Protect Your Kids' Online Privacy
Protect Your Kids' Online Privacy

by Nicholas Pell

Every time your kids use the Internet, they're leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs that advertisers and future employers would love to pick up. What's more, social media activity can haunt them for years. But kids might not be thinking ahead -- or have the media savvy to know when they're being marketed to.

The best policy is to be proactive about protecting your kids when they use the Internet and help them understand how to protect their online privacy. Here are four ways you can keep your kids' privacy and identity safe while they use the Internet.

1. Clean up Those Tracking Cookies

One of the ways that kids (and everyone else) are tracked is through the use of cookies. Cookies are small files downloaded through your browser just about every time you visit a website. They track your movement across the Internet, telling advertisers your interests and shopping habits based on the sites you visit. Cookies will generally affect what advertisements your kids see -- and perhaps click -- as they surf. There are a number of browser plug-ins that help you clean up and eliminate advertising cookies. Look through the app and extension store for the browser that you use.

2. Keep Their Online and Offline Lives Separate

One way to help keep your kids' privacy safe is to have them set up social media accounts with alternate names. You can keep it simple: Just use their first name as their first name and their middle name as a last name. Or help them come up with a pseudonym that's recognizable to their friends but keeps them separated from their real names.

3. Encourage Discretion With Photos

Your kids' photos might stay online for a very, very long time. That means photos kids once thought were funny could be damaging to their reputation in the future. One way to deal with this is to ban kids from posting pictures entirely -- but that's unlikely to work in a world where friends can post and tag photos of your kids. At the very least, explain the consequences of photos that will never go away. Consider asking your child to agree to never post a photo anywhere without your approval, at least until they reach a level of maturity at which you feel comfortable. Don't let your kids tag other people in photos, and tell your kids to ask their friends to follow the same policy.

4. Have 'The Talk' About Online Privacy

Let your kids know that online privacy is a serious concern, especially for young people. Tell them never to email anyone personal information, not to click links that come from unknown sources or look suspicious, and to tell you anytime they sign up for something online that requires them to give away any personal information.

Parenting: Ways to Protect Your Kids' Online Privacy