How to help your children stay safe and secure online

19th December 2023
Growing up in a digital age comes with huge benefits for our tech-savvy kids, but it also presents new challenges for children and parents alike. Children are not equipped to deal with the consequences of online privacy and data security breaches, which makes it our job, as the responsible adult in their lives, to help them to keep themselves safe online both now and in the future.

Internet security - it's never too early to start

By the age of two, 81 per cent of the world’s children have an online presence, normally inadvertently created by their parents, according to internet security company AVG.

There’s no escaping the fact that the today's children will end up with a significant amount of their personal data being available online. How do we make sure they are best equipped to deal with this and protect themselves from falling victim to cybercrime?

If you’re concerned about your child’s digital footprint and their online privacy, it is never too early to start taking action.

The pointers below are considered by cybersecurity experts to be best practice, and simple enough to start teaching your children from an early age, so it becomes part of their everyday life and stays with them as they grow up.

1. Talk to them about how to stay safe online

The best way to help children understand the importance of keeping their data private and secure online is by talking to them. It is never too early to begin this conversation, with young children routinely having access to the internet at school and at home.

A study by Ofcom found that 79 per cent of five to seven year olds go online for around nine hours per week; and 99 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds go online for almost 21 hours every week.

Just as you would speak with children about the dangers of talking to strangers or road safety, a basic level of internet security awareness is essential.

Find out what they already know about the personal data online accounts might already hold on them, what that means and how to keep that data secure.

Explain to them the importance of talking to an adult if they come across anything they are unsure about online, and why it’s best to limit what personal information they reveal about themselves on social media platforms. Once it is online the information is there forever and cannot deleted.

Also, encourage them to create unique secure passwords to protect all their online accounts, particularly social media and email. These accounts are the most commonly hacked and contain a treasure trove of personal information for cyber criminals.

Regularly remind your children to never share their passwords with anyone other than specific parents or guardians. Point out that even best friends aren’t always good at keeping secrets, and that they may not always be friends!

2. Be aware of age limits on social media sites - and follow them

Do you know what the minimum age is for TikTok users? Instagram? WhatsApp, or any other platforms your child may be using?

Children must be at least 13 years old to use most of these accounts, with WhatsApp requiring European users to be 16 or older. Common Sense Media, however, recommends 15+ as the best age for TikTok and Instagram, due to privacy issues and mature content.

These age restrictions are there for a valid reason and should not be ignored by parents or guardians.

These age restrictions were introduced following the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was passed in the US in 1998. This law prevents online companies from tracking the data of anyone under the age of 13.

Since social media companies’ primary business model is based upon the collection, distribution and monetisation of our personal data, it’s easier for their business model if they keep children ‘officially’ off their platform, rather than seeking parental consent.

If an account for someone under the age of 13, is set up by entering a higher incorrect age then their personal information – such as name, address, geolocation data, etc. – will be collected and possibly shared with third parties.

In practice, this means that once they are (according to their social media profiles) 18 years old they will be served ads for alcohol and other unsuitable products, services and content.

3. Teach them about wider online security

With cybercrime on the rise, impressionable and vulnerable sections of the online community, such as children, are specifically targeted. Children should be made aware of online security risks generally and taught ways to avoid becoming a victim of crime.

Many children are trusting and impressionable. They take things at face value and don’t always understand the deeper, darker motivations people may have for lying to them.

If you’ve decided to let your child use social media sites, before they logon set aside time to explain to them that not everyone online is who they say they are, and how the internet allows people to anonymously hide behind pretend profiles.

Help your child to understand why people may do this and the consequences of revealing too much personal information to someone they don’t know online.

It’s also useful to talk to children about online crime, including how to recognise and avoid phishing attacks, scams and downloading viruses onto their devices. This is especially important once children begin to use email and fraudulent spam messages become unavoidable. If they are unsure, they should seek the advice of a trusted adult before opening any attachments or clicking on any links, even if the message is from a friend.

Scammers usually target children with offers of free stuff or play on their emotions, scaring them into thinking they have a virus, or their account access has been suspended.

Explain that a common tactic of cybercriminals is to hack into social media and email accounts and send fake messages from people you know, enticing you to click on something.

Children should never send anyone any personal information, photographs of themselves or money.

To help you start this conversation with your children, not-for-profit company Media Smart has some great, free resources for children between the ages of seven and 16, which can be found here.

The top piece of advice when it comes to helping children stay safe online is to keep up the dialogue. It’s essential to start these conversations early and continually reiterate their importance as they get older, adapting what you say to accommodate what they are also learning about the internet from school and their peers.

4. Use a password manager

According to Denise G Tayloe, a leading expert in children’s privacy issues and the in the implementation of COPPA, ‘Passwords are not going away anytime soon’.

‘If kids don’t learn basic password management skills for the devices, apps, sites and games they use, we’re setting our kids up for long-term failure from a security perspective,’ says Tayloe.

‘The security skills kids learn today are extremely important as passwords (in some form) will most likely be used by them throughout their lifetimes.’

Parents and guardians should always have access to their children’s online passwords, both so they can monitor their online activity but also to help them log back in when they inevitably forget their password.

As children grow up, they will start to face the challenge that all adults suffer from, ‘password overload’, with far too many passwords to remember. This is magnified for the parents and guardians who in addition to managing their own passwords now need to manage their children’s as well!

Cyber security advisers recommend that online users should routinely use a password manager to improve their online security. So ideally parents should get their children to start using an appropriate password manager as soon as possible.

When the National Cyber Security Centre (UK Government Department) recently carried out a survey, it found that only 21% of UK online Users say that they “Always or Often” use a Password Manager, even though 80% of respondents said that cyber security was a high priority for them. So it would appear that most existing password managers are just too complicated and expensive even for most adults to bother with, so how can children be introduced to them?

How can DataCave provide a solution to these issues?

DataCave is a new type of password manager which meets the needs of both children and busy parents who have to manage passwords for the whole family.

DataCave was designed because it was felt that the other Password Managers on the market were far too complicated, too expensive and did not meet the needs of the average online user.

So this is what DataCave was designed to do:

  • DataCave is simple enough for a child to use, though it will also help parents.
  • DataCave takes less 2 minutes to setup, then you are ready to go.
  • A user’s passwords, PINs and other key data are only stored on the user’s own mobile devices where it is encrypted. No centralised databases.
  • Encryption means that only the user can read their data, no one else can.
  • A user can normally find any Password or PIN, or any other stored information, they need to recall in 2-3 seconds.
  • DataCave has been designed along ‘Privacy by Design’ principles, so that it can never see or read the data in the app, only you can (This is called Zero knowledge Protocol).
  • If your device is lost or stolen the DataCave app and your data and be remotely deleted.
  • DataCave security has been independently verified by a recognized global security company (Claranet). Their report is available on the DataCave app.
  • DataCave has been priced for everyone to be able to afford the DataCave service. It is available at an subscription price of only £0.99 per year. Furthermore the DataCave Team is so confident that users will love the DataCave app that they are offering it free for an incredible 12-month introductory period.

So if you are looking for peace of mind by helping your children be more secure online, why not give DataCave a try?

DataCave - Instant Password Recall

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