The best way to keep your teenager out of trouble on the web is education. You should be the one to teach them how to browse and sext safely, as well as how to avoid cyberbullying and other digital dangers. We’ll be focusing on cybersecurity tips to solve the most common problems teenagers experience or may experience every day on the internet.
No matter how cautious or tech-savvy your teenager is, they might still be exposed to dangers posed by malware, their peers, or strangers on the internet. So even if your teenager sending nudes to other people sounds like an otherworldly idea, consider that they may be pressured into doing just that. Maybe they’re getting unsolicited pictures that would make even porn moguls blush? In such cases, you can’t just be a bystander — it’s time to learn some important cybersecurity tips to deal with these cyber dangers.
This is a problem parents would seldom believe their kids are facing. “My child would never do such a thing”, a proud parent would say. But sexting, which seems like just an innocent and arousing game, might go public really fast.
Parents might think sexting is very similar to texting, just involving a couple of adult jokes about genitalia and whatnot. In reality, the situation is worse – it includes sending and receiving pictures of underwear, nudes, or even live video chats (that can be recorded by a third party).
A whopping 50% of parents aren’t aware that it’s illegal for their kid to take a nude photo of themselves in the first place.
In the UK, having videos or images of anyone (including yourself) under 18 is illegal. Additionally, if your kid is 14 already, they’ll get a criminal record for “creating indecent images of children.” UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) states that 28% of parents don’t know that it’s prohibited for a child to send a sexual or nude image to a peer. 50% of parents aren’t aware that it’s illegal for their kid to take a nude photo of themselves in the first place. So, do you belong in the educated half? What about your kid?
Now imagine that your son having his phone taken by a police officer, who finds that they have inappropriate pictures of a peer from their school. They were shared by a classmate. Your kid didn’t take those pictures, they didn’t approve of them, but they’ve seen them and forgot to delete them. Now they’re eligible for indictment under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 – how terrible is that?!
The problem is that according to the NSPCC’s study, only 39% of parents are concerned that their kids may become involved in sexting in the future. We only hope this is about to change and invite you to act now.
Talk to your child
According to NSPCC, 42% of parents have spoken to their children about sexting at least once. This is a positive sign.
Talk to your kid to know their perspective and experience with sexting. But almost 1 in 5 don’t ever intend to have a conversation about it. If you don’t have that intention either – shame on YOU.
Learn about the legal consequences
Learn about the legal consequences of kids having or spreading nude images of themselves or other teenagers in your state or country. Educate your kid about it. Remember whether you’ve done any nudes while high for an artsy photoshoot during your college years. Go to the attic, then find them and burn them.
Cyberbullying is now occurring more often than straight up face-to-face bullying. Typically, it happens on social networks. They often feed off one another, and a wicked prank made online can be shared with the whole school, and the next morning when you’re back in class, everybody knows. Therefore, cyberbullying is a complex problem that should be solved both online and offline.
43% of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying, as shown by the study from London School of Economics and Politics. Yet only 1 in 10 victims tells a parent or other trusted adult about it, as per the USA’s National Crime Prevention Council report. Such seclusion raises the risk of self-harm – cyberbullying victims are two to nine times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Look for symptoms
If you see at least one of these cyberbullying symptoms – make sure to talk calmly about the situation with your kid.
Try to notice the possible symptoms of your kid being bullied. These may include:
- Having very few or no friends
- Being too suspicious of others
- Problems fitting in
- Reluctance to go to school
Block the cyberbully
People, especially teenagers, may not think about this option or may simply be afraid of the consequences, but you can block unwanted users from your kid’s social networks and other web services. Adjusting privacy settings so that the cyberbully can’t follow you or your friends can also be a good idea. It’s a good way to prevent future attacks from would-be cyberbullies.
Report the cyberbully
If all else fails, report the cyberbully to the local authorities. That’s not the most pleasant activity because cyberbullies tend to hail from the local community and your kid might run into them from time to time. However, sometimes it has to be done to stop cyberbullying once and for all.
3. Leaking sensitive information (doxxing)
Most people (parents included) use the same password for all accounts, which is usually the name of a pet. On what grounds do you rest your belief that your teenager is doing it differently? And what keeps you thinking your teen hasn’t already guessed that password to access your accounts?
Personal data can be leaked by accident or during an innocent chat with a stranger.
Leaking personal data, such as your full name, address, and birthdate may result in identity theft. What’s more, even strong passwords can’t ensure your information will be safe, especially if you use cloud services, which are a possible target for hackers.
