internet-safety-for-students

Internet Safety for Students: Teach Your Children About Internet Security

During school closures, thousands of pupils are stuck at home and use the internet to attend their online classes and keep in touch with their classmates and friends. As a parent, how can you establish internet safety for students? 

Children are surrounded by technology, whether they are at school or at home. In fact, research conducted by ChildWise reveals that most kids are now phone owners by the age of seven. Plus, 71 percent of children access the internet using mobile devices. 

“The moment a child owns a mobile phone,” says Simon Leggett, Research Director of ChildWise, “it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it’s such a private technology that most keep, literally, close to their chest.”

We want to help parents understand the importance of internet safety for students. This article will discuss how you can teach your child about internet safety. 

But first, let’s talk about how children can benefit from the internet, especially during the lockdown period. 

Using the Internet the Right Way

Setting blanket restrictions on your children’s internet usage — while it sounds tempting — can prevent them from developing skills and increasing critical learning opportunities. 

Your children can learn many things with the internet, provided they use it with extra care. Check out the upsides of the internet for your kids:

The internet improves children’s digital literacy

Children who participate in online activities have more skills in using the internet than those whose access to the internet is more limited, according to Growing up in a Connected World.

But what exactly is digital literacy, and why is it so important?

Digital literacy involves learning through a broad range of technology platforms, the internet included. A digitally literate student develops technological skills, understands how to look for online information, learns about authorship rules, and acquires knowledge about social responsibility. 

And yes, digital literacy offers lifelong learning. 

It’s also worth noting that modern businesses require workers to be digitally literate. Hence, internet usage is a key factor in education today. 

Online entertainment can help students develop an interest in educational and informative experiences

We can’t stress enough how significant a role the internet plays in education. It’s no question that almost everyone uses Google to get answers and satisfy their curiosity in this modern era. 

The internet helps students research things, relearn the topics taught in school, gather information, and add knowledge about various subjects. 

With just a few clicks, students can get a wide variety of information they need. They can easily access research papers, news articles, podcasts, and educational videos and documentaries. 

Many students also find the internet very useful when it comes to simplifying knowledge. There are thousands of resources available online that can help struggling learners such as video tutorials, graphs, posters, and illustrations. 

internet-safety-for-students-learn-new-skills
The internet can be a good place for kids to learn new skills.

Online activities enable students to develop technical and critical thinking capacities.

Students with less restrictive parents are more likely to learn and engage in online activities, not only watching videos and playing video games but also information-seeking and creative activities. 

When students are given a chance to browse the web more freely, they can take full advantage of the digital age opportunities. Yet, that doesn’t mean that they don’t require any restrictions. 

While it’s true that students who participate in more online activities can improve their digital skills and gain online benefits, they are also more likely to get exposed to risky and potentially harmful content. 

Why Internet Safety for Students Is Important

As we have discussed, the internet offers incredible opportunities to play and learn. Still, it comes with serious risks that can have a devastating impact on the lives of vulnerable students. 

Below are some of the internet dangers that students face:

Cyberbullying

Internet bullying has been around for a long, long time, and it affects many students and teens on a daily basis. It is a form of violence that can do serious and lasting problems. Cyberbullying can take several forms:

  • Pretending to be someone else online with the intent to hurt another person
  • Spreading gossips online or through text messages
  • Stealing another person’s account information to break into their account and send hurtful messages
  • Spreading threats or mean messages to a person via email, text message, or chat
  • Posting threatening and hurtful messages on web pages or social networking sites
  • Sexting, or circulating sexually explicit pictures or message about a person

Cyberbullying is far from funny. It is a serious, aggressive behavior that negatively impacts the victims. It can cause depression and anxiety, which are risk factors for suicide. 

internet-safety-for-students-cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is prevalent and causes lasting damage to teens.

