The internet is available for use to every age group in the world today, with the majority of its users being youths and teenagers. The internet plays an integral role in the connection of people, firms, and businesses with potential clients, among other things. if we talk about children internet safety for kids is a very crucial aspect.
The increase in the number of tasks that can be done on the world wide web has led to a surge in the participation of children who employ the internet for several reasons like fact-finding, watching of their favorite shows, and even online classes – a feature which became even more popular given the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the increased involvement of kids on the internet today, protecting them from the evil on the web is even harder. While it is easy to limit the content they are allowed to view, they are still exposed to dangers such as cyberbullies, sexual predators, racists, and even hate speeches.
Risks Faced by Children
The following are a couple of potential risks faced by children while making use of the internet:
- Cyberbullying – People on online forums are usually highly opinionated and can get verbally abusive while hiding behind the use of fake monikers. Even on internet-enabled voice chat video games, people can get highly offensive especially when they realize they are playing with children.
- Online scams – the innocence of children makes them easily susceptible to the tricks of online scammers who promise rewards that are too good to be true. Which may lead to loss of money or even identity theft from revealing personal information.
- Predators – there are a lot of troubled individuals with access to the internet, including kidnappers and pedophiles. They usually come under the guise of friendship via online chat forums and try to build a trusting relationship with the child.
According to a survey conducted in South Africa, almost 50% of interviewed children claimed that they saw sexual content while browsing the internet. Recent surveys in Italy also confirmed that over 50% of children with regular access to the internet have been exposed to hate speech or content on self-harm.
Respective measures for parents to help their children stay safe
Recent studies have proven that children that access the internet can do it on a variety of devices. Research conducted by UNICEF has shown that children who are properly sensitized by parents or legal guardians on the forms of information that they can encounter while using the internet tend to be sharper and more skillful than kids who have been shielded from content via adult influence. The exposure would also sharpen their digital & tech skills, and may even spark career interest in technology.
The following are some helpful protective and preventive measures parents can employ to keep their children safe:
- Education – It has been advised by several bodies like UNICEF, UNESCO, and Global Kids Online that parents properly educate their kids on the kinds of information they can get exposed to while surfing the internet and internet safety for kids rather than simply try to shield them from the truth and monitor their activities. Teaching them the basics like not revealing personal information to strangers on chat forums, avoiding in-game voice chats with unknown individuals, and how to discern unsafe websites from safe ones.
- Parental Control – Children are naturally curious and clumsy, and may either intentionally or accidentally open restricted content. Luckily for parents, technological devices like phones and tablets come with kid modes, which automatically restrict the activities and apps available for download to kid-friendly options.
- Stronger passwords – Cybercrimes have expanded their reach beyond just hacking websites. Cybercriminals have widened their scope to some online hyper-realistic adventure games that kids engage themselves in, be it for ransom, or to steal the progress made by the child. Using a really strong password for the login into the gaming account reduces the susceptibility of the child to attack.
- VPN – Another method parents can protect their children is by installing a VPN on their kids’ devices. The definition of a VPN can be simply put as a system where encryption is done over a public server to establish a private network. VPNs help protect against the activities of hackers, compromised websites, and even location tracking.
- Proper Monitoring – when the child is browsing the internet, the parent must ensure that the screen of the computer is within the line of sight so they can occasionally check in on the activities of the child and easily intervene if the child is redirected via pop-up ads to sites with distasteful information like hate speech or graphic content.
It is impossible to prevent children from using the internet, but it is possible to sensitize and protect them from the various forms of cyberattacks that they may be exposed to. This is why it is imperative to keep apprised of new threats and how to protect against them.