The Internet provides us useful knowledge for personal, social and economic development, and it is up to us to utilise our time on the worldwide web productively. However, it can also turn dangerous, especially for children and teens, with threats from cybercriminals, stalkers, social media posts and excessive gaming habits that could have severe, costly negative consequences.
Children may unknowingly expose information on their parents or families to online scammers, for example, by accidentally downloading malware (attached with free games) that could give cybercrooks access to their parent’s bank account or any other sensitive personally identifiable information that can be used for social engineering crimes.
Protecting children on the Internet is a matter of creating awareness and knowing the dangers and how to safeguard against cyber threats. There is a lot of cybersecurity software that protect against virus and malware and other technical threats, but the most important safety measure is open communication with your children and guiding them to good digital wellbeing.
Signs to Reset, Reconnect and Refocus while using the Internet:
• Did you see anything online that made you feel uncomfortable?
• Unknown people contact you online, but you don’t want them to?
• Unknown people being mean to your friend online?
• When is the right time to stop an online activity?
Things to consider for better use of technology:
• Treat everyone with respect whether online or off
• Consent is the same whether online or off
• Keep accounts private
• Stick to safe sites that are made for kids
• Don’t accept messages from strangers or friends of friends
• Never use a credit card or do any financial transactions online
• Don’t disclose information that is personally identifiable
Top five dangers to protect children from
It is causing cruelty to others by sending or posting harmful material using technological means such as social media, text messages, emails, chat rooms, discussion groups or websites.
(a) Bullying is widely used for teasing, spreading rumours online, sending unwanted messages and resorting to defamation. (b) It can happen anywhere and depends on the environment. (c) It is more targeted at youth.
Aftereffects include emotional distress, frustration, embarrassment, fear and depression, affected school work or job, violence, substance and smartphone abuse, suicide or running away from home.
Online predators are a real threat to children and teenagers. A cyber predator’s goal is to lure and manipulate a child’s belief system by posing themselves as if they care for the child along with his or her family. An Internet predator creates a fake online profile that emotionally replaces the trusted parent or partner in the child’s mind. The tragedy of Internet victims is that they are injured not only physically but also equally emotionally. Cyber predators create a feeling of guilt and shame, as in many instances, children have met their fake friend willfully.
Posting of private information, phishing (tricking children into downloading free games/software containing malicious malware) and posts that could haunt a child later in life are also some of the dangers. All children and parents must remember that thorough social profiling is done before a marriage is settled or before recruiting for a job. Even if a post isn’t public, there’s always a chance it is found and affects a marriage or a relationship.
Digital parenting to protect your child
Understand whether your network is securely conﬁgured. The parent should have full admin rights and should conﬁgure their children’s device. (a) Set time limits using screen-time agreement (on both smartphone and Internet) (b) Set parental control on media, games & applications. (c) Manage your child’s requests/expectations.
You can have daily/weekly reports on their activity, by turning ‘On’ daily/weekly reporting. Here you’ll be advised of (a) Screen Time App – If it’s an iOS Device. (b) Digital Wellbeing App – If it’s an Android device. (c) You can also use paid Child Monitoring Apps i.e. Justify, Net Nanny, Teen Angles, Weird Safety, Activity Logger, Spector Soft, eBlaster & Spy Agent. (c) One app that is mandated for any parent having teens/adolescents is “ReThink Words”: It provides an important opportunity for adolescents to change their minds and not post hurtful messages online.
You can go as far as to keep an eye on their purchases by (a) Adding money to your child’s bank account. (b) Removing options from payment accounts. (c) An overview of what they purchased.
Stay tuned to Cyber Talk for more on Internet ethics and digital wellness brought to you by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org
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