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Kids and online advertising: How to protect your children on the internet

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A simple anti-adverstalking strategy to protect guard your kids from spying eyes


Websites are constantly tracking the Internet usage of your kids, collecting data on where they go and what they like. Brands then use this valuable intel, crafting messages to excite their ‘I need, I want’ centre of their brains.

If this is a concern of yours, you’re not alone. The Pew Research Center found that 81 per cent of parents of online teens are “concerned about how much information advertisers can learn from their children’s online behaviour.”

Stay a step ahead with the anti-advertstalking strategy below.

We advise a simple yet effective combination of Internet security and parental control software intermixed with three effective steps.

The best way to protect your kids from the web-page cookie monster

Websites store text files – aka cookies – on your child’s computer browser, every time she pays a visit to a URL.

These files document browsing history and behaviour, providing valuable information to advertisers who follow your children from site to site and game to game, reminding them that Sugar Go-Go Blasters are the sugariest.

The first and easiest way you can protect your child from third-party ad tracking software is to use a comprehensive antivirus software program.

Internet security stops online data gathering in two crucial ways:

  1.  It detects and removes the bad cookies that track your child’s online behaviour.
  2.  It blocks spyware from infecting your computer should he click a fake ad, dangerous link or phony instant

message that exists solely for illegal data recon. (By the way: Macs are definitely not immune to online attacks either and benefit from having antispyware solutions installed.)

Antivirus software provides unrivalled protection for digitally curious family members who, unable to spot dodgy spam and scams, click before thinking.

Installing parental control software is a smart move

While you should never solely rely on internet monitoring software, using such a tool makes sense when taking a multi-level approach to safeguarding your kid’s online privacy.

The best parental control tools out there will give you detailed information on all of your children’s digital comings and goings. You’ll know:

  • What they’re doing across the major social networks
  • The contents of their instant messages
  • Which videos and photos they’re viewing and posting
  • Keywords and phrases they’re searching

Additionally, you’ll be able control the private info they share, setup online time limits and customize appropriate settings based on each child’s age. (If you’re looking for additional privacy support, try the 4.5-star-rated Privacy Scanner for Facebook app that will identify risky settings and control who can see your info.)

As frustrating as it is to not be present for every move your child makes online, the reality is that you can’t be 20 places at once. It just makes sense to use an internet security tool that can be your eyes and ears when you’re away.

3 additional steps that protect your child from online advertisers

Regularly delete or disable the cookies yourself: Depending on the browser your little one uses, you can go into the Preferences, Options or Settings to turn off the tracking data.

But remember: Not all cookies are bad for you...

There are good cookies that make your online life easier. They allow a website to remember you, removing the need to login every time you visit. Just another reason to use good quality computer protection that immediately and accurately sniffs out which cookies need to go.

Use the Network Advertising Initiative’s (NAI) opt-out tool: The NAI is an organisation that supports online advertising self-regulation. Through this tool, you can disallow its member companies from sending targeted ads to your child.

Consider a kid-safe browser: Internet content filtering is helpful, but it’s mainly appropriate for younger ages. Kids with an ounce of tech savvy and perhaps more (ahem) mature tastes can easily bypass filers. They can turn to free software services like Tor that would prevent you from tracking their browsing habits.

Similar to parental control software, a child-safe web browser shouldn’t be used on its own. Filters aren’t foolproof and should be considered just one of several arrows in your digital-safety quiver.

Related reading: General Internet Safety Tips for Families (PDF)

Why online advertisers target your kids

Factors like double-income households, smaller families and parents waiting until they’re older to start families point to a higher level of disposable income. Which translates into today’s children holding unprecedented buying power.

Brands capitalize on the situation by installing tracking tools on kid-friendly sites, relying on children to hound their parents until they get what they want.

And as tech-savvy as your young children are, they could have difficulty spotting brands that are tracking – and manipulating – their online behaviour.

This is where you, the diligent parent, make a graceful entrance with the anti-adverstalking strategy above. By using the right internet security and taking a couple extra precautionary steps, you can teach your little one a thing or two about this thing called technology.

Looking for more information on child online safety or have a few tips you’d like to share? Chat with us on Facebook or browse our Internet Safety for Kids library.

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