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On the Internet, you can find information about — and images of — almost anything. However, when it comes to your children’s online activities, you need to make sure they’re protected against contact with undesirable people, inappropriate or harmful content and malicious software or attacks. Learning a few online safety tips for kids can help keep them safe.

The Internet is a familiar construct for many people: they witnessed the transition from dial-up modems to cable to broadband and watched as mobile technology swept the globe. Children are now born into an Internet-equipped world — this technology permeates everything they do, from school to home to play, and perpetual connectivity has caused no shortage of alarm for mindful parents.

Why Kids Need Protection on The Internet

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Parents hear about the importance of online safety for kids from multiple sources; the news, for example, is never short on stories involving children and predators on the Web. Anecdotal evidence from other parents and warnings from local law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, contribute to a nagging fear about allowing kids any kind of online access.

Statistics from NetSmartz (an online effort by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), however, bear out the fact that children are online more than ever. Ninety-three percent of kids aged 12 to 17 are online, and 75 percent of the same age group have cell phones. Seventy-three percent of teens have social networking profiles on sites like Facebook, with almost half uploading pictures of themselves.

The Dangers of Internet Use for Kids

As computers and Internet-connected devices become more common — for work, play, or school assignments — it can become more difficult for parents to protect their children from numerous threats on the Web.

There’s a wide range of dangers that can affect kids online.

Contact with undesirable people, including:

  • Predators — for example, in social media messages or gaming lobby chat rooms.
  • Cyberbullies — children can be targeted by online bullies, including real-life ones.
  • Phishing scammers — they trick your child out of sensitive info about themselves or you.

Inappropriate content, such as:

  • Sexually explicit content — notably pornographic images and video.
  • Violent or graphic content — such as gore or acts of assault.
  • Obscene or age-inappropriate content — like foul language or drug and alcohol use.
  • Downloads of pirated materials — including music or video files.

Computer security issues:

  • Drive-by downloads — whereby simply visiting a website can result in malicious programs being automatically installed on your child’s computer.
  • Malware infections — can give other people access to your child’s computer. May appear in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs, web links, attachments and more.
  • Unwanted advertising, pop-ups, and adware programs — often automatically installed when freeware or shareware programs are downloaded. These can also carry spyware.

There's a real concern around Internet safety for children since they are in many respects savvier than their parents when it comes to the Web. Fortunately, family Internet safety is becoming more of a priority.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Kids Online

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The question, "how do I provide Internet safety for kids?" becomes a daunting prospect, because many parents assume parental controls require extensive technical knowledge.

But thanks to easy-to-use Internet security software, virtually any parent can protect children from objectionable material or prevent them from downloading damaging malware.

Managing & Monitoring Your Kids Internet access

For parents, access management is critical, and this takes two broad forms:

  1. Parental control software — often comes bundled with Internet security solutions and give you the ability to manage the time your child spends online.
  2. Antivirus software programs — helps you deal with issues like spyware and viruses from websites your children may unwittingly visit.

Parental control features allow to you control all aspects of your child's Internet experience. This can include anything from the amount of time they are allowed to spend online, to the applications and websites they're permitted to use. Any attempts to use blocked programs will be stopped and recorded in the program's log for later viewing.

If you prefer more advanced settings, you can also limit correspondence with specific contacts on social networks, restrict messages that contain personal details, or even prevent messages with certain words or phrases from being sent.

A high-quality parental control program gives you power along with transparency, making it easy to set up restrictions for each user. This means, however, that you need to be diligent in logging off your own profile when finished with the computer; otherwise, you'll be sabotaging your own efforts.

Antivirus protection is just as critical for your family’s online safety. Websites that appear legitimate may in fact carry malicious code. Alternatively, they could redirect your child to a dummy site which looks the same, but actually contains a keylogger or computer virus.

To make sure your child's personal information isn't collected without your knowledge, set up a regular schedule for automatic virus checks, and also run a deep system scan every month to ensure you don't have any unwanted visitors on your hard drive.

Giving your children trust and respect

Kids must have some room to learn and grow from their own choices. Oppressive content controls won’t help them accomplish that. It might even make them more rebellious.

Ultimately, parents face a war on two fronts:

  1. Limiting inappropriate Internet access.
  2. Acknowledging their child's burgeoning independence.

To avoid a losing battle, it's important to respect the technical aspects of online control, and the ability of kids to counteract poor security measures.

Children are born into a world of tablets and smartphones and have an inherent comfort with the Internet that is absent in many adults. This comfort, however, often leads to a blindness about potential risks.

The bottom line for parents: using online security controls must go hand-in-hand with respecting your child. Child safety online starts with adaptable, powerful parental controls, and is backed by solid virus protection software. But it works best when combined with a healthy dose of respect and freedom for their Internet-savvy children. With the right tools and the right attitude, parents can help make their kids' online time less worrisome.

How to Choose the Best Security Software for Your Household

When evaluating parental control software for your family, it is vital to ensure that the software provides comprehensive protection from Internet threats.

