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How to teach your children about being safe online

Tips to keep your child safe online
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Did you know 72% of kids are on their phones as soon as they wake up?

1. What you post online, stays online

Deleting pictures or posts from an app — or deleting your social media account entirely — may make that information disappear on your devices, and it will keep you from appearing in Google searches. However, once the information is posted, it's out of your control. Accounts and data continue to be stored on servers. Also, friends (and enemies) can take and share screen shots of things your child has posted. The worst and most incriminating information tends to stay hidden until it can do serious damage.

2. If you wouldn't do it face-to-face, don't do it online

The Internet provides anonymity, making it easy to say hurtful things, bully someone, or share inappropriate pictures without revealing yourself. But you're never truly anonymous online. You can be traced through IP addresses and cell phone records, and if the behavior is illegal or causes harm, you can end up in a lot of trouble.

3. Limit personal details shared online

It's fun to share intimate details about yourself with people online. However, the more information you share, the more you risk becoming a victim of identity theft or of a physical crime. In addition, kids — especially younger kids — don't have the savvy to know the difference between a good and bad person online, especially when the bad person knows all sorts of personal details about them.

4. Never click on pop-ups

Pop-up ads in websites and apps are annoying. They can also potentially be malicious. Clicking on one of the bad ones can infect your computer or smartphone with malware or ransomware that can cripple your computer and steal your personal information.

5. If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably fake

Scammers use incentives like free concert tickets, meetings with celebrities, or shopping sprees to get you to click on a link or to share their website on social media. These freebies are designed to steal credit cards and personal information, and you get nothing you were promised.

6. Don't make purchases without parental consent

Online games and apps make money by having you purchase add-ons. When you want to advance to higher levels, it makes sense that you want to make the purchase — especially if that add-on only costs $1.99. But few dollars here and a few dollars there can add up to a surprising amount of credit card debt — sometimes even reaching into the thousands! Usually the accounts are set up under the parent's name, since many e-commerce sites and games don't allow anyone younger than 18 to make purchases. Many of gaming companies and apps have parental controls available to prevent unwanted purchases, but if these controls aren't activated, the parents are responsible for charges on their credit card bills.

7. As a parent, set a good example

While teaching children how to be safe online is essential, it's equally important for parents to practice what they preach. This is particularly true for habits that can put your kids at risk too. Posting personal pictures and stories about your kids on social media is problematic, especially if you're not using strict privacy settings or if you're displaying your location.

When it comes to online privacy, it's also important to model safe online behavior for your kids. Sharing your passwords or using a single password for multiple accounts sends your kids a message that online safety is a burden rather than a necessity. Setting a good example will not only protect their privacy; it will also help them build habits that will keep them safe online into adulthood.

Read more tips for financial safety and security

Important Disclosure Information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. Pew Research Center, "How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions," Jingjing Jiang, August 22, 2018, http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions/ Back
  2. CNN, "Kids under 9 spend more than 2 hours a day on screens", report shows, Jacqueline Howard, October 19, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/19/health/children-smartphone-tablet-use-report/index.html Back