The Importance of Protecting Children’s Online Privacy
To think of a world without the Internet is to think of a world without information, community, commerce, and entertainment. However, it can also be a risky environment for kids to explore. Every parent wants to do what they can to protect their children from harm, whether from exposure to harmful material or undesired contact with strangers.
If you’re a parent who didn’t grow up in the digital age, you may be wondering where to begin when it comes to protecting your children from the dangers they may encounter online. Follow this guide to understand the importance of Children’s online privacy and how you can protect them online.
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How Can You Protect Children’s Online Privacy?
Keeping an eye on your children without crossing the line into invasion of their privacy is a delicate balancing act. However, with just a little care, they can live their lives to the fullest while protecting what’s best for them. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your children’s online privacy:
Keep Your Kids Close and Engaged
The best way to educate your children regarding hazards of anything is by ensuring no communication gap. When you keep your children close and build friendly bridges with them, they’ll have a sense of trust and share things with you. This way, you’ll be able to stay updated on what your kid is going through and what he does in routine.
Similarly, it’s essential to know what your children are doing online. Tracking their online activity can be tricky, but if you play smartly, you can track their online activities easily without making them feel uncomfortable.
If your child uses any social media app like Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter, make an account and follow them there. This way, you will know what they’re posting and who they are talking to. This will also give your children a hint to be responsible when posting online because they’ll know that you’re on their friends list, and you can see everything.
Don’t start enforcing regulations that will make your kid question your sanity. Don’t talk down to children, but make sure they understand the importance of keeping their personal information secure on the internet.
You should not, either, snoop on your children behind their backs. It could make them even more vulnerable and foster even greater mistrust if they do this. When taking action that may require monitoring, be open and honest about it.
Teach Them Not To Sign-up for Untrusted Sites
Playing online games and quizzes and filling out fun surveys is a great way to lose hours of your life, not just your children’s. However, many of these services need users to sign in with their social media profile before the results may be shared with friends.
Warn your child that the site and third parties may use the information they collect from games and quizzes to target adverts and maybe other uses. Only authorize or authenticate apps using your social media accounts if you are familiar with and can trust the firm running the site.
Tweak Their Privacy Settings Yourself
Try to make them undiscoverable on social media platforms so they will only get friend requests from random people online. Also, tell them to post a minimal amount of info about their school, home, phone number, etc. This way, their identity will not fall into the wrong hands.
Other than this, you can follow these steps to ensure your children’s online privacy:
- Adjust Device Settings
One thing we all know is that App Store and PlayStore require location turned on in order to use them. This helps the app on our devices in monitoring our location, which is indeed a danger. The best thing to do is to ‘turn off location’ so that the device cannot track your location.
If your children are using social media, remind them not to tag their images with locations until they have moved away from the location. The location-tracking permission can be turned off for individual apps in recent iOS and Android versions or turned off globally in the settings.
Another worry is the front camera on your kid’s phone and tablet. There have been several cases where it was revealed that hackers and even law-enforcement agencies could access your device’s cameras remotely. Cover these cameras with a sticker or some electrical tape so that if they even try to access your device remotely, they’ll not get to see anything.
- Social Media Settings
One thing the world got to know through the Cambridge Analytica scandal was that Facebook knows much about a user, more than the user can comprehend. The same is the case with other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
This is why you must adjust your kids’ social media privacy settings. Let us list down some of the important moves you can make to protect your children’s social media privacy:
Following are some of the key tweaks that you will have to make to your child’s Facebook account:
- Adjust their Privacy Settings, like who can see the stuff they are posting or who can contact them.
- If someone is threatening or bullying them online, then block that person.
- Change their Tagging settings to “Friends” so only those in their friends list can tag them in posts and photos.
- Tweak their location settings in the Facebook app and turn it off. This will restrict Facebook from receiving the device’s precise location.
- In the account security section, set up two-factor authentication to protect their account from being hacked.
- Tweak their ad preferences from the Ad Preferences menu.
Once you are through all of these things, you can sigh relief that your kid is now safe on Facebook.
The problem with Instagram is that there aren’t many privacy-related options because of the nature of the app. However, there are three things that you must do immediately:
- Limit unwanted interactions to avoid harassment and bullying by going to the Privacy Setting of Instagram.
- Make your kid’s account “Private” so no stranger can see the photos, videos, and reels they’re posting.
- Tell your kids not to tag locations when they post a story, photo, or video to stay safe.
Adjusting Snapchat privacy settings is very easy. Simply make these adjustments, and your kid should be fine and safe:
Open your kid’s Snapchat app and go to settings.
Over here, you’ll see a ‘WHO CAN…’ menu
- Now adjust who can contact your kid.
- Who can view their story?
- Who can see their memories
- Who can send them notifications etc.
Snapchat settings are straightforward, and you can do it under five minutes.
