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How Can Children Stay Safe Online?

Mom and Daughter on iPad.

Your child can get online, navigate around the web, and download a new gaming app in a matter of seconds, running circles around most adults. Are they, however, being as safe as they can?

Many students are online more than ever due to virtual school and e-learning. If your student is doing schoolwork online, especially if they’re home alone, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re logging on with safeguards in place.

The FBI’s Safe Online Surfing website has examples of safe Internet practices for students to keep in mind when they get online. 

 

Personal Information

Remind your student not to share personal information online that would allow someone with malicious intent to figure out who they are. They should also avoid sharing their friends’ information or photos without their permission, especially on an open social media account.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recommends that students avoid sharing photos that show people their name or names of their friends or name of their school. They also recommend avoiding posts about their interests and hobbies that someone could use to pretend to know them and gain their trust. Even with privacy settings turned on, photos could still be seen or copied by someone you don’t know. 

A good rule of thumb: only share information online with people you know offline. 

 

Usernames

When your student creates a social media handle, username, screen name or gamertag, make sure they haven’t included personal details. Encourage them to choose something fun, but not to use any part of their name, age, school or where they live. The username “Gavin13WestMiddle” reveals too much; a safer option is “GatorGuy789.”

 

Passwords

With a username usually comes a password requirement. It’s a good idea for both students and parents to create a password with letters, numbers and symbols. If you have trouble remembering a complex combination, use a phrase and substitute @ for the letter “a”or use a zero in place of letter “o.”

If you helped your child open a student banking account to save for their first car or have access to funds from their part-time job, it’s important that they closely guard their online banking information. They should not share their username or password, or even the one-time password used in two-factor authentication, with their friends. 

 

Safe Searching

Teachers often ask students to search online for sources to back up their research papers and projects. Safe searching means to type specific questions or topics into Google, instead of generic searches that could bring up unwanted results. Sites ending in “.edu” or “.gov” should be used for more reliable content.

 

Dangerous Downloads

Your phone or computer feels like an infinite space where you can download any app or game you want. Remember that if it’s free, it could be hiding spyware or serve you advertisements that might send you to a harmful website. Parents, talk to your child about asking for permission before they download new games or apps to their devices. 

 

App Permissions

If your student has a phone or tablet, go through their apps and make sure you’re both comfortable with privacy and location settings. It might make sense for some apps to track your child’s location, or the location of their phone if they lose it, but you should be aware of how each one is set up and what information it can access. 

 

Fraudulent Messages

A safety tip for all members of the family: don’t click a link in a text message or email unless you know for sure who sent it to you. 

Fraudsters may pose as your bank, school or someone giving away a prize in order to steal your passwords or account numbers. When in doubt, delete the message and call your bank or school directly. 

Fraudsters may also pose as someone who wants to be a new friend. They create a fake social media profile and can look for details in your student’s profile to try and build a relationship. They may then ask for personal details or money. 

Parental controls can protect your child from the bulk of harmful content, but it’s best to sit down and have a conversation with them about who to talk to online and what is OK to share. 
 

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