How safe is your online security? If your child uses your home computer or your device, your Internet safety has probably been compromised. A survey of 1,009 Singapore device users and parents aged 18 and above, found that three in 10 Singaporean parents’ online security has been put at risk by their child’s Internet activity.
Conducted between 25 August to 18 September last year, this was part of Norton’s Cybersecurity Insights Report produced by research firm Edelman Berland. It also found that the most common way children compromise their family’s cyber security is by downloading a virus. According to the report, a whopping 20 per cent of online crimes can be attributed to this high-risk action by kids.
But telling kids to stay off the web is impossible. So how can we ensure that our young ones stay safe while surfing? Gavin Lowth, Vice President of Norton Consumer & Small Business, Asia Pacific and Japan, shares these seven tips.
1. Have Open Dialogue about Internet Safety
Children are now introduced to smart devices with access to the Internet from a very young age. So the earlier parents start the conversation with them about online safety, the better. Have open and candid discussions regarding appropriate online behavior – for example, why personal information should not be shared online, and the risks of meeting strangers whom they have met online. These will help your children feel comfortable bringing up any concerns or doubts that they may have in future.
2. Educate Your Children about Internet Safety
Educate your kids about issues such as sexting, cyberbullying, online predators, and privacy. These will help children to understand the potential online dangers out there and hence reduce the chances of risky online behaviour.
Gabriel Suppiah, 45, an educator at Score Campus and father of 11-year-old Reuben and eight-year-old Keisha agrees that teaching children to identify cyberbullying and cyber scandals is important. “Parental locks should not be encouraged as that shows a lack of trust in our kids and it could possible lead to long-term problems in future,” he adds.
3. Be A Positive Role Model
It is often said that children learn from their parents’ actions. This applies to online access as well. For example, if parents limit the number of hours that children can spend their time online, they should reduce their time spent online as well. Use the offline time for family bonding instead – develop a hobby or learn a new skill together!
4. Don’t Be An Online Bully!
Norton’s study statistics have revealed that 46 per cent of Singaporean parents are worried that their children may be bullied online, while 38 per cent of them are concerned about their children being cyberbullies!
To create a safe online environment, be mindful of your child’s online actions. Often, children do not realise the severity and impact that their words have on others. Monitor your children’s online behavior and help them develop good online habits from young.
5. Spot The Warning Signs
Keep mobile and computer use in common areas at home, rather than in children’s rooms. This way, you can monitor your child’s online activities and intervene if anything suspicious crops up.
Children may not always share their problems with parents. Watch out for drastic changes in behavior – social withdrawal, extreme mood swings, or even bed-wetting. Subtle warning signs include children trying to keep out of sight while using their mobile phones or computers, and becoming jumpy when they get a text message.
“Using the Internet in a common space at home is a good way to begin safe online activity,” explains educator Gabriel. “Parents can also get their children to show them their devices at random intervals whenever they are online so as to keep a tab on what they are up to.” Gabriel also thinks that observing how long children spend online is crucial. He elaborates, “Not just how long, but also at what time of the day a child is surfing the net is important for parents to take note of.”
6. Talk about Social Media Safety
Social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular avenues for older children and youth to express themselves. However, parents should be firm and have the final say on when and whether these social accounts should be created at all.
With social media platforms, cybercriminals can easily reach out to children and coax them into giving up personal information or lure them outside for meet-ups. This is where education plays an important role in creating an awareness on online scams. In particular, cases where youths put themselves in a disadvantaged position by meeting these “online friends” outside are most worrying and need to be prevented.
Teacher Kathryn Liew, 41, whose son Brandon is 10, says that this is one of her biggest concerns as it can have severe consequences. “When us adults can be victims of online scams, it is all the more easier for children to fall prey to online predators,” she says. “I was almost the victim of an online scam myself late last year. An unidentified caller who contacted me on my landline told me that my desktop’s information was at risk and that I should follow a series of steps to see whether the “security number” he recited tallied with what I saw on my desktop screen. I grew suspicious when I was prompted to make a payment to have an antivirus software installed on my computer. I immediately hung up and did not answer any more calls from a foreign number.”
Kathryn explains that she used that close shave with a scammer as a stepping stone to explain the dangers lurking in the cyber world to her son. “I have since reminded Brandon to always check with me before disclosing any sort of personal details in online forms. I also only allow him to surf the net for a maximum of one hour on weekdays. I believe time spent on the Internet by kids should be limited.”
7. Explore Technology for Internet Safety
It is impossible for you to monitor your children’s online activities round the clock. Use technology! There are tools such as Norton Family, CyberPatrol, and ControlKey 2.0 that can help limit sites that children are able to access, or the type of information that they can share. Check them out!