You Could Be Risking Your Child’s Online Privacy

By now, you know that even though online crime is under-reported, it’s still a big deal. But do your kids know that?

Whether intentionally or not, you could be exposing your child to online invasions of privacy. According to a study done by TRUSTe, a data privacy management company, lots of parents are worried about their kid’s privacy online, but they may not be handling it the right way.

“While parents are concerned, they don’t always protect their children’s privacy online,” said Chris Bable, CEO of TRUSTe, in a statement. “Companies need to work with parents and their children to ensure transparency and help protect children’s data.”

The big number: 58 percent of parents said they are concerned about their child’s privacy online. Here’s what we learned from the study, and what you can do to minimize your child’s security risk when he or she goes online.

When parents do more harm than good

According to the study, a full 24 percent said they do not allow their child to use the Internet. Why? Their reasoning includes:

  • 57 percent said they were worried that their child would be exposed to inappropriate content;
  • 44 percent think their child will share personal information online;
  • 43 percent think their child will share personal information online that they will later regret.

But the irony is that while so many are concerned about kids sharing stuff they’ll regret, parents are sharing photos of their kids all over Facebook and Instagram. Almost 70 percent of parents admitted they’d posted photos of their kids online, and 35 percent post photos once a month or more. In addition, 1 in 5 parents said they helped their kids who were under 13 years old set up social media accounts.

That’s not illegal, thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was passed by Congress in 1998. It requires all websites selling services or collecting information to obtain parental consent before collecting information from kids under 13. But just because kids are going online legally doesn’t mean they’re doing it safely.

How to talk to your kid about staying safe online

If you don’t take anything else away from this study, remember this: The best way to protect your kid from scary stuff online is by talking to them about it. TRUSTe says that 74 percent of parents think their child understands “a small amount or nothing at all about the issues surrounding privacy online.” If that’s you and your child, keep these tips in mind:

1. Start early. Your kid born today is a digital native, so don’t think it’s out of the question to broach the topic of internet safety with a kindergartner.

2. Initiate the conversation. Even if your kids are comfortable approaching you, don’t wait for them to start the conversation. Instead, find examples in your everyday life to talk to your child about Internet safety. This can be something as simple as seeing a billboard or ad about cyberbullying, and taking the time to explain to your child what it means and what to do if they experience it.

3. Be honest and supportive. Without a foundation of trust and support, kids aren’t going to be forthcoming about what they experience on the Internet, whether it’s harassment or strangers who make them uncomfortable. Make sure you cultivate an environment of trust and let your kids know they’ll never get in trouble for admitting something serious.

4. Be patient. Especially with younger children, it can take a while for something to sink in. It’s best to broach the topic several successive times; if the information is repetitive and simple, they’ll absorb it better.

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This article by Jess Miller was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.