Parents & Caregivers
Welcome to B4UClick
Hi Parents & Caregivers
If you’re a parent, you know how tech-savvy your kids are. They grew up surrounded by technology. They can pick up a computer or phone and almost instantly know exactly how it works. They know more about hashtags, viral videos, and selfies than U.S. presidents, and they are constantly connected to the Internet in more ways than you can fathom.
The Internet makes it easy for people to share things and stay connected, but it also makes it easier to make mistakes and get into dangerous situations.But do they know how to be safe when they spend time online? Do they know what to do if they come across something or someone who makes them uncomfortable?
We know how much you care about keeping your kids safe from harm while they surf, play games, and talk to their friends online. We want these things, too. That’s why we’ve created this portal just for you.
Here you will find information regarding how you can take steps to protect your children’s online activities, including tips for monitoring and communicating with your child about the risks and dangers involved in some online activities.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your children from malicious or inappropriate content is to set controls on web usage. There are several parent control tools that you can install on your browser or use on your computer that can track and monitor a variety of online activity. Below is what these controls have to offer:
- Block websites – stops children from seeing or using certain types of websites
- Set time limits – keeps track of how long your child is using the Internet so you can manage appropriate time limits
- Search result filtering – filters out adult or inappropriate websites, images, videos, and other content from popular search engines like Google and Bing
- Instant alerts – sends you an instant alert if your child tries to access inappropriate or blocked content online
- Reporting tools – allows you to instantly report malicious or inappropriate content, spam, or abuse
It can be difficult to monitor and always stay on top of what your kids are doing online, so parental controls go a long way in helping you manage your kids’ online time while keeping them safe from external threats.
Talking/Chatting with StrangersBecause many games are interactive, your children will be able to talk or chat with other players they meet. Most, if not all, of the people your children interact with on an online game will be people they have never met before. Depending on the site or game, players can be of similar ages or of a wide range of ages. Many games have built-in chatting systems so players can talk to each other without having to leave the game. MMORPGs (Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) like World of Warcraft use chat rooms and instant messaging systems. Games on the Xbox and Playstation have voice chats so players can strategize in real-time. No matter what type of chatting application is used in your child’s favorite game, it’s important to teach them about talking to strangers online. Make sure they know not to share personal information with anyone they meet in a game, including pictures of themselves.
Gaming AddictionOnline games are fun to play—that’s why kids love to play them! However, because games can help kids forget difficult times in school, at home, or with their friends, it’s easy to become addicted to the worlds within their favorite games. In fact, most online gamers will tell you that they primarily use games as an escape mechanism. Gaming addiction is a condition that affects children and adults all over the world. The danger in excessive gaming is not in the act of gaming itself—it is in the effects that excessive gaming has on a child’s health and development. Look for these signs:
- Disruption of Regular Life – A gaming addict will often shirk responsibilities like schoolwork and chores in order to spend more time playing. Often, they will stay up late into the night to play, getting little to no sleep and becoming tired during the day.
- Withdrawal – Addicted gamers will become angry or upset when they are forced to be offline for a long period of time.
- Cravings – An addicted gamer will be obsessed with the game, often talking about it at length when they are not playing.
- Defensive Attitude – When asked about his or her time spent gaming, an addict will get defensive or upset or even outright deny the activity.
- Loss of Time – Because games give gamers an escape from real life, gaming addicts often lose track of time when playing. They can sometimes forget to eat, use the bathroom, or perform responsibilities.
Social Networking FriendsSeveral social networks, Facebook and Instagram included, encourage users to follow and add people to a friends list. This can either be reciprocal—both people have to agree to be friends—or unilateral, where someone simply follows another person’s updates. No matter what social network your child uses, it’s important to know who they are adding to their friends list. Because people on friends lists often have special access to personal information and photos of your child, you want to make sure that your son or daughter is only adding people they know and trust.
Instant Messengers and Chat RoomsInstant messengers and chat rooms allow people from all over the world to connect and chat about common interests. Most social networking and gaming sites include instant messengers on their sites so that users can easily talk to one another, either privately or publicly. The danger in chatting applications like these is that they are instant, like their name suggests. Once a message goes out, it can never be deleted or edited. If someone says something inflammatory, rude, or even inappropriate, it is there for anyone to see. It’s important to instruct your children that what they say on chats, either with their friends or people they will never meet offline, can still hurt or otherwise damage. Be sure they know what’s okay and not okay to share in chat rooms and chatting apps.
