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Keeping Children Safe Online

Keeping Children Safe Online

Abstract:

This security tip explains the online risks associated with children and what you can do to protect your child.

What unique risks are associated with children?

When a child is using your computer, normal safeguards and security practices may not be sufficient. Children present additional challenges because of their natural characteristics: innocence, curiosity, desire for independence, and fear of punishment. You need to consider these characteristics when determining how to protect your data and the child.

You may think that because the child is only playing a game, or researching a term paper, or typing a homework assignment, they can’t cause any harm. But what if, when saving their paper, the child deletes a necessary program file? Or what if they unintentionally visit a malicious web page that infects your computer with a virus? These are just two possible scenarios. Mistakes happen, but the child may not realize what they have done or may not tell you what happened because they are afraid of getting punished.
Online predators present another significant threat, particularly to children. Because the nature of the internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick other. Adults often fall victim to these ploys, and children, who are usually much more open and trusting, are even easier targets. Another growing problem is cyberbullying. These threats are even greater if a child has access to email or instant messaging programs, visits chat rooms, and/or uses social networking sites.

What can you do?

  • Be involved – Consider activities you can work on together, whether it be playing a game, researching a topic you had been talking about, for example, family vacation spots, a particular hobby, a historical figure or putting together a family newsletter. This will allow you to supervise your child’s online activities while teaching him or her good computer habits.
  • Keep your computer in an open area – If your computer is in a high-traffic area, you will be able to easily monitor the computer activity. Not only does this accessibility deter a child from doing something they know they are not allowed to do, it also gives you the opportunity to intervene if you notice a behaviour that could have negative consequences.
  • Set rules and warn about dangers – Make sure your child knows the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer. These boundaries should be appropriate for the child’s age, knowledge, and maturity, but they may include rules about how long he or she is allowed to be on the computer, what sites they are allowed to visit, what software programs they can use, and what tasks or activities they are allowed to do.
  • You should also talk to children about the dangers of the internet so that they recognize suspicious behaviour or activity. Discuss the risks of sharing certain types of information, for example, that they’re home alone, and the benefits to only communicating and sharing information with people they know, and the document. The goal isn’t to scare them, it’s to make them more aware.
  •  Monitor computer activity – Be aware of what your child is doing on the computer, including which websites she is visiting. If she is using email, instant messaging, or chat rooms, try to get a sense of who she is corresponding with and whether she actually knows them.
  • Keep lines of communication open – Let your child know that they can approach you with any questions or concerns about behaviours or problems they may have encountered on the computer.
  • Consider partitioning your computer into separate accounts – Most operating systems give you the option of creating a different user account for each user. If you’re worried that your child may accidentally access, modify, and/or delete your files, you can give them a separate account and decrease the amount of access and number of privileges they have.
  • If you don’t have separate accounts, you need to be especially careful about your security settings. In addition to limiting functionality within your browser, avoid letting your browser remember passwords and other personal information. Also, it is always important to keep your virus definitions up to date.
  • Consider implementing parental controls – You may be able to set some parental controls within your browser. For example, Internet Explorer (IE) allows you to restrict or allow certain websites to be viewed on your computer, and you can protect these settings with a password. To find those options, click “Tools” on your menu bar, select Internet Options, choose the Content tab, and click the Enable… button under Content Advisor.

Download the Child Online Protection brochure here

For more information on security Tips, Please visit the National KE-CIRT/CC Security Library.

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