With each passing year, there is no denying that the online world just becomes riskier and riskier for our children. And with them heading back to school, it’s important for us all to review what’s happening on the world wide web. As hordes of new social media apps are added to our IOS & Play Stores, where youths spend their time scrolling, posting and communicating, we need to ask ourselves: How safe are they?
Apps like Tiktok, Instagram and Snapchat allow kids of all ages to post whatever they want, meaning cyberbullying, grooming and trafficking has been made all the more convenient for those hiding behind a cloak of anonymity and potentially false personal information.
While we at YEO believe that privacy is a human right, we also believe that in order to keep children safe, there has to be a limit to what they get up to on the internet – at least until they are old enough to know the signs of danger.
Here are our top tips for keeping yourself and your children educated about online safety
Don’t talk to strangers
We all know this age-old rule, and there’s no reason for your kid to let their guard down when surfing the web. Make sure they know the risks that come with stranger-danger and let them know that simply talking to someone screen-to-screen doesn’t automatically give them a sense of security. No clicking on unknown links, opening emails or messages from people they don’t know and no talking privately to people you meet on the comment section of TikTok.
Never post anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see
Privacy settings aren’t as private as we would like to believe they are. Sure, we can set our posts so that only friends see them, but once you tag someone, their friends and followers can see it, too. And this goes for uploading pictures on Instagram and videos on TikTok. Screenshots and screen recordings are also powerful tools when it comes to sharing private messages, pictures and videos – so posting and sharing isn’t always as secure as you may think.
Keep open communication and tell if something doesn’t feel right
Allow space for your children to feel like they can talk to you about what’s going on in their lives. By creating a sense of trust in your relationship, they are more likely to tell you if someone or something is making them feel uncomfortable online. Ask questions, get involved and most importantly, don’t get upset or aggressive when they confide in you about things that are personal to them. The first step in ensuring your child’s safety is making sure they feel safe with you.
Keep secure passwords and know which apps they need them for
iOS and Android devices have become quite handy in helping their users choose strong passwords, and will often suggest one when signing up for a new account. Teach your tweens to take advantage of this and make sure you know what they are too. This would also tie in with knowing which apps and accounts your child is setting up, so make sure you are present and can consent to whatever it is they are signing up for. Take note of the app and write down the suggested password so you can access these accounts should you ever need to in an emergency.
Apps to be on the lookout for
We mentioned a few of the top apps our children are spending time on (TikTok, Instagram & Snapchat), but what are the other, more hidden apps or websites teens and tweens are using to communicate with one another?
Omegle has been around for a few years now and is a website that enables its users to chat with random strangers from all around the world. Chats allow for both chatboxes and live video to be used when interacting with others. The app age rating on Omegle is for those 13+.
Similar to Whatsapp and Viber, Kik is a messaging app that is free to use. It includes an internal browser that works to keep its users engaged on their platform – the main difference between Kik and its competitors is that anyone can add anyone, from anywhere, at any time. The apps age rating is 17+, but there aren’t really any measures being taken to ensure those underage aren’t using the app.
YOLO is a free-to-use social media app that works as an add-on for Snapchat. It allows its users to add an “ask me anything” sticker on their stories, which others can then answer anonymously. This feature poses a danger as it can open your child up to cyberbullying or inappropriate messages being sent to them, and senders can feel safe in doing so because there is no risk of being found out.
Photo Calculator Apps
We all know that if a tween or teen wants to get away with something, they can be pretty sneaky in hiding what they’re doing. This brings us to downloadable mobile icons that look unassuming (such as a calculator app), but when clicked on, opens a gallery of hidden images and videos. If you feel that something isn’t right, there’s no shame in taking a deeper look at your child’s phone or PC if it means ensuring their safety.
The Tor Browser can be downloaded onto any device and is used like Google Chrome in the sense that it is a search engine used to find information on the internet. However, the Tor Browser poses a threat as it is the same browser that hackers, drug dealers and the dark underbelly of the world use to anonymously browse the deep web without the risk of being caught. The same people that go on the deep web for these purposes are also highly skilled at hiding themselves thoroughly (so much so that even agencies like the FBI have a hard time tracking them down for cybercrimes) by using advanced VPN’s and various other software to make themselves virtually invisible. As you can imagine, tweens and teens don’t stand a chance when up against people like this while online, and simply using the Tor Browser won’t hide their devices’ IP addresses, which is completely traceable by even small-time hackers. This means that your address, full names, phone numbers etc. are all available to these people. In short, don’t let your kid’s go near it.