By Tony Larks, Vice President, Global Consumer Marketing, Trend Micro
Well, after a fun-filled Olympic summer, September has finally arrived. No doubt to the relief of stressed-out parents everywhere, their beloved little ones are back to school at last. While that means they will be out of your hair after nearly two months at home, dossing about and exhausting every trick in your summer holiday emergency activities for kids handbook, it may also trigger a slight twinge of concern. When it comes to child safety these days, we not only have to think about the physical world but all things digital, too.
There’s no doubt that the Internet has changed the lives of our kids. It might even have made the endless summer holidays a bit more bearable. But just as it can help with homework, provide hours of video game playing fun and the chance to share photos, videos and updates with friends, there are some obvious and not-so-obvious dangers.
Kids are so online savvy these days that there’s always a concern they have found a way of accessing inappropriate or illegal digital content. Likewise, there’s always the risk that they may be online talking to someone they shouldn’t, or that they’ve gotten mixed up in cyberbullying – whether on the receiving end or as perpetrator. And that’s all without even starting on the whole gamut of phishing and other data-stealing online scams out there to worry about.
A few good tips
A good approach to your child’s online safety probably includes a blend of technical and non-technical measures. The Internet is not intrinsically evil – the problems found on it were around long before the web was – so it’s important to stay calm, be as rational as possible and have an honest dialogue with your kids.
Set clear rules on what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behaviour online. People, and especially children, often do more outrageous or provocative things on the web than they would ever try in the real world. Equally, make sure they can trust you enough to speak up if they ever get themselves into trouble, or a situation they feel uncomfortable with, online.
Tools like Trend Micro Online Guardian, or functionality in the latest version of Titanium, are there to help you regulate what your child can access at home, and allow you to monitor their web history, outgoing data and IM chats, for example. There’s also a wealth of information on Trend Micro’s site as well as on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/safety), Twitter (https://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics), and others. It’s a good idea to get to know the websites and services your kids spend most time using, so you’ve a better idea of what goes on and where any possible dangers lie.
Installing Trend Micro on a shared family PC at home is one thing, of course, but now they’re back to school there are opportunities for mischief-making around every corner. That’s why it’s important to keep the open dialogue going and do all you can to foster that level of trust. The Internet is a wonderland for our kids, so let’s make sure they can enjoy it safely and responsibly.
Check out the UK version of “The Talk – How to Talk to Children about Online Safety(PDF).”
Tony Larks works for Trend Micro and is guest blogging for the Fearless Web. The opinions expressed here are his own.