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Is Zoom Safe for Kids?


From the very first day of the pandemic, we have been inundated with Zoom.  In a few short months, Zoom has made it into the vernacular, and the name has already become more than a company, it has become a noun and verb unto itself. How many times over the last few months, have you said, “let’s jump on a Zoom call”?  You might not even be using Zoom, but rather one of the many other video conference software packages.  It does not matter.  We are going to Zoom. While most people are using Zoom for work and school, Zoom is also being used for other activities as well.  Doctors are having tele-visits with people.  Job interviews are taking place online.  Summer camps have moved to virtual camps online.  So many people have become dependent on Zoom and video conferencing in general. Organizations that usually meet regularly but cannot have moved their meetings to Zoom.  Fraternal organizations, Scouting, and even knitting circles have moved to online meetings.  The age range of people who have at least one scheduled Zoom meeting per week goes from kids of single-digit ages straight though our grandparents and great-grandparents in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.  For some, it is their only way to see the grandkids.  For some, it is their only interaction with the outside world. At a time like this where in-person meetings are difficult, or even illegal, video conferences have been a real lifesaver. The big question we are asked is, “Is Zoom safe for me, my elderly parents, and my kids?” Like anything else, there are risks.  This is especially true in the online world where people are continually trying to hack into systems, steal personal information, and even lure unsuspecting people into virtual or even a real trap. With Zoom, Google Meet, or anything else, you have to be careful about how you have things set up, what you say and what information you provide.

THE INTERNET IS FOREVER

With many of these video conferences, the moderator has the ability to record the session.  You have no way of knowing you are being recorded.  Anything you say or do could be recorded, and if something embarrassing gets passed through, you may be subject to consequences from your job, legal authorities, or you maybe have a very embarrassing moment become viral and live on forever.

DO NOT SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION

As with anything else in the online world, do not share any personal or identifiable information with people.  The risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is genuine and you need to protect yourself from those that would take advantage of you.

DO NOT ACCEPT MEETING LINKS FROM PEOPLE YOU DO NOT KNOW

Spam is prevalent with email and other video conference apps like Skype.  Zoom is not immune from spammers and those trying to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.  If you get an invite from someone you do not know, delete it.

CHECK-IN ON YOUR KIDS REGULARLY

Schools and other organizations like Scouting have moved to Zoom to get work done.  Many of these organizations have professional Zoom accounts, so they are password protected and encrypted.  As a parent, before you accept meetings for your kids, check to make sure that Zoom meetings are coming from a professional, paid-for account.  Your account doesn’t need to be paid for, but the person who organized the meeting should have one.  These allow for higher levels of encryption, password protection, and safety protocols being in place.  Free accounts are not as secure and are much easier to hack in to.  Zoombombing is a real issue with people hacking into video calls and behaving inappropriately and even illegally. Most of the time, you do not have to sit with your kids the whole time they are on a video call.  Many organizations that deal with children have rules against one adult and one non-related child being on call alone, and you should never let your child in a one on one meeting without being there the whole time.  If it is a group meeting or a school session, you should check in on your kids regularly, so everyone at the meeting knows that your child is being checked on and watched. This way, your kids know they cannot do anything inappropriate, and others on the call know that your child is being watched and protected.

CHECK THE DEFAULT SETTINGS OF ANY APP YOU ARE USING

You may be surprised at how insecure the default settings are on many of these platforms.  Review the default settings and get to understand what each setting does and make sure your account is as secure as possible.  For free accounts, some settings may be unavailable, and you may consider a paid account to increase the security on your side.

LEAVE INFORMATION OUT OF YOUR PROFILE

When you complete your profile, they may ask for a lot of personal information.  Realize that all these fields are not required fields.  Generally, the only required field is your name, email address, and age.  If a field is not required, there is no reason to offer more information that is being asked for. If it weren’t for Zoom and other apps, most of our lives would have come to a screeching halt.  Even more, than they have.  If you have not checked into the settings of your Zoom account, you may want to do that.  If you have continuing to use Zoom and have not implemented these sorts of safety protocols for your children, you should consider it to keep them safe.

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