Parental control is only one part of protecting your family from the dangers of the Internet. Online safety for kids means:

  • Protecting your children from objectionable material.
  • Protecting your devices against viruses or malware, spam, and mobile threats.

Your security suite needs to cover each of these bases for a strong safety net.

Fortunately, many Internet security solutions provide holistic protection from a central hub to fight all online threats.

The market is chock-full of security software, so choosing the right one can seem like an overwhelming process. Fortunately, you can test products by using a free internet security software trial. By using a trial, it is possible to get a feel for the software and ensure that it is a good fit for your family.

What Your Kids Need to Know About Internet Safety

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Teaching your children about the risks of online activity can be another important step to keep their experience safe, fun, and secure. However, keeping kids safe in the Internet playground can be challenging. After all, there are no teachers to watch over them — and you certainly can’t monitor them every minute.

So, how do you keep kids safe on the internet? Let’s look at the ways you can safeguard against the everyday dangers your kids could face.

1. Don’t talk to strangers

Whether playing online games with friends or joining in conversations on social media, children come into contact with strangers every day.

But online comment threads, chat rooms, and private messages also contain cybercriminals. They hide behind avatars to trick children into giving out personal details. These details can then be used to steal your identity and money. These phishing scams are especially common when targeting vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly.

What your kids need to know: Your kids need to know that people are likely not who they say they are online. Even if someone looks, sounds, or acts like someone their age, they may be fooled. Always be cautious and never give out any personal info, even to “known” friends. This might include anything from age and location, to online login info or whether your parents are home.

How you can help your kids: Sticking to well-known games or reputable social sites can help protect your child. But even then, it can be hard keeping your child safe on the internet by monitoring who they talk to online and what they say. Comprehensive internet security products like Kaspersky Total Security can help. These prevent your child from sending information such as bank account details, names, and addresses through chat rooms and instant messengers.

And it’s not just cybercriminals who operate in these chat spaces. Sadly, as in real life, bullies exist on the Internet.

2. Block and report online bullies

On gaming sites and social media, some people log on to simply harass and taunt others. These players are known as cyberbullies.

Controlling and preventing cyberbullying is difficult. In most online games, moderators attempt to ban them. But with so many players, it can be hard to get every single one. Social media can be equally tricky as each platform has different guidelines in response to cyberbullies. They may even define harassment differently than other platforms.

What your kids need to know: If someone’s actions are making them feel uncomfortable or attacked, your child should let you know. Also, you or your child should document the behaviors and report them to support staff if possible. Most importantly, be sure that your child does not stick around for more abuse. They can block the person if necessary. Sometimes bullying can be an extension of real-life harassment, which needs further intervention.

How you can help your kids: Again, parental control functions can keep your child safe from internet bullies in the online playground. They work by monitoring who your child talks to online and providing you with the power to block any undesirable contacts. You can also receive alerts when any specified word is used in online communication.

Even with all this protection, it is still impossible to monitor your child 100% of the time. Seemingly innocent sites can still contain malicious links that can compromise the security of your whole network.

3. Some links, downloads, and websites can make computers sick

Cybercriminals know children seek out free software, music, and games. They also know children are more likely to trust links and email attachments.

What your kid needs to know: If your child clicks on one of these links, they may download a virus that has the potential to not just compromise expose the security of their PC, but your whole network. They may do this inadvertently, simply clicking on a banner ad while the malware invisibly loads compromising your kid’s safety on the Internet.

How you can help your kids: The best protection is a decent Internet security suite that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware. A total security product like Kaspersky Total Security will do this for everyone — and every computer or mobile device — in your house. You can monitor the whole network from your PC and adjust the security settings of each computer individually.

Nothing replaces parental guidance when it comes to child Internet safety. Simply talking to your children can help hugely – teaching them to not automatically click "yes" buttons and to walk away from bullies or potential cybercriminals. Internet security suites with parental controls are meant to compliment this by monitoring what they get up to online.

4. Anything shared on the internet is shared forever

Nothing can ever truly be deleted from the internet, even if it was never “public.” Children might not know the permanence of anything they say, show, or share on the net. However, you’ll need to make sure they know there are many ways this information lives on.

The framework of the internet means nothing can permanently be removed. There will always be artifacts of the data left behind, almost like breadcrumbs. People are another way private data gets stored longer than planned. If your child sends a picture, message, or other data to someone, that person will always have a way to save it. Your child’s devices can even be eavesdropped through spyware or man-in-the-middle attacks.

What your kid needs to know: Never share anything online that you would not share publicly with everyone for the rest of your life. Whether your child is talking with a stranger or someone they know outside the web, the risk is always there. Even timed-deletion messages in apps like Snapchat are never permanently gone from the web.

How you can help your kids: Be sure that they talk with you if anything questionable comes up. Tell them to talk with you if they want to buy an app, get a message about a free giveaway, or even get a message asking them about real life details. Open communication can be a roadblock for a lot of shady online behavior towards kids.

