Surfing and Separation — Protecting Your Kids’ Internet Privacy

The good news is the Ontario government gave schools 21,000 iPads with free wireless data plans when they closed their doors in March. The not-so-good news is your kids are at home 24/7. Who knows what they’re looking at now.

Way Too Much Information

Your life is a blizzard of emails, Facebook reads, LinkedIn posts (gotta get that job), Wayfair surfing and texting. Welcome to the club. Over 73% of Canadians are online three to fours daily. It’s way too much information. 

Your Kids May Be Addicted Too

If your kids can barely put their smartphone down long enough to eat, they’re probably as addicted as you are. Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax kids asked by digital and media literacy company MediaSmarts in 2019 say becoming an Internet addict is a nagging worry. Funnily enough, they’d rather talk face to face or use a pen and paper.

Faking ID or Ages Online

Nearly half of Canadian kids have used a fake identity online or pretended to be older than they are, according to MediaSmarts. Not surprisingly, the reasons they gave were: 

  • Play a joke (~30%)
  • Be mean without getting into trouble (10%)
  • Flirt online (13%).

Sounds like some adults you know.

Too Much Control Creeps Kids Out

You’re afraid your kids are on all the wrong sites. Pirated content and illegal sites are just so intriguing. Kids get it. But as they told MediaSmarts, your fear makes it hard for them to engage online or be creative. And schools that watch what kids are surfing creep them out, young people say. Taking away control over their cruising erodes their trust. Besides, where there’s a will, there’s a way to get around anti-surfing software. 

Too Intimate for Sharing

You’ve heard about sexting and revenge porn. So have your teens. Thirty per cent between 16 and 20 shared intimate images online. Most (two-thirds) know it’s illegal, even if they just send it to a friend. MediaSmart found youths believe the practice is okay or it’s the sender’s fault. 

How’s Your Internet Security Plan?

Even adults get lax about sharing too much online — 80% of Canadians are stressed about malware attacks. Your kids aren’t doing much better at protecting their privacy and personal info. Who can keep up with hacking and phishing anyway? Getting privacy or blocking software could be the best investment you and your kids make.

Who’s Listening In?

The FBI admitted in 2006 to using cell phone mics to listen in on the buzz around two New York mafia families. It’s true phone providers can remotely install software that turns your phone into a recording device, even when you’re not on it. Just go to Google if you want proof your most recent voice searches are being recorded. 

Ratting on You

More alarm bells: Silverpush got stopped in 2016 from grabbing audio tones from your TV to let your phone know what was on your set. How you use your connected mobile devices is useful to marketers because it paints a picture of your viewing, shopping and reading habits. That explains all those vexing Facebook ads.

Taking Back Internet Control

You can take back your privacy (sort of) in a few keystrokes:

  • Take the battery out of phones when they’re not in use. That prevents phones from recording and sending audio.
  • Lock up the router if your kids are too clever for their own good. Internet parental controls can be deleted just by hitting the reset button. While you’re at it, disable the Remote Administration via Wireless feature to stop wireless hacking. 
  • Turn off the router internet connection at bedtime. No after-hours cruising while you’re in bed. Your monsters can still use a neighbour’s Wi-Fi connection, but you can’t be everywhere.
  • Get off the Internet highway by setting parental control features on game consoles, iPads and smartphones. 
  • Stop Google from making audio recordings when it hears “Ok Google” on your Google Assistant. Go to Settings > Google > Search & Now > Voice and turning “Ok Google” off (thanks 
  • Turn on activity logging on wireless routers. It gives you a record of your kids’ (and your) smartphone, gaming and Internet activity.
  • Turn off Google’s habit of collecting everything your family ever searched at Select the gear icon at the top of the page and go to Settings > Google Search > Turn off. Click “delete” in the sentence “delete all past Google search activity”. Most search engines have similar features.

Getting Access to Passwords

Have you thought of asking? 41% of kids would share their passwords with their parents and 16% of teens share passwords with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Good to know, but don’t be alarmed if your teen values their privacy. Being alert while on the net is what matters.

What Parents Can Do About Sexting

If your teen has a “moral blind spot” about sharing sexts, click on There’s No Excuse at or The four video shorts and parent tip sheets take on the “everyone’s doing it” attitude behind cyber bullying by sexting.

Put Internet Supervision in Your Parenting Plan

Write online access into your parenting plan or separation agreement. Using your spouse’s child access order to protect your kids’ privacy is just another way of keeping tabs on where they are. 

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