From computers to smartphones, to IoT devices, the use of interconnected devices among young children is growing at a very high rate. This means more children are likely to become victims of online attacks and other threats including offensive content or cyberbullying. And, with reports of smart toys being utilized to spy on kids, and kids as young as 5 years old having social media accounts, it is evident that the dangers are real for children, both young and old.
This article tackles the different dangers that children are exposed to online and how parents can help their children to stay protected.
Risks Faced by Children Online
As discussed above, kids are increasingly using connected devices, and the situation has been made worse with the current Covid-19 pandemic that has forced children to rely on the internet for learning, play, and entertainment. Let’s look at some of the risks that children face while using these devices.
Smart Toys Spying on Kids
Like everything else that connects to the internet, smart toys are an open invitation for predators, hackers, and identity thieves. The thing is, many connected toys come installed with microphones, sensors, cameras, and other extras like GPS and voice recognition. But, most of these toys are not made with security in mind, and this is what brings about the safety and privacy risks to children.
Cyberbullying is conceivably one of the most prevalent online threats today. Bullies don’t have to be one-on-one with their victims anymore. Cyberbullying through social media platforms is still as effective as face-to-face bullying, and has the same effects as any other mode of bullying.
The internet is full of “inappropriate content” and your children spending more time online means they could easily stumble on this content. The kids may try to search for such content themselves, or they may bump into it accidentally. This may include pornographic or other age-inappropriate content such as alcohol abuse and foul language, and violent or graphic content.
Dangers While Using Public Wi-Fi
The desire to use the internet all the time may prompt kids to connect to free public Wi-Fi in a bid to save on data. But, this convenience comes with dire consequences: free wi-fi networks offer an easy way for hackers and identity thieves to spy on you and steal passwords, personal information, or both. This is because Wi-Fi passwords in coffee shops, airports e.t.c are shared and so anyone can easily hop on and see what you are up to.
What Parents can do to Ensure the Safety of Their Children Online
While the government and schools try as much as they can to teach kids how to spot possible threats online, there is still a lack of awareness when it comes to basic device protection. That is why parents need to step in to ensure their kids are cyber-secure. Here’s what parents can do to protect their kids online.
Use a VPN
Most people, including children, love the convenience that comes with free public Wi-Fi. Likewise, smart toys can connect to unsecured Wi-Fi without any kind of authentication. That is why it is important to download a VPN app and use it whenever you are connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi. This way, you’ll be able to ward off potential hackers and other surveillance threats targeting kids’ smart toys.
Research Before Buying Toys
As we have seen, smart toys come installed with features like cameras and microphones, which allow them to communicate with children. The problem is that these features can be hijacked by cybercriminals and used to spy on kids and eavesdrop on family conversations.
That’s why it is important to research and find out what a particular toy can do before buying.
The internet comes with a lot of advantages to children of today’s generation, but it also has its bad side. Parents and guardians must do whatever they can to ensure children remain safe even as they explore the endless possibilities that come with connected devices.