What the statistics say

  • 34 percent of children in the US have experienced cyberbullying at least once
  • Only 15 percent of students admit to be a victim of cyberbully
  • About 1 in 3 students experience bullying through the academic year
  • 70 percent of K-2 children have witnessed cyberbullying take place
  • Females are twice more likely to be victims of cyberbullying
  • Victims of cyberbullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to think about suicide
  • Children are 7 times more likely to experience cyberbullying from friends than strangers

Phishing

Most students are getting more savvy when it comes to browsing the internet, which gives you more reasons to introduce internet safety for students. They are quick to master new technology, yet they may not always be aware of the dangers that come with it. 

Phishing is a type of online fraud usually sent via email to deceive users into sending or giving their login information. Scammers send emails from what appears to be an official email account or links to a website that mimics the original ones. 

Phishing can involve many tactics:

  • Copying a reliable app or website
  • Offering fake rewards for videogames
  • Fake email
  • Other scams involve scholarships, contests, or employment offers that require students to pay a fee or deposit
  • Ads that promise luxury goods for amazingly low prices
  • Offering free services for cell phones that actually incur a monthly or yearly charge

What the statistics say

  • Cyber criminals send about 156 million phishing emails every day
  • Only 16 million of fake emails make it through spam filters, but 8 million of those that make it through filters are opened
  • About 800,000 clicks on phishing links
  • About 80,000 falls for a scam and share their personal information every day
  • 7 percent of those who have been received phishing emails have replied to them unknowingly
  • 3 percent have entered their bank details on a site they don’t know

Cyber criminals find young people easy to scam. They are inexperienced and have trusting natures. Scam artists and fraudsters know exactly how to take advantage of them. 

Cyber predators

A cyber predator as an adult who exploits children or teens with the intent to inflict sexual, emotional, financial, and psychological abuse. They connect with children and teens through social networks, chat rooms, video games, instant messaging, and more.

They often pretend to be someone young and use their online connections to groom and manipulate victims and soon gain their trust. 

These are the common methods of a cyber predator:

  • Grooming – predators spend a lot of time breaking down barriers to get the victim to feel comfortable enough to give personal information. 
  • Fishing – predators ask basic questions, followed by more specific questions.
  • Mirroring – a cyber criminal mirrors the emotion of the victim and tries to fill the void by telling the victim that he understands how he/she feels and that he would like to be his/her friend.

What the statistics say

  • Twenty-five percent of children have been exposed to unwanted pornographic material online. 
  • Only 33 percent of households with Internet access are actively protecting their kids with blocking or filtering software.
  • One in five teens in the United States who regularly log on to the internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation online. Solicitations were described as requests to engage in sexual talk or activities or to give personal sexual information.
  • Only about 25 percent of children who encountered a sexual approach told a parent or adult. 
  • Seventy-five percent of kids are willing to share personal information online about themselves and family members in exchange for goods and services. 
  • Seventy-seven percent of online predators’ targets were age 14 or older. The other 22 percent were users ages 1 to 13. 
internet-safety-for-students-predators
A cyber predator as an adult who exploits children or teens with the intent to inflict sexual, emotional, financial, and psychological abuse.

According to Naked Security, kids as young as eight can fall victim to online predators.

Malware

The risk of malware attacks among young people is another reason to introduce internet safety for students. Since the existence of the internet, there have been internet abusers: cyber criminals who are hungry for other people’s information, and they’ll do anything to get that by any means possible. 

There were reports about malware and ransomware attacks in the past, and cyber criminals don’t seem to have a plan to stop attacking. 

Quick facts:

Malware is a software specifically designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.

There are six types of malware:

Ransomware is a type of malware designed to block access to a computer until a certain sum of money is paid. 

Crimeware is a software that facilitates or performs illegal activities.

Worm spreads over computer networks by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the operating system. Worms can delete the files in your computer, encrypt data for a ransomware attack, create botnets, and steal information.

Spyware is installed on the computer without the user’s knowledge. They are designed to track internet activities and browsing habits.

Trojan horse enters the computer system disguised as a harmless file or program. It tricks users into downloading and installing malware. 

