This may be the Most Important Lesson you can teach your kids about being online!
Our children are more trusting online than adults. If someone they didn’t know called your house and asked them for their age, gender, and address, they probably wouldn’t give out this personal information no matter how nice the person asking was. If, however, this person is considered a friend (even one they’ve only met online), our kids are much more likely to give out this personal information. They get a false sense of security because you can see so much about that other person and their life through social media.
Being online opens the door for trusting young people to interact with people from around the world. Even people our kids would cross the street to avoid in real life can look like friends online.
As you know, kids can navigate the online world easily, but just because they know how to do it doesn’t mean they know how to do it responsibly.
Teaching your kids about safeguarding their personal information while surfing the web is one of THE most important lessons you can give your kids.
What Is Personal Information?
Before we move on to how to safeguard our information, as a parent, you need to know what it is. So, what is personal information? It’s any information alone or in combination that enables us to be identified. For our kids, this includes:
- Full name
- Home address
- Telephone number
- Birth date
- Name of their school (and the name of their teacher)
- Neighborhood name or a description of where you live
- Usernames & Passwords
- When parents (or entire family) are away from home
- Where they are in real time
Why Safeguard Personal information
- Stranger Danger
As I mentioned, our children are more trusting online than adults. Kids get a false sense of security with their online friends because they can see so much about that person and their life through social media. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve know the person online – five minutes to buy something off Kijiji, or a few weeks of chatting on Tinder, or a year on Facebook. There is no way to know if the person you are speaking to is represented by their photo or posts. Our kids easily forget that sometimes these accounts can be created with the purpose of luring children in.
- Financial Identity Theft
Identity theft is not a new problem, but with so much of our personal information stored electronically these days, these crimes are happening more often, especially to children.Whether it’s using somebody’s social security number to open new accounts or illegally hacking into a bank account, all forms of identity theft can be serious. No matter what the outcome, it’s usually a lengthy (and sometimes expensive) process that is hard to clear up after it happened.
- Other Identity Theft
There are predators that trawl websites like Facebook and Instagram looking for pictures. These pictures are ones that you and I as parents would think as cute moments of our kids. The one where they are playing on the beach, in their bathing suit, just being a kid. Predators can download these pictures without your knowledge and your child could end up on child pornography sites, or seedy role playing pages on social media. Even if the platform has an option for not downloading the photo, anyone can take a screen shot of these public photos.The role-playing sites are particularly disturbing. They take a picture of your child and give him or her a false name and announce they are up for adoption. The people on this page make comments and come up with stories about what happened to the child, her parents, and sometimes go into detail about the abuse fantasies that they say occurred or want to occur.I urge you, as a caring adult to not use your child’s photo as your public profile picture and to mention this to your friends who do. Let’s keep all our kids safe.
Simple Ways to Protect Your (and Your Child’s) Personal Information
- Run Antivirus & Anti-malware programs
We want to be sure that all devices (whether they are PC, Android, or Apple) have anti-malware and anti-spyware installed. If you would like to understand what types of bugs can infect your computer and the best ways to protect your family, check out this article.
- Don’t walk away from your device in a public place
Leaving your computer while running for a cup of coffee, can leave you open to physical theft as well as identity theft. Once a device has been stolen, you need to assume all of your personal information on that device has also been compromised.
- Use Strong Passwords
I can’t stress this enough. Strong Passwords make a difference. The best passwords are more than 9 characters long, contain both upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Passwords should change for each site login and you should never write them down. (We have a simple system for this, you can find it in our book, on our membership portal, or come to one of our “Get Cyber SMART” seminars and we’ll teach it to you. It’s also a great activity to do with your kids.)
- Set Parental Controls
When safeguarding your children & their information online, consider using online safeguards and parental controls-settings, filters and products that help block certain content so that you are better able to protect what your children see online.
Remember that no single parental control tool is 100 per cent effective. Some content and sites can be encrypted in such a way that they are not recognized by parental controls, or a tech-savvy child may be able to bypass parental controls entirely. Staying up to date on online settings and involved in your child’s digital life is the best way to keep them safe online.
A portion of this article was derived from my new book “Cyber Smart Parents: A Guide to Internet Safety for Kids”. Get your copy here.