The first steps involved getting your internet security software active. Now with your awareness of online hazards, you’re ready to sit with your kids for a talk on cybersecurity.

How To: 6 Ways to Talk with Your Kids About Internet Safety

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Ultimately, you must talk with your children about online threats in a way that they’ll understand. The Internet poses real risks for children and teens, but parents can help them make informed decisions that keep them safe online.

Here are six ways to talk about Internet safety with your children.

1. Set the Ground Rules

Before handing a computer or mobile device to your children, you should have an age-appropriate discussion about what they should and should not do.

First, set limits on online time. When their time online is not idle, there’s a smaller chance of drifting into undesirable parts of the web.

Tell your children to talk with you before sharing information like their names or address or speaking with someone they meet online. They should tell you right away if they see something that upsets or scares them.

Treating others online how they’d want to be treated themselves is an equally important value to teach your kids. Anonymity on the web can cause anyone to say cruel things they normally wouldn’t — even children. If they help make the web a better place, they’ll be happier on it.

2. Talk About How — and Why — You Will Monitor Their Online Use

As children get older and join social networks, be up front about monitoring what they post and why you’re doing it. Even teenagers may not fully understand the long-term impact of their posts, or that the Internet never forgets. They should be aware that you're looking out for them, not trying to get them in trouble.

It can be a tough tightrope to walk when you're trying to keep your kids safe without making them feel like you don't trust them. Set boundaries and discuss situations in which you may need to cross them.

If you find that your way of monitoring is causing conflicts, be open to trying something new. Remind your children that their safety is your primary concern, but don't be afraid to give them a little freedom as they get older.

Parental control software, such as Kaspersky Safe Kids offers an easy solution to monitor and manage your children online activity.

3. Talk About What’s Going on in Their Lives

Open lines of communication are critical in many aspects of parenting — and with online safety in particular. That’s because cyberbullying is like its real-world counterpart. It's often something kids don’t want to mention because they fear they’ll get in trouble or lose their Internet access.

Make it clear you’re interested in all areas of your kids’ lives. Also make sure they know they can come to you with any problems they’re having. Actively listen during regular conversations to show your kids that you're always there for them, no matter what's going on.

4. Teach Kids How to Take Action Themselves

Show your kids they can take steps to be proactive online by teaching them how to use the privacy, reporting and blocking functions on the sites they visit.

Older kids may know more about the online world than you. Consider making them the experts and having them show you the safety features of the sites they frequent.

5. Involve Kids in Decision-Making

Like all parenting conversations, talks about online safety should be learning experiences, not one-sided lectures.

Ask what they think about what they’re seeing online and whether it’s potentially dangerous. If they disagree, listen to why — and be prepared to respond. Even if they don’t like the rules, kids are more likely to follow them if they believe they played a part in setting them.

6. Don’t Forget the Positive

It’s important not to make the entire Internet seem like a scary place to avoid at all costs.

Help set the stage for responsible online behavior by talking about the ways the Internet can help with schoolwork and pursuing other interests. Kids follow the examples of their parents in many seen and unseen ways. Sharing examples of how you use the Internet responsibly can send a much stronger message than implementing rules and restrictions.

Internet Safety Tips for Kids — Essential Takeaway Advice for Parents

Kids today are growing up in a world that's cybercentric. It's impossible to avoid children’s eventual introduction to the Internet and all things digital. But it is possible to keep them secure and avoid risks while teaching kids how to be safe online. It starts with the right strategy, and these tips can help.

To recap, here are the most valuable takeaways for keeping children safe online:

  • Talk to your children about the potential dangers that they may face online.
  • Move your children’s computers to a common family room if possible.
  • Try to make the computer a shared family experience.
  • Encourage your children to talk to you about anything they experience online that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Restrict the content that can be accessed via the computer:
    • Many Internet security solutions can help you to do this
    • Internet Explorer includes a Content Advisor that can also help
  • Provide guidelines that let your child know what they can and cannot do on the Internet. For example, your guidelines could tell your child whether they are permitted to:
    • Register with social networking or other websites
    • Make online purchases
    • Download music, video, or program files
    • Use instant messaging programs
    • Visit Internet chat rooms
    • If your child is allowed to use instant messaging and / or visit chat rooms, it’s worth explaining to them that it’s dangerous to chat with or send messages to anyone that they don’t know and trust.
  • Download and install the latest security patches and updates for all your devices as they come out. This includes your operating systems, apps, and other software.
  • Install a rigorous antivirus product that’s capable of defending all of your families’ computers and mobile devices against malicious programs and hackers. Many Internet security software products combine antivirus capabilities and advanced parental control features that make it easier to protect your children when they’re online. You should look for these features:
    • Anti-malware
    • Anti-spam filtering
    • Phishing protection
    • Parental controls
    • Real-time web browsing monitoring

Related articles:

Internet Safety for Children: Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online

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