Internet Safety Tips
- Staying safe online is a task for everyone from children and teens to adults and seniors.
- The best way to keep children safe online is to utilize parental controls and discuss internet safety with your children.
- Never share your personal information online with anyone and always use secure password practices to keep your logins safe.
The internet offers virtually endless possibilities. You can earn a degree, watch your favorite movie, start a business, learn a new language, or speak to friends on the other side of the planet — all with the internet. It truly is the most influential invention of our times, but that doesn’t mean that the internet isn’t without drawbacks.
In essence, the internet gives you limitless access to other people. Naturally, this means that other people have access to you, to one degree or another, as well. While this accessibility might make it easier to communicate and coordinate with others, it also opens every internet user up to certain risks.
In this guide, we are going to discuss various aspects of internet safety, including legal protections and personal precautions you can take to protect yourself and your family. Before we get into the best tips to stay safe on the internet, let’s first define what is meant by “internet safety.”
What Is Internet Safety?
In its most basic form, internet safety simply refers to the act of staying safe online. More specifically, internet safety refers to the ability to feel safe from physical, emotional, or financial harm, as well as invasions of privacy. People usually assume that the internet is safe because they can interact with others from a distance, but this is actually not the case. In fact, the internet poses many different kinds of threats to people of all ages.
It’s also important to take note of the statistics surrounding internet safety. So, here are a few important facts that you should know about:
- Identity theft isn’t just a threat for adults; in fact, children and teens are about 50 times more likely to become the victims of identity theft.
- Roughly 16 percent of teenagers have considered meeting someone that they’ve communicated with online; about 8 percent of teenagers actually go through with meeting online strangers.
- Despite recommendations from experts to wait, about 90 percent of parents allow their children to access the internet before the age of 10.
- Roughly two-thirds of parents do not monitor their children’s or teenager’s internet usage at all.
- Cybercrimes targeting older adults increased fivefold between 2014 and 2019.
As you can see, some of the greatest threats posed by the internet affect some of the most vulnerable populations (i.e., children and the elderly). However, anyone can be the victim of bullying, abuse, or a cybercrime. Fortunately, there are various ways to stay safe while using the internet.
Internet Safety for Kids
These days, most kids begin using the internet at a young age. Even if parents set strict limitations on internet use at home, children can still gain access to the internet at school or with their friends. As a result, the internet poses a risk to young children who may be unaware of potential threats.
Fortunately, schools are required to have certain measures in place to minimize internet-related risks to children. The current guidelines set out by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) ensure that schools can only take part in the E-rate program for subsidized internet if they have an internet safety plan in place. This safety plan must include measures to “block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).” Additionally, schools subject to CIPA must implement plans to monitor internet use by minors and educate minors in safe online behavior.
While CIPA reduces the risk of minors engaging in inappropriate or dangerous virtual communications at school, it can’t control what minors see on their personal phones or computers. As a result, parents must be vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activities. Thankfully, most devices — including mobile phones, computers, and even smart TVs — have parental control settings to prevent younger members of your household from accessing certain content.
However, even websites that seem safe at first glance could pose a potential threat. Typically, the biggest threats to kids on the internet are bullying and unwanted solicitations from strangers. If your parental controls allow for social media access, your child could easily become the victim of cyberbullying or come into contact with a predator. Consequently, parents have to either block access to all social media platforms or closely monitor all of their child’s online activity.
Internet Safety Tips for Minors
Though preventing children from accessing certain websites can greatly reduce the risk of internet use, kids must engage in the right behaviors to remain safe online. Therefore, parents, teachers, and any other authority figures are tasked with teaching children what to do — and what not to do — on the internet. If you’re a parent in need of some safety tips for kids, here are a few important things to remember:
- Teach your children that they should never speak to strangers online. They may feel safer in an online environment, but this only increases the risk of a predator taking advantage of their naivety.
- Let your children know which websites they can access. Setting parental controls will ensure that they follow your instructions, but your children should still be aware that some activities are not permissible.
- Ensure that your children understand the difference between private and public information. They should never post personally identifiable information anywhere on the internet.
