Would you know how to protect your child's data online?

It's easier than you might think for hackers to gather information about your children from their online presence...

When you think about it, would you really know how to protect your child's data online? Keeping children safe online is a worry that all parents have to deal with at some point, and keeping their privacy protected is another factor we need to consider when it comes to how they conduct themselves when using the internet. But how do we ensure their data is protected at all times?

Well, the absolute truth is that you can't - not completely, anyway. No matter what physical barriers you put in place to try and keep your children from compromising their personal data it is difficult to control their digital footprint as they get older. What you can do, however, is arm them with vital knowledge on how to stay safe on the net. We spoke to Rosalind Brookman who writes for Broadband Genie, to get some advice on steps that can help your children be safe online.

Get involved in Data Privacy Day

28th January is Data Privacy Day, a global endeavour aiming to increase people's knowledge of how to protect their information on the internet. The emphasis is on getting people around the world to encourage safe web use in schools, in their workplaces and among their friends and family, with the tagline 'Own your online presence'. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about online privacy as well as taking more control over your own online footprint.

Who has their hands on your details?

The recent hack on the website of electronic toy manufacturer VTech has brought the subject of children's online data privacy to the forefront. Parents register on the VTech site (using their name and home address amongst other details) and then add their child on to the account so that they can play the games featured there. Large quantities of data were stolen in this attack, meaning that their child's name, date of birth and home address may well now be in the public domain. This incident shows that even if you take great care to educate your children there are risks which are outside any parent's control.

Help your kids to be internet savvy

Alongside using the filters and parental controls from service providers and sites such as YouTube and Google, you should also ensure that your youngsters understand the risks of being online and the benefits of using privacy settings on their online accounts to limit who can see what they're posting.

Explain to them the importance of not giving out intimate information that could identify them in real life: i.e. not using their actual name in chat rooms and never sharing phone numbers or passwords.

It can be hard for teenagers to comprehend that the things they do now could potentially cause harm in their future but they should understand that there is the possibility of items they share, like photos, hanging around in cyberspace indefinitely. That means there's a huge likelihood of inappropriate images or comments popping back up at just the wrong moment.

It's not just children who need to be careful

You, as a parent, should also be thinking about the kind of stuff you post online. Keeping your social media accounts private is a good start as otherwise it's surprisingly easy to quickly uncover information. Posting a photo of your child on one site, a tweet mentioning their name on another and your address on your business website means it's possible to capture quite a lot of data without having to dig too hard. If you've also made a flippant comment about the amount of time they spend on a particular forum then you may have made it all too easy for somebody to target them.

Have you ever had problems with protecting your child's data online? Let us know in the comments below.

Rosie Conroy
Food Writer

Rosie is an experienced food and drinks journalist who has spent over a decade writing about restaurants, cookery, and foodie products. Previously Content Editor at Goodto.com and Digital Food Editor on Woman&Home, Rosie is well used to covering everything from food news through to taste tests. Now, as well as heading up the team at SquareMeal - the UK's leading guide to restaurants and bars - she also runs a wedding floristry business in Scotland called Lavender and Rose.