Parent Resource

Tricks for Teaching Kids How to Protect Their Personal Information Online

By: Lucy Wyndham

As a parent, an innate instinct is to protect your kids from harm or danger. The exposure and vulnerabilities that comes with personal information are quickly becoming a very real threat in our children’s lives, particularly with the use of technological devices and the existence of digital personas. In 2018, a Pew Research publication report showcased that around 91% of Americans agree that people are no longer in control of the collection of their personal information, while 61% said they would like to do more to protect their privacy. From the time they begin school and even before, our children’s personal information is shared with learning institutions and others. While it is often done in their best interest, it can also make them a target for data theft and other crimes. Therefore, as a parent, one of the key lessons we must aim to teach children as they grow up is the importance of keeping their personal information secure, and equip our children with protective tools, online and offline.

Begin By Distinguishing What Is Personal To Them

The first step for children to learn the art of protecting their personal information is for them to first learn what personal information is. Teaching them key information such as their date of birth, address or phone number is a great way to equip them in the event they need help but it can also be a pathway for an invasion of privacy if shared too freely. When teaching them these bits of information, be sure to discuss with them how specific it is to them. This applies both online and offline, although much of the limelight has been focused on online privacy when using platforms such as social media and games. A great way to do this is to navigate their game profile on their favorite game together, pointing out the details on the profile that should be kept private.

Establish The Value Of It With Your Kids

It is not good enough to simply tell your kids what information is considered personal but you should also trust them to understand why it is so important to protect these details about themselves. Have an open and encouraging conversation with your child in crucial turning points, such as the beginning of school years or when establishing screen time rules. It is also important that you make this an ongoing family conversation so your child feels comfortable to ask questions and come to you as situations arise.

Check In Often And Update Your Knowledge

Thanks to technological innovation, there are many parental controls installed on devices that you can employ restricting everything from content viewed to location and screen limit. A few minutes of research can help you navigate your child’s devices and implement its security measures including switching the location feature off. For parents of older children that spend time browsing the internet for research and recreation, installing a network encryption software or tool can help you hide identifying characteristics such as your IP address or location. In the recently released GlobalWebIndex’s data for 2018, 35% of respondents indicated they used VPNs to enable boost the security of their browsing activity online.

However, times are always changing and so is the world your child lives in. It is important that you remain engaged with your child, checking in on their devices and having a conversation with them throughout their childhood. You can also easily remain updated with the latest tech craze and how you can protect your child through it, with the use of parenting websites and even manufacturer’s how to videos.

Teach The ‘Pause It’ Approach

The ‘pause it’ approach is a brilliant tool we can all employ in many different aspects of our lives. It is handy in helping to control impulse purchases and spending habits and in this case, teaches your child to take a minute to consider the dangers before they share vital information about themselves. You can time to a limit personal to your child or preference, from 60 seconds to even taking five minutes before acting. Taking time to think through actions before they do it can stop many occurrences of impulse behavior and as a bonus, presents opportunities for them to seek your advice before they act.

Keeping your child safe now relates to more than keeping them from physical harm. In addition to protecting them, you must equip your child with the right knowledge and tools to protect themselves including their personal information. Teaching them smart behavior, digital and otherwise will set them up for a safer life well into adulthood.