Category: Online Safety for Kids

The Family Digital Detox Challenge: Reclaiming Online Privacy

Family outside glued to their phones.

In the hustle and bustle of online life, it seems like families are riding a never-ending wave of pings, posts, and updates. While this relentless digital tide keeps us connected, it also leaves a trail: the digital footprint. Sharing too much can invite unwanted snoops and serious cyber threats right to our virtual, and sometimes even physical, doorsteps.

Erasing your digital footprint is becoming increasingly important for families.

It’s becoming increasingly important for families to take a step back every now and then to reevaluate the way we handle our online presence. One effective way to do this is by hitting pause on all things digital. To succeed, it’s important to approach the process not only as a digital detox but also as a clean-up of those footprints we’ve already left behind.

Challenges of Embracing a Digital Detox

You’re probably not even aware of just how much time you and your family spend online each day. On average in the United States, adults spend almost 7 hours online. Hitting the pause button at this time, even for a short period, may come with some challenges.

Here are a few you and your family might face:

Smartphone withdrawal

Our smartphones are practically glued to our hands these days. The thought of not being able to reach into your pocket and check your phone can feel almost out-of-this-world. This level of habit (and addiction) makes cutting down on screen time tough and shakes up the way you communicate with friends and family. Expect a little bit of early resistance at this stage.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Social media platforms play on our fear of being left out, and it’s what keeps us coming back time and time again to online communities. When you take even a brief break from social media, it can start to make you feel as though you’re out of the loop.

Rallying the Troops

If you plan on getting everyone in the house onboard for a digital detox, understand this is no small feat! We’re all different, and as such, we all go online for different reasons. What might be easy for you to give up may not be so easy for other family members. This can quickly lead to arguments and a sharp drop in motivation for the initiative. The key here is to support one another and foster deep understanding between all family members.

Make it a Habit

A digital detox isn’t like that one time you didn’t eat carbs for a day, it needs regular space on your calendars if you’re serious about changing your pixelated ways.  Patience is key, as is empathy and coming together with one goal in sight. When you detox as a family, real change starts happening in creating healthier digital boundaries at home.

Steps for a Successful Family Detox

The first step is to “gather and guide.” Call everyone together for a family meeting and go through every online nook and cranny. Discuss which online platforms everyone is using and decide whether they’re actually worth your while. Some accounts might be vital; others are probably just taking up space. The goal is to shrink that digital shadow we’re all casting.

Second, clear out the cobwebs – delete those old accounts you’ve outgrown or just gotten bored of.

Step three is to fortify and lock things down privacy-wise on what remains of your online world. For social media, this means locking profiles, changing settings from public to private, and if need be, removing your comments from public posts.

And finally, it’s time to unplug and reconnect. Pencil in regular tech timeouts where screens go dark, and you light up real-world connections instead.

Man in dark room checking his security settings

Teaching Kids the ABCs of Digital Safety

As parents, we’ve watched playground swings get replaced by screens and weekends playing sports together turn into marathons in front of the Xbox. For those of us who grew into technology instead of growing up with it, we’re well aware of the threats that young people face today.

The DQ Institute has surveyed kids around the world and highlighted some alarming statistics:

  • Almost half of kids have experienced cyberbullying
  • Close to 30% have been exposed to violent and sexual content.
  • 17% have had risky offline contact with strangers they met online.

These figures are enough to make any family want to take a break from tech, but it’s also important to educate our kids on their digital health when they are online.

Stranger danger online is, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg. Parents should also teach their children about the dangers of oversharing, selfie culture, and the emerging threat of deep fake technology and AI voice cloning.

The “Be Internet Awesome” project is an interactive and fun way to let kids teach themselves about online safety. It’s also equally as important for parents to lead by example, especially when it comes to digital downtime.

Incorporating the Detox into Routine

Turning the digital detox into regular family rituals can work wonders for keeping everyone on track. Mark out the calendars with special no-screen days, unplug the home router together, and have offline activities planned in advance.

