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When you are thinking about a very special holiday gift for your kid, one of the first things that spring to mind is a smartphone, tablet or laptop. It’s common knowledge that these devices aren’t very useful unless connected to the Internet. But how do you make sure your children are on the safe side when they go online?

According to studies, kids spend more than nine hours a day surfing the web. That’s a lot of time, isn’t it? You must be wondering what they are doing on the Internet all that time and whether you are giving them enough information to keep their experience hassle-free.

First and foremost, it’s extremely important to keep abreast of sketchy apps your children shouldn’t be installing. This is easier said than done, as there are plenty of ways kids can conceal those potentially unwanted apps from parents. You should know what red flags to look out for.

For instance, you may have never heard of the app called YouNow, but guess what – it is immensely popular with youngsters. It is a streaming applet that’s quite likely to be already on your kids’ devices. There are hashtags that create a great deal of hype such as ‘bored,’ ‘singing’ and ‘dancing.’ Another hashtag trending on YouNow, ‘sleepingsquad,’ features people while they are sleeping.

Anyway, when using this service, children mostly live stream what they are doing at home in their rooms. They also chat with other users. Although this basically sounds innocuous, things may turn upside down. When kids decide to get more likes quickly, you never know what they are up to. Plus, they disclose tons of sensitive information. This is merely one online service parents should keep an eye on.

It’s also worthwhile staying on top of various texting apps such as WhatsApp, ooVoo and Kik. Furthermore, there are services like Snapchat where messages are automatically deleted in 24 hours. Dating apps like Tinder, MeetMe and Skout should be in parents’ spotlight, too.

Smartphone apps that hide certain information or other apps should give you a heads up, as well. The one called Vaulty, for example, allows users to keep photos and videos in a password-protected folder. It also goes with a ‘Mugshot’ feature that takes a photo of anybody who enters an incorrect password when trying to access the vault. Another popular applet, Hide it Pro, works in a similar way but is disguised as an audio manager for more secrecy. It is a secure hideaway for multimedia, messages and apps.

So what are the ways to safeguard your children when they use their smart gadgets? Below are the best practice tips to ascertain that your little ones are safe online.

Tip #1: Location matters

Make sure your kids use a PC or smartphone in a place where you can see them. This way, you can have a casual peek at what they are watching and typing once in a while. For example, parents can be cooking dinner while unobtrusively keeping tabs on their sons or daughters’ online activity. This isn’t about shoulder surfing; this is about taking reasonable precautions. Surveys say nearly 20% of parents have seen their children doing inappropriate things on the Internet. What’s even more disconcerting is that a whopping 60% of parents say they aren’t really aware of what their children are doing online.

Tip #2: Keep abreast of social

To begin with, get all of your child’s authentication details for social networks. Enforce a rule that if they want an account they’ll need to share their usernames and passwords with you. Furthermore, add them to your friend’s list, follow them and keep track of what’s happening in their social circles. Some children may write offensive comments or upload photos that don’t belong on a social network. Monitoring these things makes it easier to prevent and sort out such scenarios.

Tip #3: Sharing isn’t as innocuous as it may appear

Tell your kids that all information they post online composes their digital footprint and stays there, no matter if their profile is publicly accessible or private. Many children tend to overshare about themselves and their family, so parents should emphasize what a slippery slope it can be. There are criminals out there conducting OSINT (open-source intelligence) on social networks to perpetrate various frauds, so it’s certainly a bad idea to let your kids give away too many personal details.

Tip #4: Be proactive

This is of huge importance. Use parental control software to prevent things from getting out of hand. There are plenty of free and commercial versions of these tools to choose from. Parental control software keeps track of your kid’s whereabouts, makes it easy for you to restrict the amount of time they spend on the Internet and provides an effective way to ensure they steer clear of unwanted websites.

If your child really wants to visit a certain site, the application can be used to send you a message with the appropriate request. Additionally, you can submit special messages that lock your kid’s device or specific apps and won’t unfreeze it until they send a response. Such software also allows you to whitelist apps. All in all, an effective parental control tool is a one-stop solution, giving you sufficient privileges on all of your child’s devices to take no chances in terms of their safety online. Monitoring and limiting what your kids do in cyberspace is completely normal in today’s world.

Tip #5: Educate and reward

Don’t underestimate the power of teaching. Talk to your kids about the basics of online security, placing particular stress on the common pitfalls such as social engineering and cyberstalking. When you give them a new device, explain how to use it properly first. Finally, be sure to reward their progress as they learn.

About the Author: David Balaban is a security guru sharing his profound expertise with He is committed to analyzing malware in depth, protecting privacy online, evaluating software, and staying on top of modern cybercrime trends. David has more than a decade of experience in these areas and thinks outside the box when it comes to security.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.