The World Wide Web (WWW) might not have been around when we were growing up, but it’s guaranteed to be an incredibly important part of your child’s life as they do. It’s a wonderful tool to help them socialize, learn, play and used in the right way it can even bring families together. But before all that, you need to establish some “rules of the road” with your kids to make sure they can get the most out of the internet, whilst staying safe and secure online.
With cyber an increasingly important part of all of our lives, it pays to have that sometimes difficult conversation as soon as you can. Here’s how.
Threats are everywhere
U.S. households are filled with more devices than ever before. Recent research conducted by Trend Micro found that nearly 30 percent have three or more smartphones, around a third have two or more tablets and close to half have two or more computers in their household. These are your gateway to the internet. But they can also be a doorway for malicious attackers to enter your virtual world, and that of your children.
Why is this important? Because you are ultimately responsible for your child’s safety online, just as you are in the real world. And those cyber threats aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we found that two-thirds (65 percent) of American families have had their home PCs infected with a virus or piece of malware. Over a third (36 percent) have lost files or had them damaged, and 13 percent have had passwords stolen. The repercussions are potentially serious, ranging from identity and financial fraud to ransomware which can lock the entire family out of their devices and render all your personal data useless.
What’s more, there are specific online threats to children to be mindful of. Over a third (34 percent) of U.S. respondents claimed their children have viewed inappropriate content online. And 8 percent said they kids had suffered at the hands of cyberbullies. Unfortunately, bullying is as old as mankind, but in the cyber world taunts and threats can be far worse as the offenders feel they are hidden by a blanket of online anonymity. That 8 percent figure is likely to be far higher in reality, as many victims will choose not to report cyberbullying.
Having the talk
So what do parents do? It can often be difficult knowing where to start, especially if mums and dads also have their own learning journey to go on. Our research found that over a third (36 percent) of U.S. adults still don’t know what ransomware means, for example.
Here are some pointers on areas to cover:
Malware and other bad stuff: Explain to your kids the dangers of clicking on links and opening attachments in unsolicited emails. And of clicking links in social media messages and posts – even if they appear to come from a ‘friend.’ Cybercriminals are past masters of disguise, so users should be cautious at all times online, even when clicking on links in search results, which can often be boobytrapped by hackers.
Apps and web content: Use web filters to restrict access to adult content in the home and on your kids’ devices. And set up a password to control app downloads. But most importantly, tell your kids why you’ve done this.
Ads and offers: This is another area to urge caution on. Scams and information-stealing malware often hide in eye-catching online offers. Teach your kids that if a claim is too good to be true, it usually is.
Privacy settings: Review and set privacy controls at a device, browser, site and app level to ensure you’re not oversharing online. Do this as a family to teach the value of privacy to your kids.
Online versus offline: A final key point to get across to your kids is that nothing is ever truly private online. Encourage them to think twice about what they post and share and not to say anything in the cyber world that they wouldn’t be comfortable saying face-to-face.
Trend Micro’s long-running Internet Safety for Kids & Families initiative was created to offer support and advice on these topics and much more, so check out our site. There’s also value in chatting to other parents about these issues. Sharing and learning from each other can help a great deal.
Remember: this is not a one-off thing – it’s an ongoing process that will require many tweaks and changes as your kids grow and you learn what works and what doesn’t. But stay honest and transparent, and keep the communication channels with your kids open at all times, and you won’t go far wrong.