According to the findings of a recent survey, 84% of parents worldwide worry about their children’s safety online. Yet, those same parents spend an average of 46 minutes discussing online safety for kids and threats with their children throughout their entire childhoods. More than half spend less than 30 minutes addressing the subject. In today’s digital landscape, where nine out of 10 children between the ages of 7 and 12 own an internet-enabled device, it’s more important than ever that parents spend more time talking to kids about online safety. Failure to do so could leave their kids exposed to the many online threats.
The Fast Facts
Kids today are digital natives. They spend just as much time on the internet as kids of earlier generations spent roaming the neighborhoods on their bicycles or playing street hockey in cul-de-sacs. In fact, most children learn how to use internet-enabled devices before they even learn to ride a bike. Proof of these comparisons is in the facts:
- 97% of kids under 4 in the US know how to work a tablet.
- 37% of 3- to 4-year-olds browse the web for multiple hours a day.
- The average 8- to 12-year-old spends six hours on social media a day.
- The average 13- to 18-year-old spends nine hours on social media a day.
What do kids do online? Fourteen percent share videos of themselves, another 14% share their cell phone numbers, 22% have met someone they’ve befriended online, 45% share their school name and location, 50% share their real age, and 62% share pictures of themselves.
Online Threats Parents Need to Know About
The existence of threats is evident in the statistics. Some are graver than others. Rebecca Edwards, lead safety & tech reporter with SafeWise, shares with Parentology the threats for which parents should be on the lookout.
“Identity theft — especially for minors — is a bigger threat for digital natives than for older generations,” Edwards says.
“Photo theft is another risk for digital natives that hasn’t always been an issue for previous generations,” Edwards says. She points out that some online predators and pornography sites mine photos of young children off the internet.
Leading to anxiety and distress for many kids is cyberbullying. “Because this group lives so much of their lives online, kids are more vulnerable to attack and being goaded into attacking someone else,” Edwards says. Why this is so pervasive? Edwards points to the internet’s anonymity and lack of face-to-face interaction IRL (in real life).
Talking to Kids About Online Interactions
Talking to kids about online safety shouldn’t be a one-and-done deal for parents. This discussion should occur often and be catered to each child’s age and interests.
Donna Parent, chief marketing officer at Sontiq, the parent company of IdentityForce, shares tips on how to talk to kids about children’s online safety, from pre-school to high school.
- Pre-school: Be vigilant. It can be hard to teach a child about identity theft, especially those who are young. Still, it’s a topic that’s important to convey. Parents should also be alert, aware and vigilant about protecting their children from this potential threat.
- Elementary School: Don’t share information. Tell them it’s very important they don’t share personal information with strangers or people they don’t know very well, especially online.
- Middle School: The power of passwords. As your child begins to use the internet more in middle school and create online accounts, it’s essential to teach them about creating secure and powerful passwords.
- High School: Review privacy settings. By high school, many kids have smartphones and may become active on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. This is a prime time to remind them information on the internet will be there forever and anything they post online could be found again and used against them.
Parent encourages parents to set stricter privacy settings on home computers, laptops, and cell phones, and to remove the exchangeable image file format (EXIF) information from smartphones and digital cameras.
“Digital images can disclose the precise locations of where photos were taken,” Parent tells Parentology. “Every time you take a digital photo, Exchangeable Image Format data is created. This data reveals the exact location or GPS coordinates of where the picture was taken. The image has been geotagged.”
Finally, Parent emboldens parents to discuss the importance of being selective about what photos children post and how often. Ideally, she says, kids should ask for a parent’s permission before posting, but because the ideal is not always realistic, it’s important to equip young people with the tools they need to make smart decisions on their own.
Online Safety for Kids — Sources:
Rebecca Edwards, Lead Safety & Tech Reporter, Security Expert, Safewise
Donna Parent, Chief Marketing Officer at Sontiq, the parent company of IdentityForce
84% of parents worried about their child’s online safety, but aren’t taking the time to talk about it, Manilastandard.net
Ultimate Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety, EveryCloud