With the holiday season upon us, I feel compelled to write an article that is focused more towards kids. Unfortunately with the continued explosion in growth of the Internet, scammers really don’t care what age their victims are – 6 or 86.
Thus it is necessary to provide online safety tips for children. It is because of their age and relative lack of life knowledge, (wisdom) that they are especially vulnerable to being ripped off while on the Internet.
Why the Internet really can be a scary place and especially for kids!
I have said it before on previous articles on this website, the Internet has proven itself to be invaluable in certain aspects. Information is available at the click of a button – news, educational information, the study of and discovering new knowledge and the ability to share it positively with others, (medicine, humanitarian/social, technology, etc.).
For the most part, well except for news which nowadays can be pretty bleak, what the Internet provides us in this realm and often done so very quickly is positive.
However there is a dark side of the Internet. People often like things to come quickly to them. This could be having the ability to quickly check their finances online, or to make an easy purchase of a product, completed in under 5 minutes.
Because of the simple fact that there are a percentage of dishonest human beings who have a twisted need to steal – be it money, personal identity and information of other people; taken together these represent a completely negative ideal of the Internet that did not exist before personal computers and Al Gore invented the World Wide Web.
By the way the reference to Al Gore is a joke. If you’re old enough to remember Gore, he did insist while Vice-President of the United States back in the 1990’s that credit must be given to him for inventing the Internet. Yeah, right Al!
As mentioned in the 2nd sentence of this article, everyone today can potentially become a victim. Age does not matter! With the fact that in many households, (either one being run by a single parent or two-parent household) kids have a lot of time to themselves after school and often unsupervised they also have their own personal computers and other mobile devices. Yes, even kids as young as 4 – 7 years old nowadays have their own smart phones.
The “Scam Buster” site:
So in an article found at the “Scam Busters” site, I used as research for writing this post, it discussed methods on how to prevent young kids from being scammed online.
With it being the holiday season, scammers will lure kids online by advertising “cool looking” gadgets – IPhones and expensive toys that can be hard to resist to the 7 year old kid. According to the article the bait is that usually the naïve kid is lured into selling something that might be a prized possession or a tantalizingly marked down sales price for that new object.
Completing the sale, and often too late for the parent(s) to do anything about it, (because it was a scam) sadly the kid will find out weeks later that he/she has been ripped off. They never receive that IPhone, Star Wars object or other toy simply because the site itself was completely bogus.
The kid just lost money, whatever he/she might have had in his/her savings. Or perhaps he/she got tricked into trading what might have really been a prized family heirloom or item that should have meant so much to the youngster. In either case the child would never be refunded back his/her money or whatever object was traded for the gadget.
The article also mentioned that kids while completing this process for that new gadget can also be lured into giving away personal information – especially having to do with his/her parent that no crook should have been given into his possession.
This is because afterwards that criminal will use the information, like a credit card which would make the entire situation worse as charges would be run up maliciously, (and often in a matter of minutes) against that parent’s card.
The article also mentioned another well-known scam – the infamous talent show competition. Kids are lured into believing that an agent is in the area and seeking out those children who are good at playing an instrument or are smart educationally and for just the small price of $250 he/she can be entered into the competition and perhaps become famous.
The kids furthermore are lied to, being told that people with “connections” either musically, athletically or involved in the acting profession will be a part of the judging proceedings. The kid seeing stars in his/her eyes bite at the ideal of becoming famous.
Sadly too often it is not the case. The talent competition was nothing but a complete scam. And as above if the kid submitted his/her parents’ personal information to this crook a payment for the entry fee, then life suddenly will have become quite negative both for the kid and his/her parent(s).
Kids have a lot of free “alone time” in the family homes in our society:
Here is the real problem and I fully understand the dynamics of the average household nowadays. Too often now kids are allowed, or perhaps with the parents working forced, to entertain themselves. There are a lot of “latch-key” kids in this country and others.
Parents want to save money as much as possible by not hiring baby-sitters or putting their kids in centers. Many educational after-school programs meant to monitor kids have been eliminated due to budget cuts financially.
It could be the situation where a 12/13 year old is responsible for watching a younger sibling(s) ages 5 – 8. In any case no parent is present in the home for a time period after school is let out for the day and the kids all come home.
Getting out of school to an empty home, it would be nice if kids immediately did their homework and nothing else. This is not to say that kids will absolutely never do their homework if not being monitored by an adult. Parents who really have taken the time to establish strict guidelines regarding behavior and responsibility, then enforcing these rules more often than not will have the child(ren) behave specifically in the manner that is expected.
However that is not always the case. Kids now play video games on computers and mobile devices. They can also “surf” the Internet, again in some households unsupervised. I am not trying to pass judgement on some of these parents however nevertheless it happens too often.
So just what is a parent to do?
It is understandable with today’s sophisticated technology regarding smart phones that young kids have them in case of emergencies. What I don’t understand is giving a 5 year old a smart phone that also has Internet accessibility for that child. I am sorry but that is lax and incorrect judgement placed specifically on the parent in question. I often want to ask parents “Hello, just what are you thinking giving your kindergarten age child a smart phone with Internet access”?
Now I have absolutely zero problems in giving a child that age a smart phone which also include apps to allow the youngster to play educationally-approved games. These would be games specifically geared to provide a learning environment for the child, and done so in an enjoyable way. The same would go for such games to be played on computers. However at that age, that would be all that the 5 year old child would need. He/she should NOT need to have access to the Internet.
I have researched and found a site that does sell educational apps for kids that provide a safe learning environment.
Block websites – Parental controls feature on Internet browsers:
It is sad that many kids are not being denied access to some web sites on the Internet that are completely blocked by their parents. Really this would go a long ways towards preventing the types of online scams that happen to innocent and unsuspecting kids.
Every parent SHOULD enable the “parental controls” feature on all of their personal home computers , (as well as older kids’ mobile devices/smart phones) if they know that their kids come home from school every day and for an hour or two will be unsupervised by an adult. There is an excellent article that tells how blocking certain Internet sites from children being able to see them can be quite easily done by a parent(s).
All of the major browsers – Firefox, Google Chrome, I.E. Bing and others have a “parental controls” feature as part of their “Internet options” capabilities which will prevent kids from gaining access to malicious websites – scams, pornography, profane language, etc. that they should not be visiting.
This pertains to kids even 14/15 years old. They have no business visiting websites that are malicious and contain “x” rated material in terms of content, (viewed by those 18 and above). Lawfully a 17 year old high school senior is not considered to be an adult, (at least here in the U.S.) and they should not be visiting pornographic websites.
Yes, in many instances in today’s economic climate either the single parent, or both in a two-parent household are forced to hold full-time jobs in order to make ends meet financially. It is also the case where a single family parent could hold down two jobs!
Still parents have an obligation to ensure that certain things on the Internet that are not meant to be seen by children from as young as age 4 to high school age, (some people may think even up to the age in which they would be considered adults or 18) are denied access to for these kids.
Within that principle, visiting sites that will only serve to scam children should definitely be prevented at all costs. Online safety tips for children should be an ideal that all parents need to be completely aware of, discuss and put into action!
Thank you for reading this article! If you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to post them in the comments’ section below: