The end of the summer can be a pretty stressful time for parents as well as their kids. Apart from the prospect of a return to school, there’s a whole checklist of items to get ready. Schoolbag? Check. Sports kit? Check. Smartphone? Check. Internet safety guide? Errr…
The truth is that today, there aren’t many kids on the school campus that don’t have a laptop or mobile device.
That’s a really positive development, ensuring that more students have access to fantastic internet-based learning opportunities.
But as responsible parents, we can’t just hand over the device and walk away. We need to teach our kids how to use it responsibly and ensure they’re protected from online threats.
A world of wonder – and danger
While the internet opens up a world of wonder and excitement for our children, there are obviously also dangers to address. Just as we’d teach them how to cross the road safely and why they shouldn’t talk to strangers, so we must do the same for their digital lives.
Threats are everywhere. In fact, smartphone attacks surged a massive 400% in 2016, according to Nokia figures. It takes just one misplaced click on an email link or attachment, or in an SMS/message, to trigger a malware download on an unprotected phone that could steal your child’s personal information—or run up huge bills by calling premium rate numbers. Phishing emails are particularly hard to spot, as they’re spoofed to appear as if they’ve been sent by a legitimate company or institution. Some malware can be triggered if your child merely visits a compromised website.
If they connect to your home network then any cyber-nasties they’ve picked up could soon be threatening your data and systems.
That’s not to mention the very specific dangers that your child might face, from inappropriate content to cyber-bullying and online grooming by cyber predators. Knowing where to start can be a daunting prospect, especially as you won’t see your kids for most of the day and many of the sites they’re on – from Facebook to Snapchat – are a minefield of potential cyber dangers.
Starting the conversation
The chances are your kids will be extremely comfortable around web-based technologies – after all, unlike most of us, they’ve grown up with it all their lives. But that doesn’t mean that they’re clued up about all the risks they face online. It’s up to you to have that discussion early on, setting guidelines and most importantly, explaining why you’re being protective. Parental controls can be a bitter pill for any young person to swallow, but they’re made slightly more palatable if you highlight the kind of dangers you’re trying to shield them from.
Here are some key areas to focus on:
Browsing the Web: Online searches are the gateway to the modern wonder of the internet, but they could also spell danger. Once again, talk to your child about why they should think first before clicking just any search result, as these can often be booby-trapped with malware or inappropriate content. Just as importantly, teach them about good sites that are fun and interesting to go to. If they’re busy with good sites, there’s less time for the bad ones.
Social networks: We’re all social creatures and learn this behaviour from an early age. So social networks are high on kids’ lists. Make sure their privacy and security settings are set to protect them. And again, teach them to think before they click on links posted online: even if a message appears to come from a friend, it may have been spoofed by a cybercriminal. You can have that conversation about social network security at the same time you educate them about cyber-bullying. Make sure they know you’re the friend they can rely on if they’re shamed online.
The latest ‘thing’: Special offers that seem too good to be true usually are, even if they’re communicated via legitimate online channels. It’s important to have a conversation with your kids about why there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and to beware of any strangers bearing gifts online. This can be part of the conversation about the dangers of “online grooming” and of meeting strangers offline. Internet dangers can quickly become real ones in the real world, if children are caught unaware.
App controls: Downloading mobile apps are a quick and easy way to get malware on your kid’s device. It goes without saying you should always buy only from the official app stores—and you can lock this functionality down with password-based controls, so you can vet any choices. Younger kids may need a “kid mode”—a friendly, protective environment that limits what they can see and use. Find out about Android’s Kid Mode here. And find out about locking down your kid’s iPad or iPhone here.
At Trend Micro, we take children’s online safety very seriously indeed, in fact our Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) initiative has been providing support and advice for parents, teachers, and young people for nearly a decade. Go there to get safety tips and free resources to help protect your kids.
Note too, that our Trend Micro Security products offer a range of features which parents can use to keep their children safe online. Our parental controls and browser protections can help you block dangerous and inappropriate sites, as well as bad files and apps, on your kids’ devices. Our privacy scanner helps minimize over-exposure in privacy settings on social networks. Our anti-malware and anti-phishing protection, along with real-time and on-demand security scans, can protect your kids’ devices against malware and ransomware. And Mobile Security includes a remote lock and wipe in the event of a lost or stolen device. To this we add a Secret Snap feature on Android, which takes a photo of the person who has found or stolen your device after a number of incorrect login attempts (you choose). Finally, we also recommend use of our Password Manager, across all platforms, to keep your child’s online credentials safe from phishers and hackers.
Parenting is stressful enough without the added dangers your child faces from cyberspace. For more advice and information on Trend Micro consumer products visit our Home Security website. And keep yourself up-to-date about security on our Breaking Security News and Intelligence website. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.