Article by Dr. Eric Cole
Online activity is second nature to today’s kids, but most of us with children didn’t grow up with the Internet. So it may be difficult to know how to advise them and monitor their safety online, especially when a lot of their school work and social life is centered on being connected. There is a lot that’s great about the Internet and the educational and recreational opportunities out there, but there’s also a lot that’s dark, evil, and dangerous. As parents, we need to help our kids make the right decisions and stay safe online.
In his new book, Online Danger: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones from the Evil Side of the Internet, cyber security expert, Dr. Eric Cole, devotes an entire chapter to the ways that parents can safeguard their kids’ online activities. Here are some of his top suggestions.
Know What Apps They Use
Kids are not going to be as careful when it comes to downloading and installing apps that they want – particularly games. But just because an app (for phone or PC) came from the Google or Apple store doesn’t make it safe. Many of today’s apps – by default – ask for access to the device’s camera, microphone, and location services. This means that your child’s phone might be spying on him or her or making it easy to abduct them based on knowing their location. Review the apps on your kids’ phones, and together determine whether they still use the app and how the permissions are set.
Follow Your Kids on Social Media
Children should have the expectation that you’ll follow them on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Make sure you all understand privacy settings, particularly who can see or share their posts and photos. You’ll want to check who has connected with your kids, and don’t be shy about asking about faces you may not recognize. You’d much rather hear, “oh that’s Joe from my karate class” than “oh, that’s just someone who asked me to be their online friend.” Remember that predators can be anyone they want online.
Talk Openly About Online Risks
Kids can’t be expected to always make smart decisions or foresee the consequences of their actions. That’s why, as parents, a big part of our job is to teach them these skills, encourage them to make the right decisions, and protect them – both from others and from themselves. Talking with your kids about online safety is an ongoing process that starts the minute they start swiping on your phone or tablet, and continues into young adulthood. Remember, monitoring your kids’ online activities isn’t “nosy” – it’s responsible parenting.
In addition to the chapter devoted to protecting our kids online, Dr. Cole’s book provides advice for anyone wanting to protect themselves from scammers, hackers, and predators. You’ll learn how these online villains operate and how you can safeguard your credit, identity, and personal information. Visit www.onlinedanger.com for more useful tips, videos, and purchase information. Now available on Kindle.
About Dr. Eric Cole
Eric Cole, PhD, is a recognized security expert with over 30 years of experience in consulting, training, public speaking, and expert witness testimony. A published author of 7 books on cyber security, Dr. Cole is on the cutting edge of cyber security research and development. His career has spanned industry and government roles including CTO at McAfee, Chief Scientist for Lockheed Martin, and member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President, Barack Obama.