It’s never been harder to keep tabs on our kids. Ironic, isn’t it?
The technology that has provided us more connectivity than ever before also opens digital doors that expose children to all kinds of new risks. The scary truth is that kids on the internet face a mounting number of threats ranging from cyberbullying to social engineering attacks.
Awareness is a parent’s strongest defense against the bad actors – and bad choices – our children face online. Understanding where kids are most vulnerable doesn’t just happen though. Like any other kind of learning, you need to take action to become more mindful of cyber risks.
Thankfully, staying in the know can be accomplished with simple steps. Here are four things you can try right away.
- Know the Phone. Sit down with your child and scroll through their phone. Review any new apps downloaded since you last checked in. Ask them how they use the app, and then do some independent research. Google the app name along with the word “privacy.” If the search results concern you, talk with your child about the risks they face as a user of the app.
- Stay Informed. Scammers are swift. To avoid getting caught, they’ll often run one scheme for a short period before quickly moving on to the next one. Stay current by reading up on scams as they emerge. Parent Tested Parent Approved recommends com, which reports on the latest cyber risks in near real-time.
- Follow the Experts. Add the cybersecurity experts who focus on young people to your social feeds. Whatever your social platform of choice, there are smart sleuths tracking dark web schemes, so you don’t have to. Make it a goal to connect with one new family security guru each week.
- Open Conversations. Plan age-appropriate chats with kids about how to behave online so they have a clear understanding of what is and is not acceptable. Some ideas for discussion topics: the “pause and post” rule; there’s no such thing as privacy on the internet; and what cyberbullying looks like. If you need conversation starters, Cyberbullying.org has a 15-question quiz that provides a good jumping-off point.
To be sure, there are plenty more action steps you can take to stay on top of cyber risks. The key is to keep them manageable so you stick to your goal of becoming more aware and better prepared.
As all parents know, if it isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t exist. Try scheduling each of the above, one per week, to keep yourself accountable. Just those few minutes every seven days will make you more conscious of the cyber risks that commonly fly under parental radars.
Sharon Vinderine is a mom and the head of Parent Tested Parent Approved, a seal of approval used by thousands of brands tested by real families. Sharon has shared her expertise on more than 200 television shows, including The Rachael Ray Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Headline News, MSNBC, Extra! and the Marie Osmond Show.