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The summer months are the most fun for kids. When school is out and parents working, kids have the freedom to do what they want, and that includes getting on the internet. In addition, access to the internet is easier than ever with smart phones, tablets, etc.

Internet Safety and Privacy Concerns for Children

Kids are naturally naïve and trusting, even when it comes to the internet. Therefore, they are often targeted by predators. Fraud and personal safety are major issues when it comes to internet predators.

Personal Safety

Sexual predators target children in an attempt to develop “relationships.” The ultimate objective is meeting in person in a car, at a hotel, etc. Sexual predators often pretend to be younger children. For example, an adult targeting a 12 year old may pretend to be a 12 year old. Because children are naturally trusting, they tend to believe what a stranger online tells them.

Privacy & Identity Theft

computer internet safetyMen and women alike may target children to obtain personal information. Social media profiles often contain personal identifying information such as full names and dates of birth. The major concern is credit card fraud. Children are often targeted because they have clean credit histories.

The problem is that most children don’t learn about the problem until well after the fraud occurred, sometimes years later. For example, a child who was the victim of credit card fraud may attempt to obtain a credit card or loan when they turn 18 and are denied due to bad credit. Related: Social Media Websites & Liability in Cyberbullying Cases Relating to Minors, Part 1

Tips to Protect Your Child

1. Talk to your child regularly about internet safety.

Parental guidance is key, and children need to be reminded of safety issues regularly. Make sure your child knows not to reveal private information such as password, address, telephone number, etc. In addition, children should be reminded that anything they post online can be read, saved and ultimately traced to them, forever. While it seems fleeting, a post, comment, video, etc., can literally last forever on the internet. Therefore they must be cautious of what they post. A good rule of thumb – “if you post it, your parents might see it.”

2. Use privacy settings on your internet browser, social media profile, etc.

Many social media profiles default to publicly reveal personal information like date of birth. Use privacy settings to limit that information and also limit how you may be contacted or who can see your profile or posts. Make sure you are familiar with these settings and restrict them accordingly.

3. Use strong passwords (change them often, at least every 6 months).

With major security breaches occurring each year, it is important to update passwords often, at a minimum of every 6 months.

4. Don’t talk to strangers online.

Children should conduct themselves on the internet just as they do in normal life. If they get an email, friend request, chat, post, etc., from a stranger, they should ignore it. In addition, to be extra cautious, children should be aware of imposters, predators who troll the internet and pretend to be a child’s friend or family member.

Here’s a tip on how to teach kids to exercise caution. Everyone in a group who will be communicating online should have a code word that must be given before the interaction begins. Basically, all kids in a group must enter the code word before they are allowed to join the conversation. This is fun for kids and also teaches them to be aware of internet safety, at an early age.

Related: Facebook & Harassment in Pennsylvania – Cyberbullies Beware

The internet is a great resource and fosters learning and growth. However, it can also be very dangerous, especially for children. There have been recent media reports of children who were lured by an adult, some with tragic results. Parents, please talk to your children about the importance of internet safety.

More: Brian Kent Speaks at National Crime Victims Bar Association Annual Conference 2013

Last updated: 4/23/15