Viruses are specifically designed to damage the target’s computer by reformatting the hard disk, completely shutting down the system, or corrupting data.

What the statistics say

  • The total malware infections in 2018 were 812.67 million.
  • Third-party app stores house 99.9% of discovered mobile malware
  • 98 percent of mobile malware target Android devices
  • 7 out of 10 malware payloads were ransomware
  • Over 18 million web pages are malware-infected at a given time each week
  • About 51.45 percent of all malware is trojans.
  • There is a hacker attack every 39 seconds, according to Security Magazine

Scams

Internet safety for students is paramount because online scams have been prevalent nowadays. Cyber criminals even take advantage of the pandemic COVID-19 to commit internet fraud towards students. 

For example, a Chinese student lost $13,800 after scammers called her about fake COVID-19 results from the Shanghai Medical Center. 

Many people in Western Australia also lost about $70,000 to online coronavirus scammers. 

Students should be more vigilant in identifying internet scams, such as:

  • Tech support scams
  • Student tax scams
  • Scholarship scams
  • Behavior blackmail scam
  • PayPal scam
  • Rideshare scams
  • Identity theft
  • Reshipping scam
  • Roommate rental scam
  • Romance scam
  • Overpayment scam
  • Facebook impersonation scam
  • Quick-money promise
  • Fake online shopping websites
  • Unexpected prize scam
  • Threat scam

What the statistics say

  • Students indicated the least amount of concern about internet scams; 64 percent of which said they were not very much concerned.
  • Twenty-two percent of students were notified that they were a victim of identity fraud by a debt collector three times higher than average fraud victims.
  • Students were four times more likely than other consumers to be a victim of familiar fraud.

Understanding Internet Safety Laws

In reinforcing internet safety for students, it’s important that you, as a parent, are familiar with online safety laws. By understanding these laws, you will be able to introduce the right websites to your children and help them to stay away from harmful websites. 

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

COPPA is the main law that regulates children’s internet safety. With this law, parents are in control of what their children (of up to 13 years old) view online by requiring parental consent for the collection or use of any personal information of young website users. 

internet-safety-laws
COPPA-covered websites must provide a privacy policy.

As for educators, this act has placed requirements for operators of websites that are directed for children aged 13 and below or any websites that collect personal information from a child under 13 years od. 

These are the kinds of websites covered by COPPA:

  • Any websites designed for general audiences but collect personal information (i.e., websites that ask for user’s zip code or birthday)
  • Any online services or websites designed for children under 13 years of age and collect personal information from them
  • Third-party services or plug-ins that collect information from users that are under 13

Websites covered by COPPA are required to post privacy policies, inform parents about information practices, and collect parent consent before collecting the information of a child. 

Although COPPA reinforces internet safety for kids, it has some inadequacies, such as:

1. Children can simply add a birthday that is over 13;

2. Teens aged 14 to 17 are not protected by this act; 

3. Not all websites have a reliable way to obtain the consent of parents; and

4. Most websites do not have an effective way to confirm a child’s age

Furthermore, COPPA does not guarantee that your child will be completely safe. Children are still vulnerable to sensitive material such as profanity, sexual content, and graphic violence. 

Here are some child-friendly websites verified by COPPA:

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

In December 2000, CIPA stated that no library or school could receive E-rate discounts for internet access unless the library or school certifies it is enforcing a robust internet safety policy. 

The internet policy must include blocking or filtering technology and preventing users from accessing obscene graphic materials, such as child pornography or anything harmful to minors. 

The policy must address the following:

  • The safety of minors when using direct electronic communications
  • Rules that restrain minors access to harmful and explicit materials
  • Rules that restrict minors access to inappropriate content online
  • Unauthorized disclosure, use, and distribution of personal information about minors

CIPA adds a layer of protection and strengthens internet safety for students, yet, much like COPPA, this act has some inadequacies:

  • A student can simply ask a librarian to unblock websites
  • You cannot create your own block lists of websites to avoid as the sites in the block list are preset. 
  • A student isn’t required to explain why they are asking for a site to be unblocked 
  • CIPA doesn’t require the tracking of internet use by minors or adults

The internet is a wonderful place for students to expand their knowledge and develop digital skills, but it is also a dangerous place. So, how can you apply internet safety for students?