Sharing Too MuchSometimes, children and teens can share too much information about themselves or others. If they feel they know someone really well while talking to them online, they might feel comfortable sharing personal information like their phone number, email address, or even personal photos. If your child doesn’t know this person offline, this can be a very dangerous situation. Make sure you know who your children are talking to online. Discuss with them what’s safe and not safe to share with the people they meet, and make sure to make them aware of online predators.
Online PredatorsOften, online predators will lie about their personal details, including their name, age, and gender, in order to gain the trust and friendship of a child talking to them online. If a child believes that the person they are talking to is a friend their age that shares their interests, they are more likely to talk about their personal details, revealing their name, their phone number, and even your home address. Make sure to talk to your children about what is and what isn’t okay to share online, even with friends. Also be sure to teach them about what they can do if someone is pressuring them to talk about their personal details or share pictures of themselves.
Profile PagesOn social networking sites, for example, kids fill out profiles all about them, adding information like their name, their phone number, and their email address. Most sites also allow users to upload profile pictures, encouraging people to use personal photos so they can be easily recognized by friends or acquaintances. Depending on the privacy settings of the social network or forum, this personal information can be displayed to people not connected to your son or daughter. Sometimes, sites will even make the information searchable by search engines, meaning people doing searches on Google or Bing could stumble across your child’s profile. Make sure you check your child’s profile when they sign up so you can stop them from sharing personal details about themselves or your family. Also make sure to set their privacy settings so that people not connected to them can’t see this information.
SextingSexting is known as when someone sends a sexual image or text message to another person or group of people. Teens and young adults in relationships will sometimes engage in this activity with their significant other in order to create excitement. The problem with sexting is that, once a message leaves your child’s phone, it is no longer in their control. The image or video can easily be shared—intentionally or accidentally—with other people through email, social networking sites, or a forwarded text. In an instant, an intimate message or picture intended for only one person can end up spread across the Internet. This is especially dangerous if the child pictured is considered underage. Any sexually graphic photos or videos of a minor are considered child pornography. On the other hand, if the person in the picture is over 18, but the picture is shown to someone who is not, it’s considered showing sexually explicit content to a minor, which is illegal.
File SharingWebsites known as P2P (peer-to-peer) allow people to upload and download files. These sites usually have popular television shows, movies, and music files available for free as an alternative to paid sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes. There are several dangers in using P2P sites. First, many of the files are illegally obtained from sources that have copyright over the media. This is often referred to as pirated content. If your son or daughter is caught with illegally shared files, according to federal law, they can be sued and even serve jail time, depending on the severity. P2P sites are also often inundated with spam and malicious files that can trigger computer viruses and hacking attempts. If your child does not know how to tell between a safe and an unsafe file download, they could be putting your computer and your important accounts at risk. For more information on how to secure yourself and your family against hacking, see our hacking guide.
Using Parental Controls in Search EnginesWhile it’s not possible for search engines to overlook certain websites, it is possible for you to add parental controls to protect your family from inappropriate or adult content. These controls include all facets of the search engine, including images and videos. Most safe search settings will be available in your personal account settings. Here are resources you can use to turn on the different safe search modes for two of the most popular search engines:
- Searching and accessing websites
- Uploading videos and images to websites and social networks
- Chatting through instant messengers, chat rooms, and text/video apps
- Mobile web-based gaming
- Purchasing and downloading games and apps
- Sharing statuses, pictures, and check-ins with GPS location technology
Mobile Internet SafetyNo matter where someone is accessing the Internet, the same risks still apply. In fact, the risks may even be more so because cell phones put access right in our pockets and purses. To keep your family safe on their cell phones, make sure you’re monitoring how they access the Internet and apps. Here are a few ideas on how you can effectively do that:
- Have your children ask permission before adding or purchasing a new app on their phone. This way, you can assess the safety and appropriateness of the app before they start using it.
- Set up safe search modes. This will protect your kids from access inappropriate or adult content through search engines or simply browsing the web.
- Discuss what’s cool and not cool to share. Sharing is at the heart of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Make sure your child knows what’s okay and what’s not okay to share.
- Learn how your child’s phone works. If you don’t know how your child’s phone works, you won’t know all the things they can do with it. Be sure to sit down and read the manual or have your child show you the features of your phone so you can better monitor their usage.
