Children today are amazingly advanced when it comes to technology. They are able to navigate tablets with ease—from flipping through photos to watching surprise egg videos on YouTube, kids have adapted to know exactly how to use your smartphone, tablet, or other electronic devices. In Figure 1, it is apparent that children’s competency levels in regards to tablet functions alone are extremely high—some of which they can do completely unassisted. With their high capability levels as well as the threats the internet poses to them, it is important to ensure they are using these devices safely.
As a parent, there are many conversations you’ll have with your child at some point in his or her life. And while some may be more uncomfortable than others, most all of these conversations are necessary and important to your child’s safety and overall well-being. One of the most important of these conversations, and one of the discussions that parents in general do not have much experience in delivering because of its newness, is on cybersecurity.
There are multiple topics of discussion surrounding cybersecurity safety because unfortunately, there are so many threats to people of all ages today. However, there are some key points to keep in mind when battling cybersecurity risks including device safety, web filtering and monitoring, as well as knowing about specific threats like online predators.
As mentioned above, toddlers and other children can navigate electronic devices with surprising ease. While this is incredible, kids do not necessarily know the threats that using these devices can pose and it is important that parents educate them and take action against these threats.
One way to combat this is by turning your devices into safe mode when children are using them. Most tablets and phones have a safe mode including Android and Apple, where you can restrict the apps, internet usage, and even length of time the device can be used in an attempt to help protect your child. By restricting what they have access to in the settings of a device, your children will be protected without you having to sit there and monitor their device usage in person. Parents have too much to juggle, and cannot always be right there with their child while he or she is using this type of device.
In addition to these measures, it is important for you to talk to your child about why they cannot access certain features on their devices. Explaining the reasons why something is not safe rather than just stating that it is in fact dangerous will help your child better understand the preventative actions you’ve taken as well as remind them to keep safety in mind when using electronic devices.
Web Filtering & Monitoring
Whether they are using tablets, phones, or some other devices, if your kids have access to the internet they are exposed to an unimaginable amount of threats. Malware and phishing are especially rampant cyber-threats for people of all ages and children often have a hard time deciphering between legitimate and fake links while online.
The internet in general is pretty scary and malicious for people of any age, let alone children. Merely misspelling a word can send you to a completely wrong address that you never intended on visiting. One way to help protect your children’s online usage is to set up parental controls through web filtering applications such as OpenDNS which gives you the ability to decide which sites your child can and cannot access. By taking this simple measure, you can stop your child from accessing websites that may have inappropriate or malicious information on them.
In addition to setting up filtering defenses, monitoring your child’s internet usage is important as well. For some children who are a little bit older, there are things like homework and social media that they use daily on the internet. But how do you know if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing while online?
One simple way is to check their internet history. While this is an effective way to see where your child has been looking online, there are some tech savvy teens and tweens that may be able to figure out how to clear their histories. In this case, you can also use a monitoring software such as SafetyWeb or SocialShield which will give you a detailed list of where your kids have gone while surfing the net.
Again, communication is key here. Talking your child about the dangers of going to unfamiliar sites as well as possibly letting them know you are monitoring their online activity will keep your child aware of their actions online and remind them of the safety threats that you are trying to protect them from.
Cyber experts tell their kids, in regards to social media security, that once they’ve posted something online, it can never truly be deleted. This helps to remind children to be careful about what they are saying. In the same vein, with regards to cyber-bullying and ‘trolling,’ they tell their children not to say anything online that they would not say face-to-face. Oftentimes, the somewhat anonymity of the internet can bring out the cruelest words from even the nicest people, so reminding your children that their words still have meaning even if they are posted online is a very important conversation to have.
Unfortunately, even with all of these defenses set in place, there are malicious online predators who are actively trying to get to children of all ages. Twenty-five percent of children online have been exposed to unwanted pornographic material and only 25% of children who are exposed to this type of material notify an adult about the situation.
While this is the scariest cyber-threat of them all that your children might face, this crime really only has one defense. Education. This is where the talking really needs to be serious because if predators can somehow get passed your defenses, your child needs to know how to deal with this. Let your child know that it is okay to talk to an adult about any online situation that makes them uncomfortable. In addition, make sure they know not to put out any of their important information online. This information, otherwise known as personally identifiable information, can lead these bad people directly to your child’s computer—or worse, straight to your home.
While there is no surefire way to make sure your child is safe from the bad guys on the internet, talking to them, setting up what defenses you can, and making sure that you all are keeping up to date on current threats can help to strengthen the open dialogue needed to keep families safe from the threats that the internet poses.
Hailey R. Carlson | Axiom Cyber Solutions | 9/1/2016