Parenting in the age of technology presents challenges Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have to deal with. Our children are ‘connected’ to the world — and if they aren’t their toys are.
Common sense practices keep your kids safe most of the time. Just about everyone uses computers either at work, at home, or both. We have anti-malware software and firewalls. Everyone should know about password security and phishing scams. Your bank will never ask you for your password in emails or messages. If all else fails, just turn the computer off, right?
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So do we.
We’re used to viewing the internet as a portal, something we can restrict access to. However, there are threats parents may not be aware of. Beyond the potential for exposure to adult imagery or cyber-bullying, there are concerns ranging from child-identity theft to abduction. The following practices will help parents defend their families from technology threats in the modern age.
1. Keep your information safe. This goes beyond using secure passwords and backing-up your files. Someone who wants to hurt your family doesn’t care about tax returns. Ask 10 children what they want to be when they grow up and, chances are, a few are gonna say “A YouTuber.” When we live-stream, or give out our location in real-time status updates, we’re advertising our location to anyone who cares to know. Not every criminal is trying to abduct your children; some just want to know when you won’t be home. Make sure kids are only live-streaming when there are adults present, and refrain from posting status updates that let the world know that nobody’s home.
2. Be an expert consumer. If there’s one thing I find terrifying, it’s hearing parents say things like “My 10 year-old knows more about these gadgets than I do.” Devices are getting smarter, many toys have built-in connectivity to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or RF. The FBI suggests parents visit the website for every ‘smart’ toy/device your child has. Understand that devices with cameras and/or microphones featuring any wireless connectivity can be hacked. Conduct internet searches on each device to ensure there aren’t widely-known security issues.
3. Know the apps your kids access. You don’t have to invade your children’s privacy in order to help keep them safe online. Sit down with your children, periodically, and take a look at every single app on their devices. Ask your child how they use each app, and research the ones you aren’t familiar with. Test each app by downloading them on your own device and signing up for an account. Remember: apps that don’t require a phone number can be signed up for anonymously. Roblox, Yellow, and Periscope, are just a few apps that pedophiles have accessed to harm children. Other concerns include apps that don’t function the way you’d expect. For example, an app called “Calculator%” is a hidden-photo app on iOS.
We’re long past the days when our only concerns, as parents in the digital age, involved what our kids might be exposed to on the internet. Of course we’re worried our children are going to see things online that they aren’t mature enough to understand. We should also be worried that someone who wishes our family harm might know where our kids are at any given time.
An educated parent is a prepared one. Talk to your children about information security and use these best practices to keep your family safe.