SextingA majority of tweens and teens use their phones to take pictures of themselves, their friends, and their daily lives. They then send these pictures to each other or upload them to social networking sites like Instagram to show off to their connections. However, a growing trend among kids aged 14-18 is called sexting. This is when someone takes a sexual or otherwise inappropriate picture and sends it to another person or a group of people. This is often done with a cell phone because teens feel that the picture can be kept and shared more privately through texts or picture apps (like Snapchat). However, once an explicit or inappropriate picture is sent, either through a text message or any other means, it is no longer in the sender’s control. Even if it was only intended for a single person to view, the person on the receiving end can share it with whomever and however they wish. This is especially dangerous if the sender is under the age of 18. Any explicit picture of a minor is considered child pornography by federal law, and the person sending and receiving sext messages like this can be in huge trouble with the law.
Just like an activity in life, there are a number of risks associated with spending time online. Kids are especially susceptible to online risks because of their exploring natures—they often click before thinking. Fortunately, you can help your kids learn how to be safe and reduce risks while they spend time online.
This section is designed to help you learn about some of the risks both you and your children face when you use the Internet for business, schoolwork, or just for fun. Each section has definitions, tips, and important information you can use to protect your household.
For a guide on how to start the conversation with your children about any of the risks you read about on this site, visit our Conversation Guide.
- mean or hostile messages sent in order to get a rise out of someone or threaten them
- rumors spread through social networks, text messages, or chat applications
- stealing account information for the sole purpose of changing their information or sending negative messages to others
- spreading unflattering or suggestive pictures (either real or photoshopped) or videos of a person through social networks, emails, or text messages
The Signs of a Cyberbullying VictimYour child might not always be comfortable coming to you with what’s happening to them online. They might not even know that what they’re experiencing is really cyberbullying. Keeping an eye out for these signs can help you spot and stop a dangerous situation:
- appears nervous when a next text, chat message, or notification appears
- is uneasy or nervous about going to school
- avoids talking about what they are doing when online
- withdraws from friends, schoolmates, or family members unexpectedly
- appears angry or upset after using the computer
- stops using the computer or their phone altogether
The Signs of a CyberbullyWhen children are bullied online, they are often bullied by other kids they know from school or from the websites and games they use regularly. Be aware of the following signs, which could indicate that your child is participating in cyberbullying activities online:
- uses the computer obsessively
- becomes increasingly aggressive toward you or other people
- quickly switches or minimize windows if you enter the room or walk by
- avoids talking about what they’re doing online
- uses multiple accounts on a single website, or uses accounts they did not set up
- becomes very upset or angry when they cannot use the computer or their cell phone
What to Do if My Child is a Victim of CyberbullyingCyberbullying is a serious problem. Because it takes place over the technology that your child uses all the time, it can affect virtually every aspect of their life. If you think your child is the victim of online bullying or a cyberthreat, you need to take action immediately.
- Talk to your child. Find out what’s really happening and how they feel about it. Offer reassurance, comfort, and emotional support and make sure to let your child know they don’t have to face this situation alone.
- Guide your child on how to gather evidence. Examples of messages your child has received from an online bully go a long way in proving that a dangerous situation is taking place. Help your child save text messages, screenshots, and other forms of communication, and ask your child if they think they know who has been sending the messages.
- Help your child block their bully. Blocking a bully from contacting your child on a website, social network, or chat room will prevent them from being able to talk to your child on that site. If necessary, you may need to contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or your cell phone service.
- Report the bullying to the appropriate authorities. Reporting videos, pictures, or other types of content to the website where it is hosted is often the only way to get it removed. If the content posted is illegal—if it contains inappropriate or sexual material of a child under 18—you should contact your local police department.
SextingSexting is a fairly new phenomenon among teens and tweens. It involves sending racy, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate images and texts to another person or a group of people. Many teens use it as a means of creating excitement or “spark” in their relationships with their boyfriend or girlfriend, but some also use it as a means to show their romantic interest in another person. Not all sexting happens because of a teen’s free will. Some will be pressured or even coerced into sending messages they are not comfortable sending; sometimes, they are afraid their boyfriend or girlfriend will break up with them if they don’t comply. Often, teens and tweens that go through this type of situation will feel embarrassed about what they have done, and will not be comfortable talking to anyone about it. The real danger in sexting is that, once the picture or message is sent, the sender no longer has control over the message. What was originally meant for a single person could, either intentionally or accidentally, be shared on a social network, spreading to an entire group or school without the sender’s knowledge. Images can even go viral or end up on a site other than the original post, making removal of the image difficult if not impossible. Another big problem with sext messages is that they are considered child pornography if the sender is a minor (under the age of 18). Both the sender and the receiver can be held legally responsible under the law, because these images are considered to be child pornography.