Whatever your digital detox strategy is, ensure it’s done together as a family and done routinely.

Pair up as accountability buddies to gently nudge each other back on track if the temptation to stray back to the screen gets too much for some. Fill up the time with activities that get everyone connected as a family, such as board games, hiking, reading, or even just relaxing.

Conclusion

When we all come together for a family digital cleanse, the perks are huge. Regular digital detoxing helps us dodge cyber risks and allows the family to learn to use tech without letting it get the best of us.

It’s often said that once something is posted online, it’s there forever. Fortunately, this generally isn’t always the case, and starts with smart decisions like the family digital detox and reclaiming your online privacy.

Consistently choose real-world play over pixels and you’ll be making connections without Wi-Fi and creating memories far richer than any status update could ever capture.

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How to Protect Your Kids Against Cyberstalking and Online Harassment

How to Protect Your Kids Against Cyberstalking and Online Harassment

Many parents wish they could keep their kids away from every harmful person, thing or event to guarantee their safety. However, in the digital space, there’s limited control over what they may encounter. It doesn’t help that stalkers and bullies are lurking around the web and your child could be a potential victim.

However, there are several ways for people to be careful. Take the initiative to protect your kids from cyberstalking and online harassment when they surf online.

1. Install Protection Software

Most stalkers online will try to launch cyberattacks and access your device. Prevent this from happening by installing antivirus software on your computers. Getting parental protection apps for your kid’s mobile phones and tablets is also ideal.

These digital programs protect your devices from tracking software, which could reveal your and your child’s location. Update them regularly along with the operating system to ensure they’re effective.

2. Create and Set Account Privacy

Anyone can create a social media account. About 81% of U.S. adults favor platforms requiring parental consent for minors who want an account, so stick to those sites.

Remember that all accounts are initially public to almost every user on a social network. Be sure to configure your child’s privacy level. That way, they can only view and interact with people within their space.

3. Educate Your Kids

Talk to your kids about dangers they may encounter online. They’re more likely to abide by your rules when you inform them why they should follow them. Share a few details about how cyberstalking and online harassment can endanger their safety.

You can also give them the following tips:

  • Don’t accept requests from strangers: Strangers can still send follow or friend requests to private accounts. Tell your kids to ignore these messages or to notify you about them. 
  • Don’t post personal information: It’s vital not to share personal details with people you don’t know online. Discourage your children from posting anything that includes their name and address. 
  • Don’t connect to public networks: When your kid goes to the mall or heads to school, they may connect to the public Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, your child’s data is more vulnerable to attacks when they’re on these networks. 
  • Don’t add location tags: Location tags help viewers know where a person has been. Cyberstalkers can use them to narrow down your child’s location. Disable these or tell your kid to avoid making posts with these tags.

4. Capture Evidence

Stalkers and harassers may send nasty comments and messages to your kid’s account. If this is the case, avoid interacting. Instead, capture the evidence by recording and taking screenshots. Let your child focus on something else as you do this.

Screenshots can help law enforcement learn more about your experience. Police can also use them to start an investigation and bring the person to justice. File a report and keep a record of cyberstalking incidents for the authorities.

5. Block the Bad

After gathering evidence, delete the messages and block people to remove them from your kid’s account. These users typically appear in a block list on the account settings. You can hide the feature from your kids or discuss it with them.

Parents could explain these incidents to their kids. Enlighten them about why you took those measures. Plus, you can encourage them to do the same and block bad people in the future.

6. Change Account Details

Some stalkers and harassers can go as far as messaging the email address of an account holder, especially after getting blocked. Make it a point to change your address or hide it from your kid’s online profile.

You can also ask your kids to change their screen names and passwords regularly or do it together. Strengthen security when logging using account authentication methods.  Keeping anonymity can make it harder for people to find your account and harass them. It can prevent hacking and accessibility, too.

