More and more today, children have quick, convenient access to the internet, and for many households, the amount of time children spend online is increasing rapidly. While schools and parents offer children some training about internet safety, many parents and children still underestimate the dangerous potential of online play. There are many opportunities for children to socialize online, and, naturally, these opportunities have the potential to be either good or bad. It’s vital that adults recognize the risks of these communications, recognize the signs of online risks, and take steps to keep their children safe.
What Are the Risks of Internet Use?
The Entertainment Software Association states that the average family in the United States has at least one gaming device, personal computer, or smartphone. Industry experts from a wide variety of industries find that children are spending more and more time in front of a screen. When part of that time is spent online, children and teens face many dangerous risks:
- Cyberbullying offers anonymity that is sometimes exploited to send children hurtful messages, derogatory comments, spammed insults, and vulgar language. However, cyberbullying isn’t limited to strangers. Children’s schoolmates may send the same harmful content through social media, texting, instant messaging, and email.
- Violations of privacy happen when children communicate freely in chatrooms or in-game chats. With a few facts, such as where the child goes to school and some information about basketball season, online predators can learn a lot about your family.
- Stolen information is often used by cybercriminals to commit fraud in the child’s name or in a parent’s name. Many scammers convince teens to share all kinds of information, including pictures, and may then use that information to blackmail the teens, extorting money, and convincing teens to keep the behaviors secret.
- Attackers could use any device connected to the internet to exploit children. These devices include webcams, audio devices, and baby monitors, for example.
- Online predators use video games and gaming sites to target young players. These activities often lead to inappropriate conversations, face-to-face meetings in real life, and webcam chats.
- Malware and “freemium” payments could affect your entire family. Legitimate games are sometimes modified to carry malicious programming. Many games claim to be free but require a credit card for registration. Some games have in-game purchases. These games can lead to huge bills parents weren’t expecting.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Fortunately, you can recognize when your child is at risk. According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, the following warning signs help children recognize risky internet use.
- Large chunks of time online, especially at the end of the day and during the night
- Signs of pornography on the personal computer, tablet, smartphone, or storage device.
- Phone calls to your child from people you don’t know
- Gifts in the mail to your child from someone you don’t know
- Reluctance to let you see what your child is doing online
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- New or many email accounts
Once you notice these signs and decide to take action, there are several methods available to tighten your internet security and protect your children from online predators.
Are There Solutions for Worried Parents?
Keyloggers, such as pcTattletale, are apps or software that record everything typed on a computer. Every keystroke is collected for you to review at your convenience. You may find that children have changed passwords, set up new email contacts, and discover who kids are talking to and what they are saying. How can you identify the best keylogger software? Look for an app that operates out of sight. Naturally, you don’t want your children to find ways to work around the protective software. Look for a program that lets you keep track of keystrokes remotely. This way, you can get the information you need without asking permission to get on your children’s computers or devices. The current favorite is pcTattletale which includes all of these features and more.
Have you noticed any of the warning signs in your children? Which strategies have you used to keep your children safe while online? Creating safe habits and monitoring your children’s internet use are some of the best ways to protect your little ones and your teens from pernicious online dangers.