PornographyPornography, whether it is legal adult material or illegal child material, is easy to find online. Through keyword searches or a misplaced or malicious link, children can easily stumble on a site not meant for their eyes, no matter if they meant to do it intentionally or they came by it on accident. By law, sexually explicit material cannot be shown to minors or children under the age of 18. Pornographic websites usually have entrance gates that prevent children from seeing content not meant for them, but these gates are easily bypassed by smart and savvy teens. Teens can even bypass the parental controls you might have in place to protect them from this type of adult content. The problem with teens viewing pornography is that it often leads to developmental problems. Because of the nature of pornographic films and images, teens can easily develop self-esteem and body image issues based on how they look versus how a porn star looks on screen. Without the guidance of a parent or teacher on matters like this, teens can also develop a warped sense of what a true sexual relationship is comprised of based on the situations depicted in porn films.
How to Protect Your Children from Inappropriate ContentEven before your children begin using the Internet, either on a computer or their phone, you should have a discussion about which websites are okay and not okay for them to use. In addition to talking to them, you can also do the following:
- Install blocking, filtering, and monitoring apps or software on your browser or computer. These will allow you to control which websites your children can access, and block sites you deem inappropriate.
- Monitor your children’s time online. Make sure you know which websites they are visiting, including at school, at friends’ houses, or any other place where they connect.
- Regularly discuss web safety with your children. This will help them be more aware about dangers and how they can avoid them.
What to Do if Your Child Discovers Inappropriate ContentAt some point, either accidentally or on purpose, a child will come across content not meant for their eyes to see. It’s easy to do—misspelling a web address, accidentally clicking on a bad link, or using a keyword search in Google. The best thing you can do as a parent is be prepared for this type of situation and know how to talk to your child about what they have seen. The danger in pornographic, hateful, or otherwise inappropriate websites is that they can negatively influence your child’s development, affecting their self-esteem, body image, and how they view the world. Use our Conversation Guide for tips on how you can start the conversation about inappropriate content with your child.
Instructing Your Kids on What Not to ShareEssentially, when you share something online, you’ve lost control over how it is used. Once a picture, statement, or video is uploaded to a website or social media network, it is technically there forever. Even if you remove it from the website, other people could have saved it and shared it somewhere else. This is important lesson to relate to your children. Help them to understand that they have to think before they click the send or upload button, especially if the message, picture, or video contains something personal, inappropriate, or hurtful. What starts as a something between a boyfriend and girlfriend or between friends can easily turn into a viral message spread across an entire school, city, or even country. Additionally, teach your children about the importance of privacy online. They should never share personal information like their name, their phone number, or your home address with anyone they meet online, even if they’ve known them for a long time or feel they can trust them. They should keep credit card information, passwords, and any other sensitive information private as well. For more information on teaching your kids about thinking before sharing, check our Conversation Guide for questions and talking points you can use to start the conversation.
- Install virus- and malware-blocking software to your computer. You can also add pop-up blockers and malware scanner apps to your browsers to stop potential viruses from affecting you online.
- Know what to do to stop the virus. It’s almost inevitable that, at some point, you will get a virus on your computer. Knowing the steps to remove it or who to call if you need help can help you minimize the damage.
- Instruct your children about viruses. Children are especially susceptible to finding or downloading viruses because they don’t know what they are or how to tell the difference between something suspicious and something safe. Make sure you’re teaching your children about virus safety and what not to click or download.
Impersonation/FraudYou know those emails you occasionally get asking for your account information? These are fraudulent messages sent by hackers to try and trick people into giving up their information. Hackers especially like to impersonate moderators or website administrators because people are more likely to respond to someone from the site. If you ever receive an email asking for your username, password, or any other type of personal information, do not reply. Real administrators and moderators have access to this through the site and will never contact you asking for it.
PhishingPhishing, pronounced “fishing,” is a tactic used to get you to fill out your account information or personal details through a pop-up, spam message, or fake website. They most often take the form of a fake site that looks almost exactly like the real copy.
PharmingPharming, pronounced “farming,” is the most sophisticated form of hacking because it uses malicious code to hijack a normal website. The code redirects or sends anyone who lands on the website to a fake site where the hacker can gain the information they need.
