From Passwords to Parental Controls: What You Need to Know About Online Privacy for Your Kids

October 2, 2023

October marks Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a dedicated period to emphasize the critical significance of cybersecurity and online safety. Throughout this month, we will provide valuable Cyber Smart information tailored for parents and caregivers. Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge needed to safeguard your children’s online experiences effectively.

Our kids have the whole world at their fingertips as technology opens up opportunities for learning, connection and fun. As parents and caregivers, we also want to make sure our kids stay safe and protected online. That’s why we’re exploring online privacy and sharing practical tips to keep our kids’ and teens’ digital journeys secure.

What You Need to Know about Online Privacy for your kids

Learn about safeguarding your kids online with Cat Coode!

Why Online Privacy Matters for Kids

Imagine the internet is like a big playground. Just like in real life, we need to make sure kids of all ages understand and practice how to stay safe while they are there. Online privacy is one measure of safety that parents and caregivers should better understand in order to do just that. Online privacy helps safeguard children from a variety of digital dangers including cyberbullying, online harassment and identity fraud. 

It is critically important to talk to children, as soon as they are on the internet, about the importance of keeping information about themselves private. By adjusting privacy settings on social media and using restricted profiles, parents and kids can control who sees their profiles and who has access to their personal information. It’s like a secret clubhouse with only trusted friends and family invited. This conversation about privacy should continue as kids become more sophisticated and extensive users of technology.

Parental Controls, Password Protection and Location Tracking

Let’s review some privacy tools for creating a safe digital space. Parental controls, password protection and location tracking can help establish boundaries and protect youth online.

Parental Controls

Get to know the built-in parental control features on smartphones, tablets and computers. They can shield kids from inappropriate content and excessive screen time. App restrictions, content filters and screen time limits can help you customize your child’s digital access in a way that best suits their needs. All of the operating systems for phones and devices have a version of parental control. When they are part of the device they are called “native applications”. There are also external apps you can buy, but try the native apps first. They are free to use and tend to work best with the devices. A simple Google search for instructions on parental controls for your child’s device will get you started.

Password Protection

Encourage your kids to create strong and unique passwords. A combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters will keep their accounts locked up tight. Guide them to create passwords that are more like secret codes—like $uperH#r0!—rather than plain, guessable words. Consider using a password manager to keep passwords secure and accessible, ensuring they don’t forget a single one. Practice setting these passwords with them.

Location Tracking

Location tracking is a feature on mobile devices that allows the user to share their current whereabouts with certain people or apps. While it can be helpful for finding lost devices or staying connected with friends and family, it can also pose privacy risks. Let your child know that sharing their location with trusted individuals is fine, but caution them about the dangers of sharing their location with strangers or on public platforms. Emphasize the importance of understanding the privacy settings on their mobile devices and apps and encourage them to ask for your guidance if they ever feel unsure about sharing their location with anyone online. Building trust and open communication is key to ensuring their safety in the digital world.

Teaching Kids about Online Privacy: Empowering Their Digital Journey

Beyond privacy tools, it’s important to equip our kids with the knowledge they need to be smart and responsible online. Have playful and approachable conversations about online privacy that match their age and understanding. Explain that just like we have private things in the real world, we also need to keep some things private online. Teach them to control who sees their pictures and posts and to reach out to trusted adults if something doesn’t feel right.

Here are some examples of information that your child should keep private:

  1. Full name: Children should avoid sharing their full names, especially along with other identifiable information, as it can be used by strangers to locate or identify them. This includes handles or screen names.
  2. Home address: Revealing their home address can potentially put children at risk of physical harm or enable strangers to locate them. Turn off location tracking in games and apps, such as Snapchat for example.
  3. Phone number: Sharing their phone number can lead to unwanted contact.
  4. School name and location: Disclosing specific details about their school can help strangers identify their location.
  5. Birthdate: Children should refrain from sharing their complete birthdate, including the day, month and year, as it can be used for identity theft or to impersonate them. Some criminals will use the birthdates of young kids to set up credit that will cause damage long before the children are old enough to notice.
  6. Financial information: Children should never share any financial information, such as credit card numbers, bank account details or social security numbers, as this information can be exploited for fraudulent activities.
  7. Passwords: Teaching children about the importance of keeping passwords private is crucial. They should never share their passwords, even with friends (sharing with parents is okay though), as it can compromise their online accounts and personal information. This includes social media login details.
  8. Other personal identifiers: Children should be mindful about sharing any other personal identifiers, such as their parents’ names, siblings’ names or any specific details that could be used to track or identify them.

Above and beyond providing children with the knowledge they need to stay safe, parents should also act as digital safety role models. Let your children see you adjusting privacy settings and being cautious about sharing personal information. Remember, while it’s important to be aware of the risks, be sure to take a positive approach and find the right balance in your discussions.

In the digital age, safeguarding our children’s online privacy is essential. By understanding its importance, using parental controls effectively, creating strong passwords and teaching kids the ways of the online world, we can create a safer and more secure digital environment for them to explore. Adjust how you approach online safety with your children depending upon their age and as their digital sophistication grows. This is an ongoing journey that requires open conversations and adaptability, but with the right approach, parents and caregivers can empower their kids to embrace the digital wonders while staying safe and protected.

Learn more about Actua’s Cyber Smart Education project and preparing youth for a digital future.