4 Tips to Protect Kids' Portable Tech Devices from Predators

Kids Electronics
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It’s brave and brand new world of apps out there.

The Internet age coupled with the rise of smartphones and tablets like the iPhone, iPad and Kindle Fire have led to an explosion of technology and media-savvy kids who consume lots of digital content and services on their devices. This age of digital enlightenment, however, is also providing more ways for child predators to potentially interact with kids.

This means parents need to be extra vigilant in taking the necessary precautions to ensure their child does not end up being on the wrong side of a statistic. Such precautions include paying attention not only to what’s inside a child’s electronic device but their usage habits and things such as usernames and passwords, for example. That’s because predators with bad intentions can use such snippets of information to find more about children and exploit them.

If you need some guidance on how to better protect your child by securing their devices and beefing up their defenses against predators, here are five easy tips from the makers of the SNDR app.

Be on top of things: While the times and technology may be different, there’s still no substitute for good, old vigilance. Make sure to regularly ask your child to let you check their smartphones or tablets so you can make sure it doesn’t contain any inappropriate content.

If you see anything suspicious that you’re not necessarily familiar with, ask your child about it to find out what it is. If your child doesn’t know or can’t provide a satisfactory answer, delete the material or do a full reset of the device if you’re worried about other things that you might have missed.

Staying on top of this kind of stuff is always your first line of defense.

What’s in a name? Usernames serve as a vessel for accessing all sorts of content on various sites and apps. While kids can have an affinity for a beloved nickname, using the same username over and over is also a dead giveaway for criminals to connect the dots and zero in on a child, or even an adult for that matter. Just like you wouldn’t want to have the same password for everything, it’s also best for your child to have different usernames for various accounts for added security. The last thing you want is for your kid to become an easier target for predators and scammers.

Sharing isn’t always caring: Some apps and sites can be way too interested in “TMI.” Every identity is a commodity in this day and age and even legitimate sites and businesses want every morsel of information they can get. It’s one thing to supply your full name, birthday, age and address to your bank but it’s another thing altogether to have your child provide that information for some random site or service. For sites and services that request such information, just supply false answers or prohibit your child from using them altogether.

Don’t mix and match: Teach your child not to use the same phrase for their username and e-mail handle. It might be convenient to use a phrase like “TheBubbster” as a username for one service and also their email handle a la “TheBubbster@easypickings.com but it’s also a way to let folks with bad intentions guess your accounts and hack them more easily. A predator can use the same phrase on various email services via trial and error, for example, then build on that to gain entry and acquire more personal information. This is one of those cases where it’s good to be different once again. Building on that concept further, you will also want to teach your child to unique email addresses for every app, site or service they use (or make accounts for them if they’re really young).

Even better, tell them to never use their actual main e-mail address for setting up accounts. Instead, have them create new e-mail for each service or account they start and keep track of their passwords and accounts in a secure way. You can even teach them to use things such as double account verification when available. Yes, it’s more inconvenient but you will be teaching them good habits about online security that would serve them well all the way to adulthood.

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. For children’s gadgets, check out our Kids Electronics hub.