Online fraud is a growing problem that affects people of all ages, but children are particularly vulnerable. They may not have the same level of knowledge or experience as adults, and they may be more trusting of strangers online. With the increasing prevalance of social media as a part of the lives of children, it's important to teach children about online fraud so they can protect themselves while they're using their favorite apps.
Here are some tips on how to teach children about online fraud:
- Explain what online fraud is. Children may not understand what it means to be scammed or defrauded online, so it's important to explain it in simple terms. You can tell them that online fraud is when someone tries to trick them into giving away their personal information or money. Explain that it happens to a lot of people, even people who already know about online fraud.
- Discuss the different types of online fraud. Children should be aware of the ways others might try to get information from them. Depending on their access to the internet, it's important to explain how each form of fraud can come into their normal online behavior. If they have a phone, text scams are especially important to explain, as scam text messages can be sent from automated systems using phone lists. It's important to explain how these scams work and what to look out for.
- Teach children to be cautious of online offers that seem too good to be true. Many online scams seem too good to be true, offering free gift cards, discounts, or entry into a contest from their favorite YouTuber. Children should be taught to be skeptical of these offers and to feel comfortable to approach a parent or caregiver to help them learn how to verify the authenticity of any website or offer - before they provide any personal information or money.
- Discuss the importance of privacy. Children should be taught that they should never give out their personal information online without permission from a parent or caregiver. They should also be taught to be aware of who they're talking to online, and to be careful about what they share with strangers. Teach them about fake social media accounts posing to be celebrities or influencers they follow. It is common for fake accounts to send DMs to their "biggest fans" asking for help with something and requesting money or information.
- Show them how to report suspicious activity. Children should know how to report suspicious activity to parents, caregivers or the appropriate authorities. It might seem like a lot depending on their age, but this will allow them to take action in some manner if they ever encounter online fraud. Even if all they do is tell an adult - it is better than doing nothing at all.
- Be a good role model. Children learn from example, so it's important for parents and caregivers to be display good habits when it comes to online safety. Be sure to follow online safety guidelines yourself, and discuss your own online experiences with your children. Giving them information that is personal can help them identify that it isn't their fault if someone attempts a scam and that it is very common for anyone to be affected.
By teaching children about online fraud, you can help them stay safe while they're online. This conversation might not be one to have all at once, but keep an eye on their online habits and determine when additional information might be needed to keep them safe. Feel comfortable discussing the topic regularly, to not only show them the changes that happen and new scams that develop, but to ensure they know that fraud can happen at anytime. Keep the conversation open, and encourage them to come to you if they ever have any concerns or questions. Online safety is always about being educated about what attempts are being made to defraud people and children deserve to feel like they are capable of spotting fraud within their own online experiences.