How You Can Apply Internet Safety for Students

Use parental-control software

Parents play a huge role in ensuring internet safety among children. To ensure your students cannot access inappropriate materials, we recommend using online tools that let them control their children’s access to adult material and protect them from predators. 

internet-safety-for-students-parental-control
Setting up parent control across your devices and internet can protect children from accessing harmful content and webpages.

You may ask your internet service provider (ISP) if they have parent-control options. Or, install software that blocks access to sites and restrict personal information from being sent. 

Some of the top-rated parental control software providers are:

  • Kaspersky Safe Kids
  • KidLogger
  • Spyrix Free Keylogger
  • OpenDNS FamilyShield
  • Qustodio

Manage student smartphone use

Did you know? 

  • 57 percent of children have made friends through the internet
  • Nearly 50 percent of teens share their photos online
  • 25 percent of kids aged 8 to 11 have social media profiles
  • 75 percent of teens aged 12 to 16 have social media profiles

Now that students are stuck at home, they use the internet and smartphones to connect with friends and the outside world. Hence, there is no better time than now to reinforce internet safety for students. 

It’s difficult to manage what your kids do on their phones, but you can limit their use while they are under your wing — this applies to both parents and educators. 

The general rule of thumb is that their phones must be turned off and out of sight during class. This can be tricky, however, as most students use their smartphones during online classes. If that’s the case, you may restrict them from using their phones in other parts of the day (i.e., they must turn off their phones during meals).

Get involved in your children’s online activities

Blocking dangerous websites and managing their smartphone use are smart moves, but teaching your children about internet safety can go a long way, too. 

be-involved-in-your-kids-online-activities
Spend time with your kids and show them appropriate online behavior.

Here are some basic guidelines you can implement to your children:

  • Never respond to a threatening message, post, email, or text.
  • Never agree to meet a person they have only met online without parent supervision or approval
  • Do not share personal information, such as location, address, school name, or phone number
  • Sharing of personal pictures is prohibited
  • Don’t share passwords (other than with parents)
  • Always tell a parent or other trusted guardian about any communication that was hurtful, scary, or inappropriate

On the other hand, here are things that you can do to help your kid understand internet safety:

  • Bookmark your kid’s favorite websites for fast and easy access
  • Place the computer in a common area where you can supervise your kid’s internet use. Also, monitor the time they spend on tablets and smartphones
  • Check your credit card for unusual transactions
  • Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online experience
  • Spend time online together to teach them appropriate online behavior.

It’s not difficult to suspect if an online predator is targeting your child.

Watch for these signs

  • Phone calls from people you do not know
  • Spending long hours being online, especially at night
  • Unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail
  • Withdrawal from family activities 
  • Reluctant to discuss online activities
  • Your child suddenly turns off his or her device when you walk into the room

Monitoring teens can be trickier. They want and need some privacy, and that’s okay. It shows that they are becoming more independent. 

You can provide teens with a safe virtual environment by talking to them and explaining the possible dangers that come with the internet. Discuss the dangers of interacting with people they do not know, and remind them that people do not always tell the truth online. 

Steps Taken By Parents to Apply Internet Safety And Protect Children’s Online Identity

Check out what other parents of minors around the world do to strengthen internet safety for their children. 

According to Statista:

1. 51 percent of parents limit their children’s access to certain websites and apps

2. 49 percent of parents limit the amount of information their children can post about them on social media

3. 43 percent of parents review and approve all the apps that their kids download

If you need help with imposing internet safety for students, we encourage you to reach out to other parents or teachers. Ask them what more you can do to protect your children from accessing dangerous sites and avoid the baits from cyber criminals. 

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