6 Tips to Protect Your Kids From Catfishing and Other Online Threats

You might have noticed that you have to protect your kids online, which is not surprising when you consider what kind of content they can find.

With the prevalence of social media and the internet today, kids can learn much more about the adult world than ever. Some of it is harmless, like learning to use different ways to text, but some of it is bad. That is why it is important to teach your kids how to stay safe online and protect themselves from online threats.

Your kids may be the most vulnerable victims of online scamming. A new survey of children finds they’re at least twice as likely to fall victim to online scams and cyber-bullying than adults.

Before you let them loose, make sure they appreciate the risks by sharing this guide with them. Ensure that they are as capable as you of protecting your family from online privacy and personal security risks.

6 Tips to Protect Your Kids From Catfishing and Other Online Threats 1

What is Catfishing?

Catfishing is one of the most popular online threats kids face today. It is the term “pretending to be someone else online.” If you don’t know much about catfishing, just think about the kids you know who are very good at gaming computers and getting their way. They might be online using a fake identity to talk to a friend, talk to a girlfriend online, or even talk to a crush online. Catfishing is just a type of identity theft. While it does not involve stealing money or personal information, kids might be tricked into sending their information to someone online or feel pressured to do something they don’t want to.

In most cases, catfishing scams people out of money or information. Catfishing websites are designed to look like people’s personal accounts, and the intent is to steal information from them. Sometimes, they pretend to be a relative, such as a spouse or an aunt.

So, how is this done?

In short, it is all about digital fakery, with the perpetrator pretending to be someone they are not. This is achieved by posting false personal information, specifically using someone else’s profile pictures, on social media sites. The aim is to trick someone to fall in love with the scammer.

Catfishing is typically aimed at children (mainly teenagers) and young adults, but not always. Regardless of age, you should be concerned about catfishing. Fortunately, you can do plenty to reduce (or completely negate) its impact.

Give the following to your teenager to read and digest. You might even follow the suggestions yourself.

Make Friends Offline

Before you go online, remember the importance of healthy relationships offline. Talking to people face-to-face and enjoying trips and games — are far superior to digital exchanges. Although social networking is about communication, the verbal, present discussion is far more essential and valuable than anything done on a phone or computer. The digital aspect is just a gimmick, a shortcut. Keep it genuine.

Expanding on this further, it is not embarrassing or creepy to let your friends meet your parents or vice versa. It is useful to put a face to a name. Moreover, if a lift to the cinema or a party is ever required, it avoids unnecessary awkward moments.

Do not “Friend” Strangers

Getting access to a social network for the first time is exciting. However, like anything, you should not get overexcited. Stick to the same core group of friends you have at school or college. If you know a person well in real life, then add them on Facebook (or your social network of choice).

When it comes to strangers, things change. Even if the person is cute/handsome/attractive or whatever, if you have yet to meet them in real life, do not add. It is a simple rule that guarantees safety. Unfortunately, social networks do not help, throwing up “people you may know”-style suggestions all the time. Incoming friend requests do not help either. So remember that rule: Do not know them? Do not add them!

Set Privacy Controls on Your Social Networks

Before we get deeper into security, we should know that everything is already set with you on your social networks because you signed in to them automatically after it has been set up. You could change some privacy settings, but for a few things, you just can’t change them. If you think about your privacy and data protection on your social networks, you should be very cautious about the information you share.

Privacy controls are how users can set the privacy settings for their accounts and ensure that their sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.

In Facebook, open Settings > Privacy and ensure the options are set to “Friends” or “Only Me.” This way, your Facebook account will be protected from being viewed by strangers. Furthermore, our Facebook photo privacy settings guide will help you block potential catfishers from stealing your photos.

Meanwhile, on Instagram, open the menu and select Options. Scroll down to Private Account and activate the setting. Now, only people you approve of can see photos and videos you share. Note that with any social network, if you have any existing friends or followers you wish to block, you should do so.

Do not Put Personal Photos on Twitter

Access and privacy are a little more complicated on Twitter. Tweets and photos — including profile pics — can be quickly taken out of your control here, thanks to retweets. Within minutes, a photo can go viral or be whisked away for catfishing before you have had a chance to deal with privacy settings.

It is worth, therefore, opening the Settings page for your Twitter account, going to Privacy and safety, and then checking to Protect your Tweets. Doing so blocks strangers from viewing your tweets. Anyone who wishes to follow you on Twitter must henceforth be approved. This tightens things up nicely.

Clearing the check against Tweet with a location will help maintain privacy with regard to your location. Meanwhile, you should also select Do not allow anyone to tag you in photos to maintain photo security.

Note that anyone who already follows you before protecting your account will still be able to view your tweets and photos. You can block any of these previous contacts by opening the Followers page, selecting the vertical ellipses, and selecting Block @ [username].

You should also disable the option to Receive Direct Messages from anyone, limiting this facility only to your friends. Surprisingly, there is a lot to be said for using Twitter privately.

Search Google Images

There are at least two victims in catfishing: the target and the person whose photo is used as a fake profile. Often, these are just models, photos of random attractive people picked up from a Google search. Fortunately, this same tool can be used to track photos. For instance, you can check if you’re concerned that your profile photo has been misused.

Simply open Google Images at images.google.com, and drag the profile pic from your computer into the browser window. All instances of the photo online will then be displayed. You can use the same tool to check the photos of your contacts. Of course, you shouldn’t have any followers who aren’t already known to you in real life, but if you do, use Google Image Search to verify their honesty (or otherwise). Getting the right results can take a while, so you might want to check our list of Google Image Search Hacks.

While you’re using Google, it’s worth taking the time to search for yourself. Hopefully, the results will be minimal (perhaps a newspaper report of winning a school trophy).

Delete Inactive Accounts

What if you already have a social media account that you’ve forgotten about? Older readers might have a dead MySpace account, leaking their secrets. If you’re younger, perhaps you have an Instagram account that you don’t use. Either way, these accounts are ripe for farming by catfishing identity thieves.

It can take a while to regain access to old accounts, but it is worth doing so. You’ll often need access to older email accounts, but in some cases, simply being able to recall the setup information (like the name of the email account) will be enough to forward the credentials to your new account.

Once you’ve gained access, delete the photos on the social network profile and then delete the account. These tips will help shore up privacy holes in a more general way, allowing your child to protect himself or herself from other online threats.

Moving forward, this whole exercise is a good starting point for online safe activity. Underline that an internet connection doesn’t just deliver the positives of social interaction into your home. The negatives are often included too. Taking steps to mitigate these risks will educate your child and help guarantee online safety.

Have you been affected by catfishing? Perhaps some other identity theft-based scam online? What happened? Use the comments box below to tell us about it.

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