There are many kid-friendly videos, but there are also several that go too far. YouTube can be risky for kids who aren’t being watched because of the suggested content and the fact that videos will continue playing automatically. If you do decide to let your kids use it, you must implement parental restrictions.
While the algorithm does a good job of selecting age-appropriate content for children, there are sometimes occasions when improper movies, information, or ads make it through. Because of this, parents may wonder if their children are safe when using YouTube Kids.
The New York Times revealed in 2017 that many seemingly safe videos of children’s cartoon characters often include unpleasant, vulgar, or violent content. YouTube’s algorithms label the children’s characters as “suitable” for a young audience, even though the characters’ described acts are highly improper for their primary audience.
To encounter such issues, YouTube launched YouTube Kids, which is a children-friendly version of YouTube for kids between the ages of 2 and 12. It has a wide variety of engaging materials that can help kids develop their minds, imaginations, and ways of thinking. Because of this, you should feel comfortable giving your children account access.
Nevertheless, you can tweak and adjust its privacy settings as well, just to be sure that your kid isn’t watching anything inappropriate. Simply take these steps to make YouTube kids foolproof:
- Disable the search option: Your kid will not be able to use YouTube Kids’ search function. You can do this by going to the app’s or website’s settings menu and making changes to the kid’s profile.
- Set up content filters: Filters for inappropriate content make it possible to limit your child’s viewing to a hand-picked selection of shows, channels, and collections.
Enable Parental Controls
Parents can access a wider range of controls over their children’s online activities using parental control software. There are a variety of tools available to keep tabs on your children’s online activities. You can disable access to certain websites or apps or enable blocking for all websites based on keywords or categories. The times and durations of gadget use by children can also be controlled.
Some popular Parental Control Software is:
- Norton Family
- Circle Home Plus
Consider Using a VPN
If you’re entering sensitive information on a website (such as a credit card number), you should ensure that the site has a valid SSL certificate. Typically, this is denoted by a lock icon and the inclusion of HTTPS in the URL. The data sent between the browser and the server is encrypted in this way. To have your browser always use HTTPS when it is available, install the HTTPS Everywhere add-on.
However, as most websites do not support HTTPS, any data sent from your computer to the web will be sent in plaintext and can be read by anybody. Get a virtual private network (VPN) service for yourself and your kids for added security. All of your data, both incoming and outgoing, is encrypted using a virtual private network (VPN) and is then routed through a server in the country of your choice. As a result, your IP address and location will be concealed together with the contents of your connection, making your entire online presence untraceable.
To protect themselves and their children online, parents and children alike should activate a virtual private network (VPN) before accessing any online content.
AstrillVPN is one of the easiest VPNs to use; even a child could pick it up quickly. It has a simple interface for new users and can be shared with the whole family. Also, AstrillVPN has a Site Filter feature that allows you to filter and restrict certain websites. This feature can prevent your kid from accessing unsafe or inappropriate websites.
Teach Children the Importance of Online Anonymity
Kids should be taught the importance of online anonymity because the internet is no longer a safe space for anyone. Kids will have to utilize search engines for various reasons, including schoolwork and curiosity.
Every user will have a profile built around them using data collected by Google and others, which will then be used to tailor recommendations and advertisements. You can alter your privacy settings to use a different search engine by default on mobile and desktop browsers.
The best thing to do is to tell your kids to use secure and private browsers that do not track their online activity nor sell their information forward. Also, teaching kids how to use the internet is essential, giving less information ahead. They can conceal their online identity by using fake IDs and birthdays.
Government Regulations for Children’s Privacy
Specific legal frameworks are designed to protect children’s online privacy, but they are effective to a certain extent.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”)
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) places obligations on businesses that knowingly gather personal information online from children under the age of 13 or that use such information for marketing purposes without verifiable parental consent.
COPPA was legislated and brought up back in 1998 in the US. The idea behind this legislation was to protect minors from age-sensitive content, but there are a lot of debates regarding its inefficiency.
To avoid waiting for parental approval, many kids will watch or read material that isn’t suitable for their age group. Children are still able to view pornographic content and see ads for it. As a result of the compliance cost and potential fines for violating COPPA, many websites that might otherwise provide content that is appropriate for children simply ban children.
UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS)
In 2008, the United Kingdom established the United Kingdom Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) with the mission of coordinating efforts among government agencies, law enforcement agencies, academic institutions, private businesses, and representatives from the third sector (including nonprofits) to keep children safe while using the internet.
How can we protect children from online threats?
You can protect your children from online threats by educating them about online privacy and by training them the privacy ensuring acts like using a VPN, controlling their information online, and using private browsers.
What act protects children from any malicious actions online?
COPPA is the act that protects children from any malicious action online, and it also forces publishers to control the content from reaching minors.
Can my Child’s online activity be tracked?
Yes, if your child uses an unsecured network, an unsafe browser, or a public network, then his online activities can easily be tracked.