During the pandemic, the cyber world replaced the real world for many children who were locked down at home. They may have become very adept at navigating the internet as a result, but the experience has also increased their exposure to many risks.

By Doros Hadjizenonos, regional sales director: SADC at Fortinet

Safer Internet Day serves as a reminder that the online space brings with it numerous real-world risks to children. It’s crucial that parents, caregivers, educators and society as a whole make every effort to reduce their exposure.


What is Safer Internet Day?

Held annually in early February, the 19th Safer Internet Day will be observed on 8 February 2022. This global event is coordinated by the Insafe/INHOPE Network in Brussels with the European Commission’s support.

With the theme “Together for a better internet”, the day calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people.

In South Africa, Safer Internet Day activities are driven by the FPB (Film and Publication Board) in line with its role of protecting children from harmful content.


What are the risks?

Anyone using the internet could be at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrimes, including identity theft, financial theft, intellectual property violations, malware, and malicious social engineering.

Children are more vulnerable than adults, and may be more likely to fall victim to social engineering and cyber bullying. And with children now using devices and connections shared by work-from-home parents, they can also serve as a gateway to their parents’ data and work networks.


Safer Internet Tips

Safer Internet Day provides an opportunity to reflect on your internet usage and safety practices. These should include:

  • Safer access – Establish clear online rules for children to follow. This could include creating lists of approved websites and applications or requiring parental approval for certain activities.
  • Stronger passwords – Ensure that everyone in the family understands the importance of strong passwords and how to create them. Best practices include not sharing passwords with anyone, making a different password for each account, avoiding common phrases and including numbers and special characters.
  • Physical safety – Teach your children to keep their personally identifiable information (PII) private online by encouraging them not to share their real names with strangers or give out information about their school or where they live. Know who your children are talking to online, and make sure they know they should never meet up in person with someone they met online.
  • Increase awareness – Talk to your family about how to spot unauthentic sources and potential scams. Discuss what phishing attempts are and how to identify them. Make it clear that no one should click on a suspicious link or open unexpected attachments.
  • Be available – Encourage children to come to a trusted adult if they are unsure about something they find on the internet or have concerns about a particular website or interaction.
  • Be proactive about potential threats – Review apps that you and your family use, leverage VPN technology in order to enhance security when browsing on public networks. Install proper anti-virus software and other security features such as parental controls on your devices to prevent threats.