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What are the online risks for kids?

For kids, the internet can seem like this amazing never-ending playground just waiting to be explored. It has games, videos, music–you can even hang out with your friends on the internet, and not have your parents there annoying you. 

And it’s that lack of constant supervision that makes the internet perfect for predators, bullies, hackers and scammers. Here are the dangers that lurk in the online world–and what you can do to lower the risks to your child. 

Cyberbullying 

Online bullying is basically kids continually being mean to other kids on the internet and it can take many forms. It can be kids sharing embarrassing photos of other kids, making nasty comments on social media posts, or sending threatening or abusive private messages. And it’s not just on social media. Online games are today’s playgrounds and it’s often where kids experience bullying, including being excluded from games or groups. 

The best defence for cyberbullying is to constantly reinforce that this behaviour is not OK and needs to be stamped out and that you are there to listen and give advice. 

Cyber predators 

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare–predators lurking on social media and in games, often pretending to be children, luring your child into forming ‘friendships’ which are then taken offline. 

To avoid falling victim, it’s essential to activate privacy settings and to set down hard and fast rules about not communicating or friending people you don’t know. Predators take advantage of the lack of adult supervision in the online world, so getting the kids to use their computers in public areas of the house where you are watching, can limit the risk.  

Phishing and malware 

Phishing is when cyber hackers send messages or emails, hoping people will click on a link or download attachments, which then upload malware to steal information and passwords.  

Phishing texts and emails are really attractive to kids because they usually come with messages that are very tempting, like “Hi, is this you?” or “I saw this and thought of you!” Sometimes attachments are made to look like games. 

Teach your children to avoid clicking on emails or messages from strangers and if a message seems to be coming from a friend, but looks a little weird or out of character, don’t open it. 

Activities that can come back to haunt 

Kids may get that anything on the internet is on the internet forever, but for kids forever is a long way away. Being seen by their friends to be sassy or fierce is probably more important than worrying about what a future employer might think of their heated opinions. 

This is especially true with images. Suggestive images should never be shared, even among friends. The best way you can avoid your kids sharing posts they’ll come to regret is this number one rule: want a social media accounts? You have to friend mum or dad. 

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