By ALLEN MCQUISTON
The Jemez Agency
Parents can’t always keep an eye on their children’s digital lives. Some adults aren’t digital natives, and still others simply don’t have time to monitor their kids’ activities. To complicate matters, the risks posed by cyber criminals changes all the time. Hackers and cyber crooks don’t stand still; they continually adapt, changing their attack methods to find new victims.
More than 1 million children—or 1.48 percent of minors—were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017. Two-thirds of those victims were age 7 or younger. In addition, fraud against children totaled $2.6 billion in 2017.
But before parents can take appropriate measures to keep their children safe, they need to become familiar with some of the ways bad guys unleash attacks on young, innocent victims. These include cyber threats like phishing (31 percent), cyberbullying (25 percent) and social engineering (20 percent). In fact, 15.5 percent of high school students and 24 percent of middle school students are victims of cyberbullying.
Children don’t always see the big picture when it comes to cyber hygiene, and they may not be savvy enough to avoid all the digital dangers out there.
Here are the top threats to children’s digital privacy that parents need to know:
Direct messaging “friends.” Predators often set up fake profiles to make friends with young people online. They may ask questions to gain personal data about them or to gain access to family information, like finances. Some may try to set up personal meetings that put your child in real, physical danger.
Cyberbullying. Bullies don’t have to threaten your child on the playground. They can do it via social media, apps, texting and other forums. Cyberbullies send or share hurtful, false, embarrassing or personal content about their victims. If your child is engaging in this behavior, it is important to know that some cyberbullying is against the law.
Divulging personal information. Many kids don’t know how to set personal boundaries on what should or shouldn’t be shared online. They may make public details such as their age, address and other identifying data without realizing they’re compromising their identity.
Downloading malware. Kids who download free games, music, ringtones or apps may be installing viruses or malware on their device that can damage it or infiltrate it to gain access to personal information.
Scammers send kids emails and texts pretending to be from reputable online sources to fool them into revealing information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Criminals may entice children to buy things online or they may offer goods for “free” in exchange for more personal information.
Kids don’t come pre-loaded with the knowledge to avoid scams or the self-control to rein in reckless online clicking. Parents must provide guidance. With so many online threats to the family, a multipronged approach is needed to keep scammers from prying off the lid on the family’s personal data.
Some best practices include:
- Regular conversations with kids about online threats and good digital practices.
- Use of strong, complex passwords stored in (and generated by) a safe place, like a password manager.
- Don’t allow kids to buy anything online without parental permission.
- Show kids examples of online scams and what to look for, such as unsecured URLs and other browser security features.
- Monitor their activities.
- Kids are kids and often parental instruction goes in one ear and out the other. It’s your duty to monitor their digital behavior. It’s not prying, it’s good parenting.
- Protect the entire family by making sure kids understand and practice good cyber hygiene.