = 0)
    16.7% (n = 1)
    33.3% (n = 2)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)

     

    0% (n = 0)
    14% (n = 6)
    7% (n = 3)
    74.4% (n = 32)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    4.7% (n = 2)

    Prior Arrests/Criminal Records

    Burglary & Domestic Battery
    Burglary
    Domestic Battery
    Sex Crimes
    None

     

    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    0% (n = 0)
    100% (n = 6)

     

    2.3% (n = 1)
    0% (n = 0)
    2.3% (n = 1)
    0% (n = 0)
    95.3% (n = 41)

    Source – ‘Shadows into Light: The Investigative Utility of Voice Analysis with Two Types of Online Child-Sex Predators’ scholarly article

    A cyber predator is a manipulative individual who tries to sexually abuse innocent kids by manipulating them to either send them personal sexual and vulgar content over the internet or by meeting in person.

    While not always looking for monetary returns, these predators just do what they do to simply get a kick out of it and for satisfying their own personal twisted sexual appetite. They sometimes even post any and all videos they manage to gather as YouTube content to further their satisfaction.

    While exploring the minds of these criminals and understanding why they do what you do, isn't possible for you and me, it is enough to stay aware of the existence of such criminals.

  3. Accidentally Downloading Malware

    Image depicting a PC that has been Infected with harmful malware

     Image Source – freepik.com

    Even grown-ups like you and I sometimes fall victim to malware that is hidden in software that looks harmless to the untrained eye. So, it isn't very surprising if young kids who don't know any better would do the same either.

    Malware basically is any malicious software with the objective of harming your PC through a variety of functions and actions. This could be malware that steals sensitive data, spies on your activity, or even makes your PC unusable. To learn more about malware, read our article "How Malware Works”.

    Malware that aims to attract kids is usually masqueraded as attractive cartoon characters, or free video games or even offers to win exciting prizes. Kids who come across this would get excited, click and links and download whatever software mentioned in the “offer”.

    With the ever increase in rates of malware, the number of kids falling victim to and downloading such software is also on the increase.

  4. Sharing Sensitive Information

    A child using his parent’s credit card while purchasing on the internet with no supervision

     Image Source – moneytips.com

    Kids usually do not understand social boundaries in social interaction with other kids or even adults. They just speak out whatever is on their mind and answer whatever questions they are asked with complete honesty.

    This innocence is exploited by manipulative and malicious people on the internet who aim to gather such sensitive information and make profits for themselves. Kids would even give out parents’ credit cards information if asked nicely on the internet by strangers.

    Besides this, they might also be manipulated into sharing unsafe videos and unsuitable content on public platforms, which might be illegal and hateful, while being entirely unaware of what they're causing.

    Such sensitive information might also include sexual content, violent videos and even terrorism-related content. The manipulators who want to spread such media without incriminating themselves usually try and manipulate children using the internet to do the same.

  5. Falling for Scams

    A news article about the Nigerian Prince phishing scam perpetrator being arrested

     Image Source – Flavia Dzodan Twitter Handle

    Well, when talking about scams, let me begin by reminding you of the Nigerian prince who always wants to give you his fortune if you would only pay a little of his costs. Being the most common scam on the internet, you and I know to avoid this, but would your children?

    Such scams could potentially lead to further exploitation by the attackers through extracting information, collecting money, malware installations, and even taking part in illegal activities.

    Other scams of this kind primarily include free games that kids can download by submitting some “necessary" information and even online competitions that offer easy wins of amazing prizes.


Keeping Your Children Safe

  1. Making Your Kids Aware

  2. Teaching Social and Personal Boundaries

  3. Appropriate Online Etiquette

  4. Parental Controls on the Internet

  5. Be a Good Role Model to Your Child

Your kids, due to their lack of life experience, aren’t as wary on the internet and would need your supervision regularly. After reading the previous section, I hope you have a better understanding of all the potential dangers your child will have to face on the internet.

Now that you know the dangers that exist, you are ready to learn on how to combat these dangers effectively to keep your child safe on the internet.

Keeping your kids safe will require a lot of attention, support, and effort from your part and also educating your kids so that they can protect themselves.

  1. Making Your Kids Aware

    Tackle a problem at its core. If your child is aware of the dangers on the internet, how to identify them and avoid them to stay safe, the battle is almost won.

