The Biggest Dangers Children Face OnlineUpdated: May 01, 2019
The online world can be a dangerous place for anyone, especially for children.
There are various risks children are exposed to when they use the internet and parents should be aware of them so they know how to protect their kids and teach them to use the internet with caution.
Children can become the victim of cyberbullying, can use social media to share posts that will come to bite them later in life, or they can even expose their parents to online threats by mistake. These are only some examples of the risks of a child using a mobile phone or a computer with a connection to the internet.
To better know how to protect your child on the internet, let's see what dangers children face online.
Bullies have been around forever and technology gives them another platform to manifest their actions. Bullying has serious emotional consequences on children so parents should take all the measures in their power to prevent their children from becoming the victim of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying refers to the use of digital means to threaten, harass, or embarrass another person. It can be made in a direct mode such as a mean text or comment on a social media post. But it can also happen in a less obvious manner such as impersonating someone else, even the victim, and sharing private photos or information meant to embarrass the victim.
What's worst is that children are often ashamed to talk to their parents if they are the prey of cyberbullying so it might be impossible for you to know if your kid has become a victim.
The most common places where children are prone to become victims of cyberbullying are:
- Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat)
- SMS (Text messages)
- Instant messages (such as Facebook messenger)
- Games chats
Because the internet is up and working 24 hours a day, if a child falls victim to cyberbullying it might be extremely hard for him/her to find relief. Moreover, once something is online, you can't take it back, it becomes permanent and public. This means the bullied child can feel the impact of cyberbullying years after the action took place.
With this in mind, it's highly important for parents to openly talk to their children and educate them about the dangers of cyberbullying. Many unpleasant situations can be avoided if the child is educated on how to act if someone tries to initiate a cyberbullying behavior.
Cyber predators are the ones using the internet to exploit the innocence of children, usually for sexual purposes. It's estimated that one in five children are sexually solicited online.
These people abuse the trust of children by impersonating someone else and lure them into dangerous persona encounters. They spend their time on social media platforms and games that are populated with children.
In this case, again, it's best to openly talk to your children about the dangers of talking to strangers online so you prevent them from sharing too much to a cyber predator that they might think is a genuine child just like them.
The internet is full of content of all kinds, including content that children should not have access to. But kids are curious and they might try to search for such content. And even if they don't have the intention to look over inappropriate content, they can still stumble upon it accidentally. Websites are full of advertisements, and some of them are not kids friendly.
Fortunately, you can take active action to prevent your children from seeing a specific type of content. An important step here is to look over your children's online browsing history and see what types of content they usually look over. There are also parenting control apps that allow you to block specific types of content. Some of them will automatically block content related to porn, drugs, guns, or suicide.
Children might often share photos or private information that shouldn't be out in the open because they don't yet understand social boundaries as adults do. This information might include things such as phone numbers, home address, or emails. This often happens on social media platforms.
It's important to keep an eye on how your child uses social media and the things they share. If you see your child sharing something that's not appropriate, remind them that anyone can see it and educate them about social boundaries.
It's easy to trick a child into giving you what you want if you give him/her a great enough prize in return. Cybercriminals are often searching through popular platforms where children spend their time to spot potential victims, then they lure them into giving personal information (such as the parents' credit card information) in return for a prize, such as the access to an online game.
Children will easily fall for such schemes because they are more innocent and haven't learned yet to be suspicious about everything online. It's important to remember your children that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it actually is and they should wary when someone tries to offer them something on the internet.
It's easy to share something online. But it is way harder, if not impossible, to take it back once it is published. Children don't think about how what they share now might affect them in the future when they'll be searching for a job and how an employee might not find your children's funny posts so funny.
It's true that they are kids and maybe an adult in the future will understand the innocence of being a child, but there are some things that should be better remain unshared. Keep an eye on what your children share on social media profiles or other websites and try to set up some boundaries if you notice they publish inappropriate content that might hunt them later in life.
This is a type of online attack that relies on psychological tricks. Someone will use its own charisma to trick people into giving away their private information. The goal is for the hacker to get access to one's computer or private data.
The most common trick hackers use with this technique is convincing people their computers are infected with malware, giving them a software to solve their problems. In reality, the software itself will install malware on the computer and the hacker will gain free access to it.
Imagine how susceptible children that are not aware of such schemes can be to this kind of cyber attack. You should educate your kids to never trust someone online offering them free things to protect them against the dangers children face online.
Another type of cyber attack that children can easily become the victim of is known as ransomware. Hackers use a type of malware, usually Trojan horses, to get hold of your computer. They will then threaten to publish sensitive data online or they'll block your access to your own files unless a ransom is paid.
A kid can easily get scared of such a threat and you can find yourself with money missing from your credit card out of nowhere.
Phishing is the most common type of social engineering. and you should be concerned about your kid falling prey to this type of attack especially if s/he has access to an email client as this attack is usually run through emails.
For this scam, a hacker will send a fake email disguised to look like a genuine email from a familiar company, asking you to click on a link and fill your username and password for a certain platform. Needless to say, the website you access is malicious and the hacker will know your login credentials once you fill them in.
A kid won't know to spot the difference between the genuine website and the fake one. Actually, most of the times, the websites are so well constructed that even more, knowledgeable adults can't point out the difference. That's why this type of cyber attack goes so well for stealing people's bank account information.
Children are more prone to clicking on links in emails that seem exciting enough, so you should talk to your children and let them know not to click on any email they receive in their inbox.
Have you noticed those annoying pop-ups that often show up on websites? Then you should know that many of them contain malicious links and, once you click on them, your computer will get infected with malware.
Also, many of the advertisements contain malicious links. Imagine how easy it is for your kid to get tricked into clicking on advertisements displaying fun toys or entertaining games.
One of the first steps into preventing your children to download malware is to install an AdBlocker extension in the browser to get rid of most pop-ups and advertisements.
From viruses and worms to Trojans and keyloggers, your kid can easily get tricked into clicking something malicious when playing online and infect your device with malware.
Some malware is easy to get rid of and is not as harmful, but there are some dangerous types of malware that can provide hackers access to your devices. Once this happens, all your private information is at risk, including your credit card and money.
Because malware can be hidden anywhere on the internet, it's important that you manage what your children can download from the internet so they won't install software or games that contain malware.
Most parents would wish to keep their children away from using smartphones and devices until they are at an age when they can use common sense to stay away from threats. But in the world we live in, keeping your child away from technology means marginalizing your kid around his/her peers that are all using some kind of device. Besides, technology can actually help your child develop better skills if you manage to teach him/her to use it properly.
Fortunately, there are tools, also known as parental controls that give parents total control over what their children have access online.
We put together a guide on how to use the parental control settings that come built-in your devices along with the best parental control apps that will allow you to track your children' online activity and control what they can do online.