7. Limit Internet Use

Parents should monitor and lessen internet use. Kids should not be using social media at a young age. Aside from being the target of stalking and harassment, being on these sites too early and for too long isn’t good. It can have adverse effects on their mental well-being.

Discuss this with your children and set limits on what they can and can’t access on the internet. A 2022 survey finds that 16% of U.S. parents believe 16 is the appropriate age for kids to use social media. You can also set restrictions for other sites.

Keep Your Kids Safe Online

The internet can be a wonderful place full of knowledge and entertainment. However, it can also be dangerous territory for young minds. Online stalkers and harassers are always present. Take the appropriate actions to keep your kids safe when using social media.

Navigating your kids’ screen time can be a struggle. Luckily, there are small strategies you can implement daily to enforce limited time on their phones.

Cora Gold - Editor in ChiefAuthor bio:  Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She strives to live a happy and healthy life with her family by her side.
Follow Cora on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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How to Ensure Data Security Online for Your Child in 2024

How to Ensure Data Security Online for Your Child in 2024

As technology develops and becomes more complex, parental vigilance needs to extend beyond basic content restrictions. From safeguarding your child’s privacy through VPN servers to teaching them about deepfakes, below are the essential elements needed for the security of children’s data in 2024.

Vigilance by parents to continually educate themselves is paramount because cyber criminals, hackers and online predators are also becoming more savvy.

Use Reputable Security Features

Incorporating reputable security features on devices is the first step to safeguarding digital data to the highest degree.

Here are ways you can protect your family while online:

Get VPN Secure

When it comes to keeping your child’s data safe and secure, parental controls may be the first thing to come to your mind. Restricting certain content is necessary, but many other key security features can better protect your child’s data and online realm. Ensuring your child’s privacy online is crucial, and tools such as VPN for Chrome from reputable brands like ExpressVPN can guarantee anonymity to the highest degree.

A VPN completely masks your home IP address, making it impossible for anyone to figure out where your little online explorer is clicking from. Ultimately, a VPN is one of the best features you can get to ensure that no one will track your child’s data.  Technically savvy predators will also be prevented to know where you live.

Enable Authentication Security Measures

Wherever it’s possible, use a two-factor and multi-factor authentication for your child’s accounts. By adding a second form of verification, such as one-time mobile phone codes, you’re doubling up on your data security measures.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Encryption

Ensure websites use SSL encryption (look for “https://” in the URL) to protect data during transmission. Website that are not secure will show a warning to the left of the URL.  For example, in a chrome browser it will show a red x and red letters stating, “Not Secure”.

Privacy Settings on Social Media

Review and adjust privacy settings on social media platforms and apps to control who can see your personal information.

Regular Software Updates

Keep operating systems for Windows and Mac up to date.  This happens in the background, as long as you have automatic updates turned on.  Updates are vital to ensure applications are up to date to patch vulnerabilities.

Firewall Protection

Within your operating system look for a firewall setting.  Turn it on to monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic. This provides an additional layer of defense.

Regular Software Updates

Make sure any software programs you are running are kept up to date.  As with your operating system security, turn on automatic updates so you can rest assured you have the latest version to fix vulnerabilities.

Email Security

Be cautious with email attachments and links. Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links from unknown or suspicious sources. Use strong passwords to protect email accounts from being hacked and used to send out scams or spyware.

Model Healthy Digital Behavior

According to the BBC, 43% of 7,000 parents surveyed across the UK and Europe were concerned about their child’s gadget use. And perhaps not so interestingly, many parents believed they set a bad example themselves due to their heavy gadget use.

Apple has certainly taken heed of the research in recent years, as proven by their efforts during Safer Internet Day in 2023 – they spotlighted tools and resources to protect children online.

To ensure effective data security online for our children, it’s important to practice what’s preached. Here’s how:

Safe Browsing Habits

Model how to look for secure websites and how to avoid clicking on suspicious links. Show children how you exercise caution when downloading files and installing new apps. Use safe search features on any browser your child frequents.

