BOISE, Idaho — June is National Internet Safety Month, reminding parents and guardians everywhere to review online safety measures for children.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many activities to be canceled or scaled back so kids are spending more time on the computer at home or on their various gaming systems. Unfortunately, it comes as hackers target systems, including 300,000 Nintendo accounts over the last few months.
Dale Dixon is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific. He says the biggest threats come from creating accounts on websites without permission. Many sites will sell unauthorized user details to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. When creating an account, the user may falsely create a birth date to meet the minimum age requirement.
Contests and giveaways also pose a threat. Many are thinly disguised ways of collecting personal or financial information that could lead to identity theft. Make sure your child doesn't have access to banking or credit card information.
Kids can be targets of phishing emails. Many often get junk mail and are more likely to be susceptible to theft because of a lack of online experience. While some emails are legitimate, a vast majority are not, and the last thing parents want or need is a $500 bill from a fraudulent website where a purchase may have been made.
Other things to watch for include file sharing sites. Some websites allow children to download free media. What they may not know is these sites often come with a risk of downloading a virus that allows identity thieves to access the gaming device, personal computer, or even cell phone that's being used.
There are also risks when it comes to apps on your smartphone. Dixon says certain apps might collect and share personal information about your child, including ads that look innocent but aren't. Even free apps may include paid features, and children may not understand that some apps or game features cost money, since they were labeled as free to download.
So how can you keep your money and information safe? Don't give children access to banking or credit card information. Don't click on email links or download anything to the device. Read privacy policies before agreeing to anything. Don't share your location, and use parental controls.