Kids spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet. For better or worse, this won't be changing any time soon. There are countless people preying on children online with many of them leveraging social networking sites to scout for victims.
To keep your kids safe you'll need to employ a few technical measures in addition to educating your children on internet-based threats. Good antivirus software, web control, and parental controls are great ways to safeguard your children's internet activity. Here are some easy ways to keep your kids safe while on the internet.
There are dozens of well-regarded antivirus vendors out there. Today many vendors bundle a number of services within their product offering. Anti-virus programs include firewalls, VPNs (virtual private networks), web control, and other cool features.
A firewall is a software that protects your children from unauthorized connections. Many services, like Minecraft, utilize ports to allow communication between your child's computer and their server. Connections like these are typically safe, however, opening the wrong ports can expose your children to an attack.
You'll have to strike the right balance between security and usability. Kids should probably be allowed to connect to the Minecraft servers but should not allow remote control of their machines. Contact the vendor or a certified information security consultant if you are unsure of how to configure your firewall.
Web control, as the name implies, is software that monitors and restricts activity on the web. Specifically, you can control the types of sites your kids can visit. Most applications will allow you to choose categories that you would like to restrict.
Some common categories I immediately restrict are.
At times, you may find the canned settings a bit too restrictive. For example, setting a blanket block on sexual content might prevent your daughter from Googling some legitimate questions she has about her body.
If you find that legitimate sites are being blocked, you can always configure the application to allow that site to be viewed. In most cases, you will just need the URL of the site you want to allow.
A VPN is a virtual private network. It allows you to shield your children from attackers by encapsulating the data sent over the internet in a nearly unbreakable tunnel. Hackers won't be able to view their activity nor intercept data they can later exploit.
There are some drawbacks to VPNs in that some applications do not work well with them. A VPN allows you to use servers house all over the world to route your communications online. As such, if you choose a server in a country that is blocked by a certain application, you won't be able to utilize the services it offers.
Your child may also notice a dip in performance in the form of slower connections to websites. This is due to the VPN routing your connections multiple times prior to landing on the site your child is surfing.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and encrypts all activity on the website your kids are visiting. Your web control software will likely stop or at least warn them about the dangers of visiting a non-SSL-certified site should they stumble upon one. To make sure your kids are on a site with an SSL, pay attention to the padlock on the left side of the toolbar.
If it's not there, or there is a red line through the middle, the site is not secure!
Kids should not be allowed to have unfettered, unsupervised access to the internet. There are far too many dangers that even the most seasoned security professionals have a hard time thwarting. As such, your 11 year old is easy picking for hackers and other predators.
Predators will often frequent social sites like Tik Tok and gaming outlets like Minecraft or Roblox. They pretend to be children to gain their victims' trust and exploit them. On platforms like these, you'll need to be vigilant and monitor messages they receive.
Or, you can disable messaging entirely. Have your child hang out next to you while they are surfing the web or gaming. Better yet, you can join them! Your kids will appreciate it and you might discover a new hobby.
Whether on the phone, tablet, or laptop, kids should not have round-the-clock access to the internet. Just as many animals hunt at night, human predators know the prime time to seek out their prey. If your kids store their devices in their rooms and decide to have a late-night gaming session, they may be exposing themselves to attackers.
While you're sound asleep, your kids could be chatting with online predators. To ensure a decent night's rest for yourself, enable screentime limits on every device your kids come in contact with. You can set most devices to disable access to certain applications within a specified time frame. This setting normally resides within the parental controls section of the application or device your child is using.
The password you set on your kid's device needs to be easy to remember for you only. Don't use any password that they may be familiar with.
In addition, refrain from using passwords based on your child's birth date, name, birthplace, favorite food, etc. As annoying as it is to remember a long password, it's best to use a computer-generated random series of characters whenever possible.
Chromebooks are inherently secure in that Google will handle all updates automatically for at least 5 - 6 years from the date your kid's device was manufactured. In addition, all applications are run through a browser, not on your local hard drive.
This reduces the likelihood a virus will spread via desktop applications. You can also download Google Message on your child's phone so all their text messages syc with their Chromebook. This will allow you to easily monitor the messages they are being sent.
Protect your kids online as you do in the real world
Keeping your kids safe while on the internet is just as important as protecting them while out in public. You'll need to be aware of threats and teach them how to spot them. Using both technical measures and a little bit of mom and dad intuition will ensure your kids have an enjoyable and safe time online.
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