Digital Footprint

Educate your child on the concept of a digital footprint and how any online action leaves an irreversible trace. Encourage your child to be more mindful of what they share and post and how such actions can contribute to a positive digital reputation.

Good Cyber Hygiene

Be sure to log out of your accounts when they’re not in use, and encourage your child to do the same to ensure online safety. Avoid public computers for data-sensitive tasks at all costs.

Talk About Deepfakes

Explain how sometimes deepfake technology can be used to deceive people, discussing potential consequences. A deepfake is when the face of a real person, such as a celebrity, is placed over someone else’s face to make a fake video. It will give a video great credibility and deceive unsuspecting viewers to click on a link.

This discussion will open up an a much broad conversation about how to use critical thinking and healthy skepticism to debunk information online, no matter what form it is presented, including photoshopped images and unrealistic stunts or antics in videos.

Protecting Your Child Online

Protecting Your Child Online

By leveraging these security features and modeling behaviors to your advantage, you’ll safeguard your child’s data and stay abreast of any trends and potential challenges in the digital landscape. From here, you’ll be creating a secure and supportive space where your child can learn, connect, grow, and explore online with you by their side.

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Guarding Innocence: Investigating the Privacy Landscape of Children’s App Data

Guarding Innocence: Investigating the Privacy Landscape of Children's App Data

Privacy concerns have grown as children spend more time using apps and games for educational and entertainment purposes. Children today are at risk from excessive levels of peer pressure and cyberbullying, as well as inappropriate content, online stalking, and screen addiction.

Perhaps one of the most severe but neglected issues is that of privacy. In most jurisdictions, children under 13 cannot have their data sold to data brokers. Yet, a huge amount of data is amassed during their formative years. When a child becomes an adult they can remove their sensitive information or opt out of people search sites altogether. But why not start securing your child’s digital footprint from the outset?

It’s up to parents and guardians to learn about privacy risks and make informed choices on how their children use mobile apps and which platforms have the best privacy measures and age-appropriate content.

Privacy risks associated with children’s app data

According to The London School of Economics and Political Science, children are more concerned about relationships with friends online than the impact of data collection and poor privacy policies. Nevertheless, teaching children how companies and others use their personal information is vital.

After all, a long-term digital footprint can impact a child’s future. Not only can a lack of privacy lead to mental health issues, it can also affect potential employment opportunities, academic admissions, real-world relationships, and personal and professional reputations.

It’s crucial to instill in children the significance of safe and responsible online behavior and the possible dangers of sharing personal information. This approach can promote positive behavior among their immediate social network, making everyone safer.

Methods for guarding children’s app data privacy

Weak security measures or inadequate parental controls can lead to a third-party accessing data without permission. Deceptive and malicious practices can result in manipulative marketing tactics, stolen identities, or harassment of children. Implementing strong passwords and two-factor authentication is standard, but it’s just part of what must be done to ensure privacy.

Equipping children with practical tools, guidelines, and educational tips can empower them to navigate the digital world confidently. Start by doing the following:

Read privacy policies and terms of service

  • Review privacy policies and terms of service agreements thoroughly before agreeing.

TIP: Understand how your information will be used and protected. Remember to:

  • Add parental controls and ways to limit data collection.
  • Adhere to age restrictions and age-verification practices.
  • Monitor online interactions, filter content and data sharing.
  • Avoid pay-to-win models and apps with microtransactions.

Use parental control tools

  • Use parental control settings to manage their online activities, limit screen time, and control shared information.

TIP: Use content filters and restrictions, limit app downloads, and manage app permissions. Remember to:

  • Apply content filters and restrictions.
  • Limit the number of app downloads.
  • Manage app permissions.
  • Get tools for preventing cyberbullying.

