The NSPCC's recent survey unveiled significant findings about the experiences of young people on social networking sites in the UK. Shockingly, one in four youths has encountered distressing content. Additionally, 58 percent of these incidents involved interactions with unknown individuals. Alarmingly, only 22 percent of children who faced negative incidents sought help.
These statistics emphasise the urgency to promote open discussion among young individuals regarding their online encounters for their safety. It also sheds light on the complexity of online friendships, where the term 'friend' takes on a different meaning. Many young people have acquaintances in their virtual networks whom they have never met in person, such as friends of friends or fellow online gamers. However, it is vital to recognise that in many cases, these 'friends' remain unfamiliar faces, placing young people in a precarious position.
All parents value digital wellness for teens, but often do not pay enough attention to it or simply do not know which way to approach the issue. Ignoring or postponing a problem leads to the fact that we miss those very important moments and it is often difficult to return to them. Let's pay more attention to teen internet safety and understand the potential dangers and measures that will help protect teenagers from the dark side of the Internet.
Internet Dangers in 2024 For Teen
Understanding the dangers awaiting your teen in this complex landscape is crucial to protect them. Let's explore the top online risks and their potential impact on your teen.
Identity theft: Although your teen may not have credit or assets worth stealing, cybercriminals can use their clean credit history to open accounts that could haunt them for years. The resulting damage can make it difficult for your teen to buy a car, rent an apartment, or find employment.
Cyberbullying: Taunting and abuse no longer stop at the high school doors. Social media, email, texting, and instant messaging (IM) invade your teen's world 24/7. Tragically, there have been several instances where cyberbullying has led to suicide.
Pornography: Exposure to pornography can have long-lasting effects, hindering your teen's ability to form healthy and loving relationships. It can create unrealistic expectations, impacting self-esteem and confusing their understanding of romantic relationships.
Sexting: Sending or receiving photos and engaging in suggestive banter can lead to serious trouble. Depending on the extent and privacy of exchanged images, sexting can result in severe reputation damage or even child pornography charges.
Online predators: Predators often masquerade as peers, aiming to connect with potential victims. They can be found on social networks, chat rooms, and other online platforms. While many predators groom teens for sexual exploitation or human trafficking, an increasing number seek to radicalize children for extreme political or religious groups.
Online Safety Tips For 13+
#1 Help Children Understand the Value of Personal Information
Sharing personal information with people they meet online can put children and teens at risk, as identity theft affects hundreds of thousands of children each year. Online scammers target younger individuals because it often takes them longer to realize their identity has been stolen.
To address this issue, educate children about identity theft schemes and teach them how to recognise online scams, such as email phishing schemes and fraudulent websites. Cover essential topics such as secure website identification, online etiquette, and seeking help when needed. Additionally, discuss specific scams that target children, including scholarship scams, fake giveaways, and contest scams.
Teach your teen how to perform a Google search on their name and remind them to regularly check to ensure that their profile or information does not appear in inappropriate contexts. Inform your teen that you will also be conducting the same search. Even if your teen is cautious about disclosing personal details, you may come across their contact information innocently displayed on a friend's website. Request your teen to ask the friend to remove the information.
#2 Use a VPN
VPN encrypts data and does not allow anyone from the outside to see it. Typically, data is transferred unprotected, but when a VPN is activated, an intermediary server is added, and data is transferred to which is encrypted. Some providers, such as VeePN, implement AES-256, which is almost impossible to hack. You can choose centralised or decentralised VPNs. VeePN has a good article on this topic that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. This concerns server speed, anonymity, logging policies, etc.
#3 Develop a Culture of Communication
Keeping your teen safe online and in the real world relies on effective communication. Whether your child is in the preteen years or recently celebrated their sweet 16, it's never too early (or too late) to begin discussing internet safety.
Inform your teenager about the online threats that concern you and engage in a conversation on how to avoid them. By initiating a dialogue about internet safety with your teen, you create a foundation for them to approach you whenever something strange or alarming occurs.
#4 Set Up Parental Controls
The internet contains an abundance of sexual, violent, and adult content, capable of confusing, scaring, or even harming children. A report by Common Sense Media highlights that 73% of teens have watched pornography online, with the majority encountering it at or before the age of 12.
Parental controls are effective on all devices - laptops, desktops, tablets, and phones. You can restrict access to adult content, gaming sites, and any other online experiences deemed inappropriate for your children. Parental control also allows you to manage teen screen time management, tools, find out about the child’s location, and much more. For teenagers, parental supervision should not be too strict, but it all depends on goals and preferences.
#5 Set Up Clear Rules
To ensure the safety of your teen online, it is important to clearly state your expectations for their behavior. Establish internet safety rules that will protect them while navigating the digital world. These rules can include guidelines like not sharing personal information such as full name, address, phone number, or Social Security number. Additionally, advise against using public Wi-Fi networks, allowing others to use their devices, accepting friend requests from strangers, opening emails from unknown senders, clicking on links or downloading files without adult supervision, and sharing photos online or through messages. Identify safe social networking sites and apps that they can use and make it clear which ones are off-limits.
#6 Keep Things Out in the Open
Keep computers, laptops, tablets, and phones in a central location within your home where you can monitor activity and establish boundaries.
Enforce screen time limits, encompassing smartphone usage, online gaming, or any other web-based activities your kids engage in. Teach them to steer clear of internet strangers, whether it's an email from an unknown sender, a suspicious link, or a friend request from an unrecognized user. If they feel uncertain, encourage them to consult with you so that the two of you can jointly assess whether something is safe or not.
#7 Teach the Most Important Authorisation Rules
Your first and sometimes only line of defense against hackers is passwords and account security. However, kids often use easily guessable passwords or share them with friends to establish trust.
Ensure that your kids understand how to create strong and unique passwords, avoiding things like birthdays or pet names. One way to assist them is by using a password manager to establish and securely store your entire family's passwords.
Additionally, set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on their accounts. This extra security measure requires a special code to be sent to your phone or an authenticator app for account logins. As an added benefit, you can configure 2FA codes to be directed to your phone, allowing you to approve your kids' logins to specific accounts.
#8 Be Careful With Online Payments and Your Card Details
Scammers often attempt to deceive children into divulging their parents' financial information. Ensure that your children cannot easily access your credit cards and make it clear that they must always consult with you first before using them.
Here's what you can do:
Opt for pre-loaded gift cards instead of your credit card for in-app purchases. This will safeguard against hackers or scammers accumulating a significant debt if they gain access to your child's account. It can also prevent excessive spending by children.
Avoid saving credit card details in online services. Although it may be inconvenient to enter your information for each purchase, this will safeguard your credit card details in case of hacking or a data breach.
Regularly check your statements and look out for unauthorized charges. Aura's transaction and credit monitoring service can promptly notify you if someone is using your card or personal information.
Keeping your kids safe online and in the real world is a top priority for every parent. While you may not always be physically present, regularly discussing online safety and implementing device protections can greatly reduce the risks of online threats. You should also teach your child to identify threats on their own, learn how to deal with them and develop a willingness to come to you in case of problems or concerns.
About the author
Maya Wilson - is a content writer for websites and social media. She represents VeePN and is interested in technology and cybersecurity, offers advice and recommendations in these industries.