Teen’s Online Privacy and Cyber Security
Cyber security and online privacy are perhaps the most important considerations for any generation alive today, but especially for teenagers. Maintaining privacy when it comes to their personal identifying information, location and even family member identities will help to thwart efforts at identity theft and even traffickers trying to track down at-risk teenagers.
According to Stay Safe Online, 1/3 of a child’s life is spent online, 77% of children go to online school and 94% of teens do online research. Furthermore, 91% of 18-24 year-olds say they network online with people they don’t really know. 46% of the same age group uses file-sharing apps that offer access to their personal PCs and files. The most common password used in America is “password,” so further education on the importance of maintaining cybersecurity should be the number one goal of parents and teachers.
Personal safety isn’t the only thing at risk, either. Your teen may suffer from or witness cyberbullying through online messaging and social media, too. Bullying Statistics says that almost half of young people have received threatening messages online. 42% of youths experience bullying on Instagram, 37% on Facebook and 31% on Snapchat. 25% have been bullied through their cell phone.
In addition, the Cyberbullying Research Center says that 33.8% of students ages 12 to 17 have been victims of cyberbullying at some point in their lifetime. Yet, only 1 in 10 teens will tell a parent. This can result in widespread rumors as well as mental health issues in the victims.
It Starts At Home
Stressing the importance of maintaining anonymity online and keeping accounts and files secured should start with parental guidance at home. Establishing trust between you and your teenager is the most vital step in making sure they’re using the Internet appropriately and protecting themselves. As a parent, you must keep tabs on the apps your teen is using and who they’re interacting with online.
This becomes more difficult the older your teen gets with the more privileges they earn. But gradually increasing their exposure to online games or social media can help you ensure they’re listening to your guidance as well as prepare them for adulthood, when you won’t be there to advise them.
If you and your teen have a trusting relationship, it should be rather easy for you to communicate about what’s happening with their accounts and activity online. As your teen matures, this may decrease, but they should be armed with the knowledge necessary to maintain their cybersecurity.
Also make sure you discuss with them the importance of avoiding cyberbullying and how it can affect others, and encourage them to bring any evidence of it to your attention. Reporting the bullying messages or comments and protecting your teen from any attacks can help avoid any future mental health effects it may have.
Ask them frequently about who they’re talking to in social apps, and explain why they shouldn’t accept requests or messages from people they don’t know in real life. Also encourage them to immediately notify you if anything seems out of the ordinary with their accounts, and to always change passwords at least every 90 days.
If your teen is new to using the Internet, frequently check their accounts and activity to keep tabs on the information they’re sharing and who they’re interacting with. Also keep in mind that many teens will have multiple social media accounts to try to confuse their parents.
The most important thing when trying to maintain transparency is explaining the reasons why you’re concerned about their cyber security. Traffickers will find victims on social media; pedophiles will pretend to be someone they’re not and strike up a relationship with teens online; gaming and other apps can share your teen’s location with strangers; pornographers may try to gain your teen’s trust so they can eventually request graphic images or video from them to disperse online; and hackers can gain access to accounts and cause everything from financial hardship to ruined reputations.
Cyber security has never before been such an important subject to discuss with your teenagers. Past generations had less access and sometimes no access, but today it’s an everyday occurrence for school work and extra-curricular activity. Ensuring they understand the importance of maintaining their privacy and not interacting with or sharing their location and other information with people they don’t know in real life is vitally important, too. As a parent, the best thing you can do is build a strong foundation of trust with your teen and gauge their maturity level and readiness for more freedom when working or playing online before giving them permission to utilize games and social media apps.