Seek out the best reviews and recommendations

  • Filter reviews to get the most informed recommendations.

TIP: Seek out reputable platforms and forums that specialize in app and website evaluations.

Remember to:

  • Find reviews from trusted sources or experts in the field.
  • Seek diverse opinions from various users or communities.
  • Look for detailed assessments on specific drawbacks.
  • Trust impartial, unbiased, and unsponsored reviewers.

Educate yourself and your child

  • Teach your child about data privacy and responsible internet use. Tailor your approach to suit your child’s age and maturity level.

TIP: Tailor your approach to suit your child’s age and maturity level. Remember to:

  • Discuss privacy basics, i.e., full name, address, school name, phone number, and passwords.
  • Give real-life examples to illustrate the importance of safeguarding information.
  • Explain what it means to be responsible online.
  • Adapt the message to their age and level of maturity.

Stay updated on regulations

  • Learn about the online privacy laws that apply to your children.

TIP: Look into online privacy laws specific to your region. Remember to:

Use child-friendly platforms

  • Choose platforms and apps that offer privacy protection and age-appropriate content.

TIP: Ensure your chosen apps and platforms align with your child’s age group to guarantee appropriate content.

  • Opt for child-friendly platforms with suitable content.
  • Prioritize apps labeled with “Kids” or “Family.”
  • Verify privacy measures that prioritize privacy protection.
  • Set advanced privacy settings for as much control as possible.

Engage in open communication

  • Encourage open communication with your children about their online activities.

TIP: Start by discussing their enjoyable online experiences.

Remember to:

  • Ask about internet activities: “What’s your favorite thing about using the internet?”
  • Discover their online issues: “Do you ever feel uncomfortable or unsure about something you see or do online?”
  • Encourage safe sharing: “Let’s talk about what information is safe to share online.”
  • Set guidelines: “Can we set some guidelines together for internet usage?”.

Monitor downloads and app permissions

  • Read about an app before downloading it to see if it involves targeted advertising or data mining.

TIP: Be cautious with permissions that seem unrelated to the app’s primary function. Remember to:

  • Deny excessive permissions that seek unnecessary personal data.
  • Scrutinize app descriptions before downloading.
  • Assess user reviews to identify user concerns.
  • Opt for essential permissions that don’t demand unnecessary access.

Secure devices and networks

  • Secure your devices and home network.

TIP: Protect your devices with up-to-date security software and robust, unique passwords.

Remember to:

  • Integrate encryption protocols to protect your home network.
  • Incorporate firewalls for added security.
  • Add host-file filters like Pi-Hole.
  • Get commercial security software and a VPN

Encourage critical thinking and caution

  • Teach children to question information, verify facts, and be cautious about sharing personal details.

TIP: Help your children adopt a well-rounded approach to digital safety and privacy. Remember to:

  • Discuss real scenarios to identify misinformation and teach caution.
  • Have a motto: use “Think Before You Click” as a quick reminder for online safety.
  • Foster an environment where children feel comfortable asking questions about online content.
  • Emphasize the importance of seeking clarification when uncertain about a given online situation.

Community and education in safeguarding children online

Beyond individual parental control measures, foster a community ethos that values online safety and privacy. Parents, teachers, and companies should collaborate to create a safer online environment for children. Working as a community can make online interactions safer. For instance, integrating comprehensive educational initiatives within schools, organizations, and homes can give children the confidence they need to navigate online environments.

Collaborative efforts among parents, educators, policymakers, and technology companies are pivotal in creating a more secure and nurturing online environment for our children. Improving internet and social media literacy and instating privacy-by-design regulations can enhance their experience.

Recommendations

It can be difficult to understand the world of children’s apps and the specific risks that exist for children. Even so, parents and other adults should find a balance between allowing children to use the latest technologies and ensuring their privacy and safety. While predicting the consequences of growing up online is tough, parents should remain vigilant in finding ways to shield their children’s sensitive information from bad actors.

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