Keeping children safe online

These days, children start using the Internet at a very young age and continue to engage in it even more as they grow. The Internet is great for learning and creating and developing new skills; however, it can also be dangerous for children that aren’t aware of the risks lurking in a digital environment.

Protecting your child online is all about education. It is up to parents to introduce their child to both the bright and dark sides of the Internet. It may seem like a challenging task. Not sure where to begin? Follow these 5 tips as your guidelines.

#1: Start early

The earlier you introduce your children to the principles of privacy and cybersecurity, the better. Start lightly – if watching cartoons on Youtube and playing games are the only activities your little one is engaging in so far, it’s still important to start the conversation about what’s good and what’s bad on the Internet.

Most importantly, you should make your children feel that they can come to you whenever they aren’t sure about something and need help. Even though online games may look innocent, they might have hidden threats. That’s why showing a game to parents before downloading it is a good practice to follow – the experienced eyes of a grown-up can see more than the eyes of a child who is taking their first steps in the online world.

#2: Explain why it matters what you do online

Children lack knowledge about online privacy and don’t know the consequences of their actions on the Internet. The parents’ goal should be to explain the importance of why the online behaviour matters.

Common thinking is that inappropriate content is the only thing parents need to protect their children from. However, it is way more than that. As a parent, you should talk to your child about online privacy and why it is dangerous to share personal information on the Internet. Give clear examples of what personal information is – photos from your family trip, your home address, phone number, credit cards, and so on. Emphasize the idea that these things should never be shared with strangers.

When it’s time, introduce your little one to cybersecurity. It might be helpful to discuss recent happenings, such as cyber attacks, phishing scams, data thefts, so your child gets a sense of online threats being real. Also, explain why it is dangerous to click on suspicious links and download applications without asking you first.

#3: Teach to be smart on social media

Children start using social media very early nowadays. Even though many social networks and messaging apps allow users to sign up only from a certain age, it is not too hard to bypass these restrictions.

If adults don’t always understand social media threats, then how are children supposed to understand them? It’s extremely important for you to explain that what is shared on social media is no longer private. Teach children to accept friend requests from only people they know. Just like in real life, it is not safe to talk to strangers on social media. Review privacy settings together and make sure that their profiles aren’t visible to everyone.

#4: Show how to create strong passwords

Password security is a topic you should discuss before your children start creating their personal accounts. Explain to them that every single online account needs to have a strong, unique password. Define what a secure password is: it should be a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, symbols. Also, it shouldn’t contain the child’s name, date of birth, or any other personal information. And most importantly, always remind your child that passwords need to be kept top secret.

#5: Explain why free public Wi-Fi is dangerous

Teenagers like to spend time at coffee shops where they connect to free Wi-Fi to post on social media and chat. You should explain to your children that public Wi-Fi is extremely vulnerable to hacking and it is not safe to share personal information over unsecured networks.

Teenagers can have a difficult time resisting free Wi-Fi, but there is something you can do to protect them. Install a VPN app on their phones and teach them how to use it every time they connect to a public hotspot. VPN is a virtual private network that encrypts the Internet traffic to protect it from prying eyes. Make it less complicated to children by choosing a VPN service that offers advanced protection from online threats and is easy to use. More information on how VPN works can be found here.

Harold Kilpatrick is a cybersecurity consultant and a chief editor of