Updated: Sep 16
Teens spend a lot of time online – both studying and socializing. Do you know whether they’re safe? What are they doing? Who they’re talking to? What can you do as a parent to make sure your teen does not fall victim to fake news, leaving a digital footprint they’ll regret later in life, becoming addicted to gaming or get bullied or sexually abused?
In some ways, online safety is a bit like crossing the road. It’s potentially fraught with danger and there’s no failsafe solution; but with sensible strategies and common sense, it’s possible to navigate the dangers safely.
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1. Be practical
Phones and laptops are powerful tools - more powerful than the computers that sent man to the moon! Make sure your teen has reliable software installed to protect against online attacks and security threats. We store a lot of information online and identify theft is just one of many reasons hackers might try and access our technology. Bitdefender, McAfee, Norton, PC Protec, Scanguard and Total AV are well-regarded companies providing online security.
Don’t forget the hardware either! Phones, laptops and tablets have become increasingly portable. This means they’re easier to steal. Remind your teen not to leave their technology lying around – for example, on the table should they take a rest break in a café or other public space. They’re probably used to slipping a phone into their pocket, but they may be tempted to leave their laptop on the table – it’s a hassle to pack up and it also protects their seat!
We recommend investing in a “laptop lock”, which is made of cut-resistant cable and can be secured around something fixed (such as the table or chairs). They’ll need to check compatibility with their laptop’s lockslots, and there’s options on Amazon (such as this one for Dell or universal ones).
They should make sure their screen is password protected and not leave applications running without the screen lock activated if they are away from the device (even, or especially, when at school!).
Your teen should be very careful when accessing public WiFi. Online security and protective settings can all be breached when using public WiFi systems. We recommend tuning into their own network hotspots or the Government safe-certified sites (noted as “friendly” with RDI symbols – image below) when accessing and using personal information, such as online banking.
3. Time online
It doesn’t necessarily follow that the more time they spend online the greater the risk. A teen that spends a lot of the day researching online and browsing social media may be less at risk than one who spends an hour or two each day checking out different social media apps and trying to increase their followers. Don’t get caught up battling with them about