10 Ways to Keep Your Child Safer on the Internet

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-12-02
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    10 Ways to Keep Your Child Safer on the Internet
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    10 Ways to Keep Your Child Safer on the Internet

    If the VTech hack has taught us anything, it's how vulnerable kids are to data breaches and creepy people online. Here are tips for keeping kids safer online.
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    Keep Following the VTech News
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    Keep Following the VTech News

    It is exceedingly important for all parents impacted by the VTech hack to keep a close eye on any news from the company. While VTech says it's still investigating the breach, several reports have surfaced with alarming new details about stolen photos of children and their parents. Keeping the kids safe means being aware of the potential consequences of the VTech breach.
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    Watch for the Phishing Attempts
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    Watch for the Phishing Attempts

    Security firm Trend Micro, which issued suggestions for parents responding to the VTech hack, says that parents should be on the lookout for phishing attacks aimed at children. The hack, after all, gave hackers access to email addresses, and Trend Micro says that it's possible they'll be used to scam kids and parents, as well as try to install malware on computers.
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    Think Seriously About Child-Safety Apps
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    Think Seriously About Child-Safety Apps

    There are a number of child-safety apps available. While they all have their strengths and weaknesses and tech-savvy kids will find their way around security precautions, they allow parents to control how and when children access sites and apps. Child-safety apps are often a useful tool in keeping kids away from dangerous places on the Web.
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    Closely Monitor the Apps Kids Use
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    Closely Monitor the Apps Kids Use

    Children enjoy using such apps as WhatsApp and Kik, among others. If kids are allowed to use those apps, it's important to at least closely monitor how they're being used. Apps from companies such as Trend Micro and Symantec provide handy tracking features that tell parents when kids are not following the rules. But good old-fashioned checking of computers and mobile devices will also do the trick and ensure kids aren't venturing into dangerous territory.
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    Be Aware of the Threats of Messaging Apps
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    Be Aware of the Threats of Messaging Apps

    Messaging apps have become somewhat dangerous over the last several years, due in large part to the number of fake accounts that exist. For instance, some adults use messaging applications to pose as children to contact the young users of those services. The apps are also home to bullies who harass kids. Think twice about letting kids access messaging apps. They can be hazardous for young users.
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    Make Effective Use of Parental Controls
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    Make Effective Use of Parental Controls

    Most applications and hardware devices today come with parental controls that enable parents to allow only certain traffic through devices. On home routers, parents should blacklist certain types of Websites. On mobile devices, they should password-protect parental controls and not allow children to access certain services. Parents should even consider using parental controls on kid-friendly apps, like YouTube Kids, to ensure children aren't getting too much screen time. Whenever parental controls are available, parents should take advantage.
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    Educate Your Children About the Internet's Risks
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    Educate Your Children About the Internet's Risks

    Truth be told, even taking advantage of all of the measures aimed at protecting children will not fully get the job done. There are still ways for hackers and other malicious actors to get to children. So, it's important to talk to kids and explain the fundamentals of online security, and how to sidestep potential malware threats, thwart phishing attacks and stay away from malicious sites. The more kids know about the threats they face, the more inclined they may be to safeguard themselves.
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    Get Some Security Software, but Don't Always Trust It
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    Get Some Security Software, but Don't Always Trust It

    Security software has always been an important tool in combating threats against anyone. Security software can alert users to phishing attacks, malware threats and other issues. But again, it's not necessarily a total solution to the problem. Unpatched security software is useless, and hackers have found ways to get around just about any threat. Parents should have security software running, but not fully trust it to keep themselves and their children safe.
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    Be Selective About Where You Store Data
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    Be Selective About Where You Store Data

    As VTech's hack showed, hackers are having an easy time finding data and stealing it. So, it's important for parents to be judicious about the places they store images of kids and for how long. While it may be nice to have pictures of the kids anywhere and everywhere, it's not always the best move for security purposes. It's better to store data where it is fully encrypted and can't be easily decrypted and exploited. But it's not necessarily easy to find kid-friendly services that provide such a high level of protection.
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    Think About Your Own Activities
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    Think About Your Own Activities

    Finally, it's important to think about your own activities as a parent. As Trend Micro points out, kids will establish a digital footprint that will give potential hackers and other malicious actors insight into their lives, their interests and other information that could be used to fool them. Parents should be careful not to contribute to that footprint in ways that could cause children to fall victim to crimes. In many cases, the smaller the digital footprint, the better.
 

The recent hack of VTech's Learning Lodge, an app store for its many kid-friendly products, has once again demonstrated why technology companies that have custody of customer identities and data have to do more to prevent attacks by hackers and cyber-criminals. This latest data breach is especially troubling because it involves photos and profile information of children who use VTech's products and digital services. The VTech hack, which started in the middle of November and wasn't discovered by the company until Nov. 24, allowed a hacker to not only access personally identifiable information, but also the images and chat logs sent between parents and kids. The VTech hack, which affects up to 5 million customers, may not be the biggest in recent memory and so far it's not the most costly, but it's certainly one of the most jarring to parents. For some parents, it's causing them to think about how they should work harder to keep their kids safe. That's why this slide show will provide some tips for keeping kids safer online. Truth be told, there is no guaranteed way to keep kids safe from data breaches and creepy people online, but parents who follow these methods could put themselves in a stronger cyber-security position than they may be right now.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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