Is the Internet a safe place for a child? What dangers can our child face on Facebook, and how to protect against them?
Facebook’s rules and regulations do not allow people under the age of 13 to create accounts. Despite this, millions of people around the world do not do anything about this ban (according to estimates, in Poland, about 12 percent of users of the portal have not reached the required age). It is worth adding that people between the ages of 13 and 17 (that is, those who, according to Facebook’s regulations, can already create an account) are still children, often unaware of the dangers of using the Internet. How to protect them?
Every parent has surely heard more than once from the child’s mouth the phrase, “Because (here any name of the child’s classmate or colleague) already has a phone/tablet/PlayStation/drone/whatever! So, why don’t I have one?” And at this point, the parent is faced with a dilemma:
- To give in so that our child is “not worse” than his peers and buy him what he asks for?
- It is better to firmly stick to the rules and say, “no, it’s too early, it’s for your own good”?
Perfectly suited to the above example is when a child asks if he can set up a profile on any social network.
The generation that is already slowly entering adulthood does not remember a time without the Internet. Today, kids operate a tablet or smartphone much more efficiently than their parents. Constantly being online, uploading almost everything to the web, or frequently tagging their whereabouts is natural for them. People – not just the young! – however, are often unaware of the dangers lurking online for those too eager to share their privacy. The role of a parent is to protect their child – both in the real and virtual world.
Whether our child already has an account on any of the social networks or not yet, it is worth having a conversation with him about the dangers lurking online. First of all, it is good to point out that the same rules apply on the Internet as “in real life.” – so you should treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. It’s worth making your child aware that anonymity on the web is a myth – you can face exactly the same consequences for verbal violence or threats as in the real world.
Let’s also make it clear that everything published on the Internet leaves a trace. And even if not today, it can harm some time when the child is already in adulthood. For example, it is already something quite natural for potential employers to check the social profiles of candidates when recruiting. It is worth being aware that a “wall” on FB or an Instagram profile can be observed not only by friends – it is a business card, through the prism of which we are also perceived by complete strangers.
Child online – the later, the better
The later a child creates a Facebook account, the better. However, once it gets to the point where our kid asks us if he can create a profile for himself on the social network, as parents, we have two options. First, we can prohibit our children from using Facebook. However, this option has serious downsides. First, our child’s classmates may have such accounts, which in a sense, condemns him to exclusion from the “privileged” group. While some of our child’s peers will comment on posts uploaded by friends or chat on Messenger – our child will not. Secondly, there is a risk that, despite the ban, the son or daughter will still create an account and be active online without any parental control.
The second option is to allow the child to create a Facebook account, but on the condition that we, as parents, control what the child does. How to do this?
Reviewing the account
First of all, it’s a good idea to review your child’s profile from time to time and make sure that inappropriate content isn’t hitting him. After all, remember that he or she may have adults in his or her friends who may share things that our child should not see. The dangers on Facebook are not only related to what the child publishes but also – what his others publish. If we ourselves have a Facebook account, we can send an invitation to our friends and also, in this way, monitor what material our child shares and what he comments on.
Let’s make the child aware that he should only accept people he knows as friends. There is no shortage of cybercriminals and pedophiles on the Internet who take advantage of the credulity of the youngest to extract sensitive data from them. Such information includes where they live, where they go to school, what playground they play on, what route they take to get home, and what hours their parents work. We don’t want such information to fall into the wrong hands.
Blocking and moderation
It’s a good idea to make your child aware that you can remove someone from your friends or block them at any time. It’s also a good idea to show how to delete offensive comments, how to report inappropriate material to moderators, and when to do it. After all, online violence, offensive comments, and threats are issues that even adults often can’t handle. Meanwhile, children are sometimes much more prone to this type of behavior, with less resilience to it.
Free apps for remote parental control
You should also consider installing one of the apps for remote parental control on your smartphone or tablet. There is no shortage of free versions, and each has a huge number of features: controlling the frequency of Facebook logins and the data posted there, a separate desktop for the child, tracking the child’s location, suggesting inappropriate programs, or blocking purchases in online stores.
There are quite a few applications for remote parental control. We can recommend, for example, the very easy-to-use Kids Zone, which offers, among other things, a separate desktop for the child. In it, we can select eight applications from the smartphone, which, after logging in, will be available to our kid. The tool from developer Out of the Park Apps additionally alerts itself to programs that could be a potential threat to our kids.
Another application for remote parental control – FamilyTime Parental Control – also has interesting features. For example, the one related to the child’s location may prove useful. In addition to verifying exactly where the ward is, we can mark safe zones where the child must not leave at specific times. If this happens – the parent will be instantly informed. What’s more, the kid has an SOS option that can be activated at the time of some kind of emergency.
Kids Place, in addition to the standard options, such as a separate desktop for the child or the selection of applications to which the child will have access, also offers others – blocking purchases in online stores and phone calls and Wi-Fi access.
Antivirus providers also offer remote parental control applications (Eset Parental Control, Norton Family, Kaspersky Safe Kids) and Google (Google Family Link).
Facebook privacy settings and Messenger Kids
As soon as you set up your Facebook account, it’s a good idea to configure your privacy settings so that posts and photos you publish reach only your friends and are not visible to the public. You may also want to consider blocking other users from tagging our child’s photos. It’s also a good idea to make your child aware of the fact that under no circumstances should he or she give out (even if only in comments) private information, such as a phone number or address.
It’s also a good idea to sit down with your child, come up with a hard-to-crack password together, and make him aware not to reveal it to anyone. After all, logging in to a child’s profile of an outsider or one of his unfavorable friends can have painful consequences. Let’s also pay attention to the fact that if a child already has to log on to Facebook on some “foreign” computer (e.g., in the computer room or at a friend’s house), it is necessary to log off later.
On the Internet, one can often encounter jokes about people who used to secure their accounts on various portals or stores with simple passwords, such as “admin” or “qwerty,” for ease of use. Of course, we can laugh at them, but this does not change the fact that a lot of people are still very nonchalant about their data, which can be extremely dangerous for them.
- Experts believe that secure passwords should consist of at least twelve different characters. Try not to go below 8 – use both letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and special characters.
- You should not use the same passwords on different websites and services.
- It’s a good idea to use appropriate managers to generate passwords, organize them and automatically log into your accounts.
A big advantage of Messenger Kids is that using it does not require a Facebook account (so the 13-year age threshold falls off). In other words: our child will be able to chat with peers and send each other photos and videos, and the audience will be much more limited. Messenger Kids also allows parents to accept their child’s friends remotely and does not collect any user data.
Apps and games
It’s worth controlling what apps and games our child have installed on a smartphone or tablet. It’s not just about potential violence or nudity (here, turning on the family filter usually works) but what data they have access to. Needless to say, storing a credit card number on a child’s phone is not a good idea? So-called “micro” payments can zero out our accounts very quickly.