- If you allow your kids to use social media platforms, teach them how to communicate safely and appropriately with people they know.
- Talk to your kids about the dangers of cyberbullying. Make sure they are comfortable coming to you for help in the event that they become the victim of cyberbullies.
- Set guidelines for how and when your child can play online video games.
Following the tips above will greatly reduce the risk of your children becoming the victim of online scams or predators. While many of the same rules apply for teenagers, most parents grant teenagers more freedom on the internet than smaller children.
Internet Safety for Teens
Your teenage years are usually a time for growth and self-discovery. However, in the Internet Age, being a teenager is far more complicated than it was before the internet existed. Teenagers need some computer and internet literacy for their education and even their future careers. As a result, they will almost certainly be exposed to people or websites that could pose a threat.
As a parent, it’s much harder to monitor your child’s internet use once they become a teenager. Many teenagers know how to use computers and mobile devices better than their parents. Consequently, many teenagers can simply delete their search history or find other ways to hide their online activities. Thus, the best way to prevent your teenager from becoming the victim of online threats is to educate them from an early age.
Internet Safety Tips for Teenagers
While schools hold some of the responsibility for educating teenagers about internet safety, it primarily falls on the shoulders of the parent(s). In addition to having enhanced tech literacy, teenagers also have to deal with changing hormones and sexual desires. This can lead to even greater threats from predators on the internet. So, in addition to the lessons you might teach a younger child, here are a few tips for keeping teenagers safe online:
- Set specific parameters so that teenagers know what you expect of them. While many teens will not always follow the rules, they can’t follow them at all if they don’t know what they are.
- Keep an open line of communication at all times. Though they may not be eager to talk about certain subjects, be sure to address issues like sexting, cyberbullying, online predators, and identity theft with your teen.
- Try to make your teenager as comfortable as possible when speaking with you. This way, they’ll be more inclined to come to you directly if a problem arises.
- Look for signs of trouble, including withdrawn behavior, self-harm, or strong emotional responses.
Now that you know some of the best ways to keep your children and teenagers safe on the internet, it’s time to look at some internet safety tips for adults and seniors.
Internet Safety for Adults and Seniors
Though children are often seen as the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to online safety, adults have to deal with plenty of risks as well. This is especially true of older adults and seniors. Roughly 16 percent of U.S. adults are computer illiterate, despite the fact that 97 percent own a smartphone and 77 percent own a computer. While computer literacy helps decrease the chances of identity theft or elder fraud, it does not completely eliminate the risk. As a result, older Americans are one of the most frequently targeted demographics for online scams and other forms of elder fraud.
For most adults, staying safe online comes down to a few simple principles:
- Do not share personal information with anyone online.
- Change your device and account passwords regularly.
- Use anti-virus and anti-malware software on all your devices.
- Do not log in to personal or financial accounts on a public network.
- Make sure your home network is protected by a firewall and/or Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Internet Safety Tips for Senior Citizens
While these may all seem like standard operating procedures for computer literate adults, it may not be so simple for senior citizens. Many adults over the age 65 did not grow up using computers, which puts them at a significant disadvantage when it comes to identifying and avoiding online threats. Therefore, it’s important to help elderly parents and friends navigate the internet safely and securely.
Fortunately, there are a few universal tips to help senior citizens remember how to stay safe while browsing the internet:
- Never trust a stranger online, even if they know things about you or seem authentic.
- Do not give any website or person your private information (Social Security number, full name, address, etc.).
- Never click on emails if you do not recognize the sender. Similarly, do not click on unsolicited links or ads that pop up on your screen.
- If an online offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. It’s best to just avoid online offers like raffles, lotteries, or investment opportunities entirely.
- Do not accept friend requests or message requests from people you do not recognize.
Staying Safe in an Interconnected World
Online safety isn’t just about protecting children on the internet. Adults and seniors need to remain safe, too. While there are plenty of risks out there, taking the necessary precautions can greatly reduce the risk of getting scammed, bullied, abused, or harmed in any way. Following the internet safety tips above will help you and your family stay safe while still letting all of you enjoy the benefits of the internet.