    An image showing points parents can teach their kids about to keep them safe while using the internet

    While internet awareness isn't very difficult to teach, when it comes to practicing it, the process becomes a bit tricky. This is mainly due to the fact that threats on the internet don't always follow a textbook process.

    For example, just because it is said that free games online might have malware in them, it doesn’t mean all free games will always be malware or that malware is always hidden using free games.

    Teaching your kids to be aware of the internet could be as easy as describing and showing them examples of various threats online or even going online with them when they use the internet.

    Once your kids have enough awareness and experience on the internet, you can be that much less concerned about their safety on the internet.

  2. Teaching Social and Personal Boundaries

    Like I mentioned below, a child will have no filter on what they say or expose to another kid or even an adult. While this could be pretty cute and funny at times, it could also be potentially very dangerous.

    A basic social circle structure to teach kids about boundaries

    Image Source – raisingchildren.net.au

    While I wouldn’t advise you to sit your toddler down and talk to them about such boundaries, it is necessary to train a few good habits into them from a young age. This could include not talking about important household information in public, not making purchases on the internet without proper supervision, or the ever so familiar ‘Stranger Danger’.

    As your kids grow up, you should teach them more about such boundaries with more sensitive topics once they are capable of understanding more complicated issues.

    Be a confidant for your child and encourage them to come to you and tell you anything that troubles them. If they tell you whatever that makes them feel uncomfortable, be it a bully on the internet or an overly friendly man messaging them for selfies.

  3. Appropriate “Netiquette”

    Ok. Now, just because your child is aware of threats on the internet and knows not to give out information to anyone who asks for it, you need to teach them how to behave correctly on the internet.

    A few of the many etiquette rules to be followed on the internet

     Image Source – Stanford Graduate School of Education

    If your child grows up not behaving correctly on online platforms, they could potentially pose a risk to themselves as well as others on the internet.

    Firstly, make sure that your child isn’t a bully. If your child is the reason for harm caused to another individual, that is something to be really worried about. Your child could even grow up to become a criminal and get arrested for illegal activities.

    Secondly, teaching your child how to manage problems that they may come across on the internet not only makes them more resilient on the internet, but it is a skill transferrable to real life as well.

    This makes them generally have a positive attitude in life and not base their happiness on approval from strangers online.

  4. Parental Controls on the Internet

    Now, there are some things that you might have to enforce on your child even after all the above life lessons you teach them. Like someone said in the past, kids will always be kids. No matter how hard you work on improving their behaviour and awareness on the internet, they are bound to make mistakes and mess up.

    Having in place some controls and restrictions on what your child views and accesses on the internet is something that I highly recommend.

    Controlling access to certain websites and media platforms for your child

    These restrictions could limit the variety of content they view online, the access to certain websites with vulgar, sexual and hateful content, as well as prevent them from falling victim to any crimes and, at the end of the day, keeping your kids safe on the internet.

    Many applications already exist on the internet that allows a parent to limit the content their kid views or accesses on the internet. As parents, you should also place certain limits on the hours your child spends each day browsing the internet.

    In short, make sure that your child knows that you are in control and that they can’t get away with everything. It is expected for you to be a bit strict with your child at some point of time to keep them in check.

  5. Be a Good Role Model to Your Child

    Finally, no matter how well you educate your child or restrict them on the internet, your child will always take after you, their parent.

    Kid looks up to his parents and sees them as super heroes

    Image Source – telegraph.co.uk

    Like charity, safety on the internet also starts at home. If you practice good, healthy, and safe internet use, so will your child by trying to mimic you. On the other hand, if you bully others on the internet and believe everything you see online, naturally, so will your child.

    A few habits that you could impart into your child as a role model would be restricting electronic device usage in the bedroom, using the internet only for a limited amount of time, in using the internet and many more.

    While you can teach these habits, it would be moot if you don't practice what you preach, making the child get away with breaking these rules that you've set in place.


Conclusion

The internet, while being a blessing for growing kids by helping to educate them about various important aspects, isn't always the haven that you may think it to be.

In our article, we looked at internet safety for kids and discussed the common dangers that children can encounter while using the internet. Finally, we went on to look at how you can help your child to protect themselves and avoid risk while using the internet.

If you want to read more on this topic, read our other article ‘Internet Safety for Teens, Kids, and Students

If you liked the article or have any comments, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Tags: 
Threats
Author
Rakesh Naik
Freelance Cyber Security Analyst and Writer practicing in Infosec Assessment.

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