Parenting, as we know it, is evolving in this modern, digital age. Mothers and fathers have traditionally warned their children of the physical dangers, be they pickpockets on the street or strangers in the park. Today, however parents are facing an altogether different challenge – keeping their children safe online, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET.
Children of all ages use the internet on a daily basis, for everything from Facebook and Instagram, to shopping, gaming and streaming the latest TV shows. As a result, youngsters are just as likely to suffer from cyberbullying as bullying, or from digital fraud as a pickpocket on the street.
Without the engagement of parents, children may find themselves more at risk of online dangers – they simply do not have the skills or knowledge that they need.
There is clearly a disconnect between parents and their children about internet safety. While many parents are worried about what their children can access online, only a few have taken steps to safeguard their child’s online experience through the use of security software and parental controls on mobile devices.
In spite of many parents feeling ill-equipped or uneasy about explaining online safety, there really is not any need to be. Parents can, in fact, do a lot to help their children understand the risks, and a lot of this is very straightforward.
For example, parents should encourage their children to use strong passwords and/or a password manager and to avoid clicking on suspicious links sent on social media or via email.
Youngsters should also be advised to be wary of imputing sensitive information on unknown web sites, which could be fake pages set up with cybercriminals.
Furthermore, parents should explain the disadvantages of posting “too much” personal information on social networking sites (as this can be used by attackers for targeted phishing campaigns).
Children that are victims of cyberbullying should hold onto the abusive messages they have received in order to share these with their family, school and – if necessary child support groups and the police. They should use the ‘block user’ and ‘report user’ options on Facebook and Twitter.
If parents want to take things a step further, they can ensure that their child’s computer has an up-to-date security solution, runs the latest software and backs up personal files to a hard disk drive or a secure cloud service provider.
All of the above is just the tip of the iceberg and when it comes to educating children on online safety there is so much more parents can do. Some intrepid moms and dads have their children using VPNs (virtual private networks), while others have urged their youngsters to use HTTPs web sites for encrypted web communication.
And, who knows, through dialogue that parents have with their children, they may find that their advice strikes a “security chord”. Not only do they discover that there is an interest in this area, but talent too.
But, to get there, parents needs to be active in broaching online safety with their children. Starting the conversation is the hardest part; but after breaking down this barrier, everything else is an opportunity.