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Online Safety

Children begin using the Internet for both educational and social purposes when they are very young. But when one in four people surveyed has been hacked or know someone who has, parents have reason to be concerned about protecting their children’s information online. 

Anyone can be a victim of hacking, and unfortunately there is no guaranteed way to prevent it. However, following safety best practices and implementing security protocols can help keep your children and their information safe from online predators.

Improve Your Computer and Internet Literacy

You need to be familiar with safe computer and Internet practices before you can teach your children how to behave online. Take a computer class, read a guide book or browse online tutorials and resources to learn more about Internet safety, computer viruses and safely downloading and sharing files.

Before allowing your child to download any programs or applications, read the user manual and fine print to learn about the data it may gather from your computer and how it might be stored and used. 

Teach Internet Safety Best Practices

Educate your children about potential online dangers and how to protect themselves from becoming victims. Your children should follow these rules to improve their cybersecurity.

  • Create strong passwords for each online account. A strong password should be a sentence that’s at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences that you like to think about and are easy to remember.
  • Never share passwords with friends or strangers. Write them down and keep them in a safe place away from your computer, or consider using a password manager if your child needs help remembering their passwords.
  • Ignore requests or messages from strangers and unknown usernames or email addresses.
  • Never download an unknown or suspicious email attachment, app or software program.
  • Never share personal information, such as home addresses, Social Security numbers, names or ages. 

Encourage your children to ask questions and seek help if they are uncertain about a particular website or program.

Set Rules and Boundaries

Teach your children that Internet use is a privilege. Enforce your family’s online safety rules and guidelines, such as specific times they can use the Internet and acceptable websites and apps. For more insight on family online safety rules and guidelines, check out theESET/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) “Behind Our Digital Doors” survey results.

Be Mindful of Children’s Internet Use

Depending on your child’s age, don’t let them use the Internet for long periods of unmonitored time. This can be difficult when you are a busy parent, but one option is to keep the computer in a common living space where you can supervise your child. Alternatively, you can use parental software that monitors their Internet searches, detects inappropriate behavior and/or limits the time they can spend online.

You may decide to tell your child about the monitoring software, but keep in mind that if they know the software’s name they may be able to find a tutorial on how to disable it.

Understand the COPPA Rule

Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, websites and apps covered by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act — commonly known as the COPPA Rule — must get parental consent before requesting any personal details from a child under the age of 13. These details include your child’s name, address, phone number, email address, physical location, photos and videos. These websites must also disclose how your child’s information will be used. 

While the COPPA Rule is helpful for many sites, there is always the possibility a website may not follow this requirement. Also, children may pretend to be older by inputting a different age to gain access without parental permission. COPPA offers some protection, but it is important to be aware which sites your child uses.

Install Security Software

Even tech-savvy users are at risk of becoming victims of an Internet hack. Reduce the risk of hackers infiltrating a device by installing antivirus software that scans for, detects, exposes and removes malware — helping to protect you from viruses, spam and identity theft. NCSA has a list of free security check-ups and tools you can use.

These tips will help you protect your children and their information online, making you feel more confident and at ease.