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Internet Safety for Kids: Risks of Children and Tech

How Teens with Smartphones Expose an Entire Family's Worth of Data From Addresses to Phone Numbers

The explosion of technology has pushed extremely powerfully connected devices into the hands of young adults and teenagers. The added connectivity of technology provides safety and peace of mind for parents, but it also comes with hidden risks.

Internet safety for kids, parents guide

Internet Risks for Kids

An average smartphone user does not configure the device from default settings. Location services are typically permitted for all apps, a single email address is typically used for all apps and most people have never heard of a VPN. So, what is a teenager with a new iPhone giving away when they download apps and create social media accounts?

In light of this connectivity, privacy has become increasingly difficult to maintain, and the younger generation is set on a course to be the most connected and least private generation ever. From social media documenting a child’s entire life, to the digital gaming ecosystem tracking usage, and now the boom of virtual classrooms, it is safe to say that the average child is connected to tech in almost every facet of life. It is also likely that most teens aren’t thinking about the repercussions of social media posts, and these posts may have serious implications for their future with employers, medical insurers, or even legal matters.

Children's Online Activities

A study conducted by The Center for Cyber Safety and Education concluded the following:

  • 30 percent have used the internet in ways their parents wouldn't approve

  • 21 percent have visited sites where they can chat with strangers

  • 17 percent have visited porn sites

  • 11 percent have visited sites that offer ways to cheat on homework

  • 4 percent have visited online gambling sites

Potential Online Threats for Kids

  • Dangerous or inappropriate websites

  • Malware and how it can be downloaded onto computers and phones

  • Online frauds and scams

  • Sexual predators

  • Data collection and exploitation (Let's focus on this one)

Online Data Collection

The diagram below shows how signing up for apps, social media posts and public records collect and sell your data across an ecosystem of data brokers.

Diagram of internet risk

Why is Personal Data Collected and How is it Monetized?

Advertisements and targeted marketing have normalized data collection and tracking. Companies pay big money to push ads to consumers that fit their demographic. Data brokers are in the business of collecting information on individuals, identifiable by true name. Hundreds of sites profit from selling you and your family’s personally identifiable information (PII).

These brokers are available to anyone. You don’t need to be in law enforcement, or any regulated industry to gain access. You simply need about $20.00 to sign up for their service, gaining access to nearly anyone’s private information. Addresses, full names, partial social security numbers, job history, assets, VIN#s, email addresses and phone numbers, to name a few, may all be listed on these sites.

This data gets abused, really abused. Bad actors, social engineers, and even physical stalkers can leverage poor Cybersecurity practices and launch phishing campaigns with this data.

Educating Teens about the Risks of Social Media

Understanding the social media platforms your teens use can help you understand the content and connections they're exposed to.

Social Media Usage Among Teens

  • YouTube 85%

  • Instagram 72%

  • Snapchat 69%

  • Facebook 51%

  • Twitter 32%

  • Tumblr 9%

  • Reddit 7%

  • None 3%

Guidelines for Teen Safety on Social Media

  • Don't post inappropriate pictures or comments.

  • Get friends' agreement not to post harmful content.

  • Block and report harassers.

  • Understand privacy settings and agreements.

  • Be wary of new social media friends.

  • Avoid discussing sex with strangers.

  • Avoid in-person meetings with online acquaintances.

How to Prevent Cyberbullying

Teach your child not only how to respond to cyberbullying but also how not to become a bully.

Signs Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied

  • Sudden disinterest in using the internet or checking their phone.

  • Stress when receiving emails, texts, or other alerts.

  • Withdrawal from family and friends.

  • Reluctance to attend social or school events.

  • Signs of low self-esteem, depression, or fear.

  • Declining academic performance.

  • Loss of appetite or sleep disturbances.

  • Suicidal thoughts.

Discussing Sexting with Your Teens

Discuss the consequences of sending explicit images online with your teenagers. Sharing an explicit image of a minor is a crime.

Things to Discuss About Sexting with Your Teens

  • Ask for help when feeling pressured.

  • Think about the long-term implications.

  • Consider the impact on others.

  • Understand the consequences.

  • Realize the lack of control once the image is sent.

Understanding Your Kids' Online Gaming Habits

Online gaming is a social experience for kids. However, it can sometimes expose children to risks, including cyberbullying.

How to Ensure Safety in Online Gaming

  • Be aware of the gaming device's capabilities.

  • Check game ratings.

  • Monitor gaming equipment.

  • Be familiar with other locations where your child may be playing games.

  • Understand the safety features of the game and equipment.

  • Preview the game to ensure appropriateness.

  • Teach your child not to share personal information while gaming.

8 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

  1. Teach children never to provide anyone, app or website, their true address, phone numbers, or last names. The overwhelming majority of online predators start their attacks online.

  2. Create private registration data – Use a P.O. box or other private mailbox such as a UPS store box. These can be used by the whole family for limiting how often you give out your true residential address.

  3. Usernames or “handles” should be something other than true names, initials, birth years etc. when possible.

  4. Use a private browser – Firefox is a good choice out of the box and can even be configured further for more levels of privacy and security.

  5. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as Nord VPN – These apps are usable for your phone or computer can hide your IP address. An IP address is your home’s digital address, and can be used to help identify location.

  6. Use junk email addresses not connected to personal info when possible.

  7. Avoid using commonly collected information in passwords (area codes, birthdays, zip codes, graduation years, etc.)

  8. Avoid security questions that can be linked to easily-collected information, make something up and save it to your password manager (past addresses, mother’s maiden name, high school mascot, siblings’ info, etc.)

What to Do If Your Child Faces Online Threats

If your child faces threats or encounters illegal activities online, report it to local or federal law enforcement immediately.

When to Contact the FBI About Online Threats

  • Posts about potential terrorist acts, including violence or recruitment.

  • Posts sympathetic to terrorists or terrorist organizations.

  • Posts boasting of racial or hate crimes.

  • Internet fraud schemes.

Internet safety for kids is a critical concern in today's digital age. By being aware and proactive, parents can help protect their children from online threats and educate them on safe internet practices.

You can always reach out to 360 Privacy to discuss options to deter and prevent online threats.


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