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Teaching Kids to Download (or Not Download) Safely

April 02, 2018

Several months ago, researchers discovered dozens of malware-infected game apps on the Google Play store. The games were targeted at children, and the malware in them displayed advertisements for porn and tried to trick the users into installing fake security software that contained spyware. Even worse, some of the apps had already been downloaded up to 7 million times. Children are popular targets for hackers because they aren’t always careful about what they click on or download, and the malware they install can put them and the rest of the family at risk. Here are four ways parents can fight back.

  1. Educate: Your kids need to learn to protect themselves on the Internet, so teach them the risks of bad downloads. Explain that they need to be wary of downloading apps, especially free ones, and all the ways unintended downloads can happen: through streaming content, sites that install browser plug-ins, on social media sites, and through email attachments. Above all, train them never to click on pop-ups or links without consulting you.
  2. Supervise: Child safety experts all recommend having kids use computers in public areas of your home so that a parent or older sibling is handy to supervise and quickly answer any questions. Have a family agreement that kids will not download or install any software without first getting permission from a parent.
  3. Control: Kids are trusting so they will make mistakes. Set up a safety net to help keep them from seeing or installing bad downloads. Use parental controls to limit access to risky websites, and install security software on their computers that will detect and alert them and you about incoming malware. Give kids limited accounts on family computers to prevent them from installing software. Review their computers periodically to check for unexpected apps. Turn on pop-up blockers and other privacy settings on their browsers.
  4. Communicate: Talk to your kids about what they’ve been doing on the Internet. Younger kids may forget rules or not recognize a potential trap, so be alert to teachable moments. Also, tell your kids, older and younger, when you hear about new threats, so they become more aware and alert.

Since the Internet has become essential to so many aspects of school, work, and social life, kids are connecting earlier and earlier. Like other facts of life, it’s critical that children learn to handle themselves responsibly online, so do yours a favor and have “the talk” about downloads sooner rather than later.

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