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Internet Safety for Pupils: Where to Start?

Feb 11, 2019 by

For someone who grew up next to a children’s book in the analog days, it’s hard to imagine how the youngest generation has the pleasure of getting in contact with information technology right from day one. It’s an entirely different world in more aspects than one. The kind of world where we’d rather chat with someone on Facebook than meet face-to-face and devour digital content on YouTube as opposed to taking a hike in the woods.

On the flipside, modern technology allows us to access information unlike any point in the history of time. With all the worldly knowledge at their fingertips, the young ones have all the conditions for a great start. But without knowing the fundamental principles like what a VPN is and how hackers can get their hands on your personal data, it’s easy for them to get caught in their schemes. So what can we – the parents – do to teach children the fundamentals of cyber security and what are the most important lessons for them to learn?

Teach them to shield their privacy on social media

Privacy on social media isn’t to be taken for granted. It’s hard enough for countless adults to grasp the concept of keeping their profiles private and accessible only to their closest circle of friends, let alone the younger population. Through conversation, make your kids understand that whatever they post on their profile, may negatively affect them in the future if what they post is inappropriate or potentially dangerous. For example, vulgar or insensitive content that makes fun of minorities. Or perhaps pictures of their valuables.

In the first scenario, their future employers may decide to go through their profile down to the early days to determine whether they’re a suitable candidate for the job. In the second scenario, this may encourage would-be thieves to enter the house when no one is watching. It’s better to avoid posting similar things altogether, but at the very least, their profiles should be set to private.

Make them understand that not everyone they meet online is their friend

It’s easier to put up appearances online compared to doing the same in person. Sometimes, predators will try to establish contact with children and trick them into revealing their real IP. They might try to do that by getting them to share something through a peer-to-peer file sharing network or chat program, then proceed to stalk and harass them in real life. By teaching children all about what a VPN is and how to use it, the bad guys won’t be able to do this just as easily.

Can your kids tell the difference between your local network and a public one?

Merely asking the question should be enough to get them thinking about it. After all, it’s an interesting topic, isn’t it?

What is VPN (you may find a good explanation of it here) and why should you always be using one when connecting to a public network you don’t know very well? Explain how unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots are the perfect breeding grounds for spreading malware and how someone may steal their login credentials if they don’t take steps to protect themselves.

As a bonus – to reward their willingness to learn – let them in on the secret how they can use a VPN to bypass the school’s restriction of banning certain websites like Facebook and Netflix. Note that schools do this to help students maintain their focus and stay productive, so teach them this clever little trick at your sole discretion!

Let them in on the fact that bullying hurts online as well

Whether your kids are getting bullied or are being the perpetrators of such acts themselves, it’s important for them to understand that words can hurt just as much as punches and kicks. To simplify things a little bit, make them follow a simple rule:

Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life.

If someone is harassing the kids online, encourage them to open up about it to people they can trust (in this case, their parents and teachers). Should you determine that something fishy is going on and you can’t quite put your finger on it, consider installing parental control software that allows you to monitor what they do online. In the end, infringing on their privacy is a small price to pay if your findings can ensure their safety and prevent a disaster. But again, you – as their parent or legal guardian – should be the sole judge of that.

Conclusion

Internet safety for the younger generation is a broad topic, but the points mentioned above should be more than enough to get you thinking in the right direction. Since they’re not as experienced as you are, they are vulnerable targets for those who don’t have their best interests at heart. As such, it’s your duty to do what you can to protect them and teach them the basics of internet safety.

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