With children relying on digital devices, social media and messaging services at an increasingly younger age, here’s a primer on how to better understand what you’re kids are doing online – and how to ensure that they’re safe while doing it.
As far as technology is concerned, kids have always been a step ahead of their parents.
While children have long been ahead of the digital curve, as kids become connected at a younger and younger age, the technological generational gap has grown into a full-blown chasm. For parents who want to keep their children safe from physical and online harm, the digital era has introduced a new set of risks that are beyond anything they could have imagined – from privacy concerns with apps like Snapchat or Kik, to vulnerabilities in devices like smartwatches, connected toys and even smart toothbrushes.
Even for the most technologically savvy parents, many children, and especially teens, are impressively adept at hiding their online activities. According to a recent survey, just 30 percent of teenagers ages 14 to 17 say that their parents are very aware of what they’re doing online. Tactics such as creating fake accounts (heard of a “finsta?”) or simply moving to channels where they know their parents will have a more difficult time tracking their activities help teens to live an online life away from their parents’ prying eyes.
So how do you safeguard your children from harm when you can barely keep track of the threats you’re up against? With digital advancements becoming more prevalent in our everyday lives – including the Internet of Things, machine learning, virtual reality and more – parents can take some simple steps to gain visibility and control over their family’s online activity, while also helping their children grow up as security-and privacy-conscious digital natives.
Educate yourself – and know what you don’t know
The first step for any parent to start managing their child’s internet habits is to understand what they are doing online and what potential risks these activities create. While it may seem impossible to keep up with every new app download or social network craze, understanding some big players in the digital world is a good place to start. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are currently the most popular platforms among teens. Facebook is currently on the decline, while Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit see less usage in this demographic.
Regardless of the platform, there are some threats to children that are constant across all social media channels. For example, unsolicited direct messages (DMs) from strangers can pose a privacy threat, and cybercriminals can use messaging services within these apps to send phishing links or malware while posing as a connection. Furthermore, cyberbullying on social media is a key threat facing internet-connected teens. Cyberbullying can take place publicly on social media, or directly through other popular messaging services such as Kik, WhatsApp, GroupMe or Whisper.
To stay up to date, tap into a variety of online resources available to educate yourself on the platforms that your children are using, as well as the different privacy and security threats posed by each service. If you’re already informed before talking to your child about their internet habits, you’ll be more likely to engage in a productive conversation rather than face a series of eye rolls.
Encourage open dialogue
With recent Kaspersky Lab research finding that just 37 percent of parents regularly talk to their children to teach them about online threats, encouraging open conversation can help build positive online habits. Ask your children what kinds of activities they are involved in online, including social media, and discuss with them the dangers of sharing personal data or talking to strangers. Have these conversations frequently, so you are up-to-date on your child’s online activities and your child knows that they can come to you if they encounter an online threat. The National Cybersecurity Alliance websites offers some great resources for educating your children on the basics of malware, cyber-bullying, social media privacy and more.
Leverage technology for support
Parental control software can provide an extra layer of security for children by allowing parents to block certain apps and websites, filter inappropriate content, monitor device usage and more. Some home security suites also come with parental control software embedded as part of the solution, so parents can block all their devices from malware, ransomware and other threats while simultaneously managing their child’s internet usage.
Set a precedent for cyber-safety
Showing your children what it means to be safe online can be a great way to instill good digital habits from a young age. Demonstrate that cybersecurity and online safety is a priority for your family by choosing strong passwords on all devices, regularly keeping software updated, avoiding risky apps and websites and installing security solutions across all your family’s devices. When helping your children to set up new online accounts or devices, help them review their privacy settings and ensure that cybersecurity and digital privacy is a part of all your discussions about internet usage.
Regardless of the age your children begin using devices and the internet, it is never too early to start getting yourself up to speed on the ever-changing digital world, so you’re prepared for any threats to come. Taking a proactive approach to understanding what’s going on behind the screens is essential for parents to ensure that they are doing everything possible to facilitate a safe, positive online experience for their children for many years to come.
About Brian Anderson
As vice president of consumer sales, Kaspersky Lab North America, Brian Anderson is responsible for leading the company’s digital transformation strategy, which includes setting sales strategies to maximize business to consumer business opportunities within the region. Brian brings nearly 25 years of technology, marketing and management experience to Kaspersky Lab. Prior to joining the company in 2017, he served as vice president of digital strategy and innovation at Avid Technology. He has also held leadership roles at Progress Software, Philips Electronics and ISOBAR, a global digital agency. Brian holds an MBA from Babson College and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University.