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How to Protect Children's Online Privacy for the 2020 holiday season

12/04/2020

The digital lives of many children are born shortly after they are, when their parents start posting baby pictures on social media. Over the years a child's digital trail lengthens, as the child and parents share more information online. Safeguarding children's online privacy should be a family priority, but the challenge is becoming more complicated. Here's how parents can protect their children's online privacy.
 
Be Wary of Connected Toys
 
Kids are more connected than ever. Even toys as simple as a teddy bear now often come with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection that can send information back and forth between the toy and a smartphone app or a server somewhere. There have been reports in the past of toy makers that did not adequately protect it servers, allowing hackers to gain access to user emails and secured passwords, along with audio recordings. Some of the information in the children's accounts included names, ages, and genders, ect.
This data can be used for eventual credit card fraud or identity theft.
 
Supplying toy companies with information about your child may help them provide a more customized play experience nut it is up to you to decide whether that benefit is worth the information being shared. One question to ask is where data is stored. If it is just on the toy or in a smartphone app connected by Bluetooth, the risks might be relatively small. But the concerns are bigger in cases in which data gets sent to a server somewhere where it can potentially be stolen by hackers. Either way, there is no harm in playing it safe: You can always enter a fake birthday or name. Or just pass on buying such toys in the first place.
 
Think Before You Post
 
Your children's digital security starts with you, especially when they are too young to fend for themselves. Think before you post and make sure you're limiting who can see the information. The mere act of releasing your child's name, gender, hometown, and birthday to the world gives hackers something to work with. But there are common-sense ways parents can keep those posts from causing problems, mainly by limiting who can see them.
 
For instance, using Facebook privacy settings, you can set your posts to go to just your "friends," rather than the entire world. If you want to limit that circle even more, create a list of "close friends" and set your posts to be visible only to them. A closed Facebook group, which requires you to approve everyone who requests access, can work, too. As a bonus, it will keep you from clogging the feeds of your non-baby-crazy friends.
 
Parents should also think twice before posting pictures that could reveals hints of a location, such as photos taken in front of their home or child's school. It is also wise to wait until you get home before posting vacation photos. You do not want to reveal to would-be burglars that you're away from home.
 
Talk to Your Kids
 
"The talk" does not just refer to sex anymore. Talking to your kids about proper internet usage and the consequences that bad online behavior can have is almost as important, but hopefully not as uncomfortable, a subject.
 
It is a very wide-ranging topic, too. Just like their parents, kids need to know everything from how to set a strong password to how to spot phishing emails, as well as what can happen if they send an angry tweet or post a suggestive picture. Additionally, kids can face cyberbullying and need to know what to do if one of their classmates posts a threat of violence on social media. If you possess anything of value to a cyber-criminal, you're going to be a target and parents have to be aware of that.
 
Most importantly, kids need to be reminded that what they post online becomes part of their "digital DNA" that will always remain online. No matter how much they try to scrub it away those posts will follow them when they apply to college or for a job down the road.
 
Be a 'Friend'
 
Parents may require kids to give their passwords if they want to have social media accounts. This may sound too "big brotherish" but the bottom line is parents need to keep tabs on their kids' social media accounts one way or another, whether by just being their "friend" or by using software that monitors their activities.
 
When parents see their child's peers do something inappropriate online, they should talk to their child about it and use it as a teachable moment. Ensure that you as a parent do not become too intrusive or even hostile to your children's activities as it could prompt the kids to move to another social media platform that parents do not know about to set up shadow accounts.
 
Be a Parent First
 
Social media has made that so much worse. Now you have crowds of parents with smartphones shoving each other to get the perfect shot. And they are so worried about creating the perfect Instagram post that they are not enjoying what they are watching. Sometimes it is better to just focus on the kids. We need to be less focused on 'likes' and more focused on our relationships with our children.
 
 
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