If you wouldn’t do it offline – don’t do it online
That’s a good cybersecurity tip for kids, but it may not be the best for late teens, who already want to explore what they can and can’t do face to face.
Sure, there are instances when even adults store their nude pictures on a cloud-based service, which has potential leak issues. So this is something your teen should be warned about. That means not things like “Don’t you pose naked for a selfie, young lady!” but rather “Yes, if you have some sensitive photos, just like I did during my college years, make sure you save them on internal drives. After all, you don’t want to end up where Jennifer Lawrence did, do you?”
What happens on the web, stays on the web
Teens also need to remember that everything they do over the internet is captured for ever and could come back to haunt them. Many employers and university admissions offices look at social media profiles when evaluating candidates, so if there’s a chance something can ruin your teen’s reputation, at least they should make their public profiles private.
“Just like when you say something when you’re speaking to an audience, you have to think about what you say online. Why? Because tracking your identity is almost as easy as if you were speaking right in front of them.” Quote this to your teen to sound authoritative.
Teens must remember: once they’ve posted something online – they can no longer delete it. Despite what Google is doing in Europe, the “right to be forgotten” doesn’t apply all over the planet! If what they do or say is controversial, it will be copied and will always come back to bite them, even later in life when they apply for college, for a job, and especially to a retirement home.
4. Cyber perverts – a parent’s worst nightmare
In 2015, worldwide parent web users survey showed that 41% of parents are concerned about their kids possibly communicating with online sexual predators. Their concern is quite legitimate because 20% of teenagers who regularly go online say they have received unwanted sexual solicitation via the web, guardchild.com states. The number may be high because parents imagine perverts and their cyber counterparts as middle-aged men with beards, glasses, and trench coats.
Unfortunately, most of the time they just look normal, and that’s why teens fall into their trap like an ant falls into the trap of an ant-eater’s long and sticky tongue.
The teenage years are also the years of the first “true loves,” crushes and heightened hormones. Therefore, it’s natural that your kid, who’s not a child anymore, seeks a romantic partner. Therein is the danger of communicating via Tinder or any other online dating site: you can’t know who you’re actually talking to. For all you know, it might be the bearded middle-aged man with glasses and a trench coat.
So, not only can they lure out sensitive data, they can ask to meet in a secluded area where things can quickly go very wrong. Even if the person’s pictures aren’t fake, you should be very cautious – he or she may be way older than your teen. As you may remember, it’s always considered cool to be friends with the older kids, let alone have an affair with someone who’s above the legal age for driving or drinking. Both of these things can be combined and mixed with your child for a dangerous cocktail.
Strangers don’t have the best candy
To put it simply, your teenager shouldn’t behave differently online from how they behave in the real world. Just as some people can steal your teen’s smartphone if left unattended, the data inside the smartphone can also be stolen. Usually, the goal is financial info, but for a cyber pervert this is an excellent way to learn more about the victim.
The same cautiousness should be applied to links from friends whose devices might be infected to send friendly-looking malware automatically.
Moreso, if that stranger has a nice photo, is a couple of years older, and asks them to meet ASAP after school, this should also not be interpreted by your kid as a sign of them being ‘alpha.’
Become friends with your kid on social media
Most of the younger generation ran away to Snapchat and similar apps after having to feel the embarrassment of their Mom or Dad commenting on their #nofilter selfies. But in any case, it would be great if you were friends with your teen at least on some of the social networks to check at least once in a while if there are no new strange connections.
Just stalk them quietly – it’s not that creepy if no one knows you’re doing it.
The age-old thing for teens is to be amongst the cool, popular kids. Therefore, they might be adding friends from dubious places. So one of our cybersecurity tips here is this: don’t embarrass your kid with your comments on social networks, just stalk them quietly – it’s not creepy if no one knows you’re doing it. If you see strange older people commenting or liking your son’s shirtless selfie, better have a talk about them in a non-intrusive way, instead of writing a comment on his wall using ten aggressive emojis. Teens have to know you’re not there to judge them or “tell them what to do,” but to protect them from bearded and bespectacled middle-aged men in trench coats.
Not only should you educate your teenage kids about the vices of the web, but also educate yourself so you’re the authority and they don’t have to trust their peers instead of you. It doesn’t mean you have to become a tech geek – just know the main principles, learn to apply them, and tell your kids about them.
And the best thing to do is to start learning and teaching about cybersecurity at the earliest possible stage. If you have younger children, are planning to have some soon, or having some without planning to, make sure to also read our cybersecurity tips for parents who have kids.