Malware/SpywareMalware and spyware are two types of online viruses you can pick up without even knowing. Depending on their strength, they can access personal information stored on your computer, or collect information as you type it in to forms and websites online.
How to Protect Your Accounts from HackersHacking is devastating if it happens to you. Fortunately, you can easily protect your important accounts by practicing a few good habits:
- Choose strong passwords. Password1234 probably isn’t a good choice to protect your account. Choose a password that uses a lot of capitalization, punctuation, and numbers. You want your password to be difficult to guess.
- Change up your passwords every so often. If you change your passwords every few months, you’ll be keeping potential hackers on their toes. This will also ensure that even if someone did access your account without your knowledge, they won’t be able to as soon as you change your password.
- Use different passwords on different sites. We know how hard it is to remember different passwords. But if you use the same password on, say, your banking website and your Amazon account, a hacker who guesses the password will be able to access both accounts and all the information stored in them.
- Stay alert! You are your best defense when it comes to hacking prevention. Any time you notice suspicious activity in your account, report it right away and change your password. Also be sure to take note whether or not the lock symbol appears when you’re making transactions online— this ensures the site is protecting your information securely.
How to Teach Your Kids about HackingBecause children often see the Internet as a place where they can openly share things about themselves, they can often be more easily tricked into giving up important information to hackers. It’s important to instruct your children on what they should and shouldn’t share online (or in real life!). Here are the things you and your children should NEVER share online:
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Account passwords
What to Do if You’ve Been HackedDon’t panic. You can minimize damage to your accounts by acting quickly and calmly.
- Change your password. This will prevent a hacker from being able to access your account again. If you have been locked out of your account, contact the website administrators for help.
- Run a virus scan. Often, a hacking attempt can be squashed if you get rid of the access point— usually a virus. Run a virus scan on your computer to get rid of any viruses you might have obtained from a hacking attempt, or any viruses placed on your computer by a hacker.
- Contact your bank. If you believe your credit card information has been stolen, or you’ve noticed a fraudulent charge on your card, contact your bank immediately. They can temporarily shut down your account to prevent more charges.
- File a report with law enforcement. Identity theft is a serious crime, and reporting what’s happened to you can help law enforcement stop your hacker from hurting other people.
The first and often most important step in keeping your children and your family safe from online risks is to open the lines of communication between yourself and your child. Healthy dialogue about the activities your child is doing online, as well as the potential dangers they could face during those activities, will go a long way in making your child feel safe and secure talking to you about important issues.
The truth is, only 1 in 10 children will tell their parent or guardian if they have been a victim of cyberbullying. Even less will approach a parent or family member about inappropriate content, online predators, or pressure from their friends and peers to do things they don’t want to do online. If you can talk to your child before a critical or dangerous situation arises, you can help them know to come to you if they need help.
In this section, we provide ways you can discuss web safety and risks with your children, no matter their age. Use our resources on the following pages to help you start the conversation.
Learning Your Child’s HabitsIf you don’t know how a website, game, or social network your child uses works, it can hinder how you monitor their activity. By sitting down and asking your child to guide you through the site and how they use it, you can effectively learn about how the site works as well as how your child spends their time there. Here are a few questions you can ask to get the conversation started:
- Why do you like this site?
- What things can you do on this site that you can’t do on other sites?
- Do you have any friends that use this site with you?
- How is your profile set up?
- Do you know how to report things if you’re ever uncomfortable?
Making Agreements about UsageAn interactive and open way to hold your child accountable for their time spent online is to come to an agreement about their Internet usage and time. This can be written or verbal. Some considerations to include in your agreement:
- A reasonable amount of time your child can spend online each day
- Health considerations, like taking breaks between games and online activities
- What’s okay and not okay to share, for pictures, videos, and other types of content
- How your child can add friends to their friends lists (if they need permission from you first)
- Who your child can talk to if they are ever concerned by something they see online, including the resources located on B4UClick
Online VideosOnline videos are a great way to start a conversation with your child about web safety. You can use our video resources, which cover all kinds of topics, or you can search for instructional or educational videos yourself through sites like YouTube. Check out our web safety videos!
- What is a reasonable amount of time for children in my child’s age group to be using the Internet?
- Where else can my child access the Internet?
- Does my child primarily use the web for recreation or for school?
- What types of sites and activities does my child enjoy online?