5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

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Online gaming is popular among both adults and kids. So popular, that according to the Center on Media and Child Health*, 66% of tweens aged 8 to 12 play online video games for an average of 2 hours per day. With such high gaming and internet usage, teaching kids about cyber security should be of utmost importance. From downloading an application for a single-player game, to engaging others on social media platforms there are several aspects to keep in mind to ensure your kids, devices and personal information are safe and secure.

Cyber Security Rules for Kids – What to Consider:

1. Explain Cyber Security to Your Kids

Before you follow any of the other tips listed below, it’s important to start by educating your children on cyber security. Explaining terms like cyberbullying, hackers, viruses and more can help bring awareness to the dangers of the internet.

Have a list of rules to follow when using the computer, such as limiting time spent online, encouraging kids to always ask permission before signing up for a new website or downloading games, and explaining the importance of avoiding strangers online in games or chat rooms.

By having an open dialogue and explaining the importance of cyber security before letting your child on the computer, you can avoid any suspicious and unwanted internet activity.

2. Monitor Your Child's Online Activity

Monitoring activity online can help tremendously in keeping kids safe. It’s important to follow age restrictions on websites and ensure that any online games kids play are appropriate – especially because some games may involve monetary gains, bets, unsecure information, and more.

Before you download any games, do a little research, particularly if it involves several other players or online chats. You can also manage the privacy and security settings within the game or on your device. For example, don’t let a website or application have access to other apps on the phone or to your location. One tool that can help easily understand and manage the level of online interaction your child is participating in, is called parental controls. This tool can help you with a variety of safety tactics, from locking content you don’t want your child to view to even limiting the time on the computer. Since kids love to watch videos on their computers or mobile devices; both YouTube and iTunes offer parental controls that allow you to limit what videos children can access.

3. Watch Out for Online Threats

Aside from monitoring kids’ online activity, it’s also vital that they understand what might be a scam, virus, or threat to your computer. Teach them to always access games on verified or approved sites and application stores.

Cyber threat actors may leverage game-related information for social engineering schemes, particularly if there is a frenzy of popularity behind them. Be careful with any type of fraudulent message claiming to provide tips or secrets about a game, offering a game to download at an earlier time than its release or offering it for free when in reality it is “pay to play.” Falling prey to these schemes may inadvertently download malicious software onto your device.

This is a best practice for all your devices, whether that be a desktop, tablet or mobile device. Exercise extra caution when downloading the mobile application version of the game or when playing games that are only offered for mobile devices. Some hackers target these game applications or the vulnerabilities of the operating system of those devices (i.e. hacking a game application that was created for Android smartphones).

Additionally, when downloading a smartphone app, you often need to provide your phone number. This action allows for threat vectors that specifically target smartphones, such as SMiShing (fraudulent text messages) that contain malicious links or shortened links, or even Vishing (fraudulent calls and voicemail messages). You should always do your research on the game’s technology specifications and security aspects. The product may have software bugs (coding glitches) that translate into security issues – cyber threat actors can take advantage of technical vulnerabilities to more easily hack a game and infiltrate malware into your device.

4. Keep Your Computer Secure

Regularly updating security software with new versions will provide security safeguards and fixes to software bugs – helping protect the entire family from scammers, hackers and other online threats. This includes antimalware and antiviruses on the computer.

In addition, always backup data on your devices in case of malware is downloaded from a vulnerable game or site. Online threats such as viruses and trojans can steal and even erase your data, along with the possibility of “ransomware.” Ransomware is a virus placed on a computer that encrypts data making users unable to access it.

So, don’t overlook hardware, and the threats they pose. This includes cameras and microphones, or additional accessories purchased for gaming (controllers, joysticks etc.) particularly if connected wirelessly, which may be vulnerable through the wireless connection.

5. Protect Your Child’s Identity and Personal Information

Always remind children that they should never give out their personal information, such as name, address, phone number, etc. For all social media platforms and games, try to provide the smallest amount of information to create the account. It may be beneficial to create email accounts that you use only for the purposes of website and game registrations. When creating personas or avatars, particularly in games where you play with other players, make sure the game is secure and never share information related to your physical whereabouts or real name. For any online accounts, be sure to use strong, unique passwords with alphanumeric and special characters.

Also closely read the fine print for data sharing that may happen between digital platforms and look closely at the privacy policies of the website or application itself. If the game or website involves some type of bartering, or point system for which you have to pay money for additional “secrets/powers/lives,” make sure you make those payments on the legitimate game-related account. If the game uses some third-party system to process payments, make sure that the platform is also secure. Using a digital wallet to store credit card info may also mitigate credit card theft, as the card information is not directly shared with the game application.

Remember that cyber safety should always be a priority – and the more you educate and equip your children, the safer they’ll be on the internet.


* Center on Media and Child Health

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