Children are naturally curious and trusting, which can make them prime targets for cybercriminals. And while it's tempting to think today's internet-savvy young people would be immune to online scams, that doesn't appear to be the case.
In fact, the Better Business Bureau reports young people are just as susceptible to online fraud — if not more so — than their grandparents. Which is why teaching even “digital natives" about online scams is essential. And it becomes more critical each day, as online crime is rampant, with millions of instances of fraud being reported — and millions of dollars being lost to fraud — each year.
The good news is with some education and communication, you can help your children recognize and avoid online scams.
How to teach your children about privacy
These days, cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to trick people of all ages into handing over their personal information. That said, one of the first and most important lessons you can teach your child is to never provide personal information to anyone online.
Obviously, this applies to emails, texts, chats and other digital communications. They should also learn not to share any information on social media platforms, within games, when downloading apps and more. It's unfortunate, but it's wise to teach your children to be skeptical of all requests for information.
Depending on the age of your children, they might not be ready to grasp the idea of how thieves use this information. With younger children, it's probably best just to make a rule that they are not allowed to provide their name or any other information at all.
How to teach your children to avoid scams
Stressing the importance of not sharing personal information can go a long way toward protecting your children from scams. However, there are many sneaky online schemes designed to lure kids into divulging information or being otherwise victimized.
Some of the most common ruses draw kids in with fun videos, offers of free music downloads or promises of scholarship money. Other scams invite kids to join online clubs, participate in contests or play games. Some even claim to be kid talent searches.
Explaining to your children — even younger children — that any digital communications, website, chatbot or ad that asks them to do something online could potentially be a scam. Whether they ask your child to type in their name, spin a wheel, pick their favorite color or watch a video, your child should learn not to respond to these requests.
Obviously, this doesn't apply to apps, games or other programs you have allowed them to download or install. (Even better is when you connect their account to a debit card you help manage, like gohenry.) In all things, they should clearly understand that unless you have approved it, they should not respond to any online requests or enticements.
For older children, it can be beneficial to explain the risks in more detail, but that doesn't mean they won't fall for a scam. Considering that millions of adults fall for scams each year, expecting kids to figure out what's legitimate seems risky, at best.
Talk openly and be present
As most parents know, even when kids are told exactly what they can and cannot do, they often either choose to break the rules or simply become careless about following them. When it comes to keeping your kids from falling for online scams, having open and ongoing discussions about the rules can remind them of the risks and the importance of being careful online.
Also, make sure they understand they can come to you at any time with questions or concerns. As with all things parenting, being present and engaged with your children when they're online is an ideal way to protect them and help them gain the skills they need to safely navigate the internet going forward.