Keeping children safe on the internet has a direct correlation to the amount of time parents spend on it. More time equals more safe!
And with homeschooling, staving off boredom or just plain curiosity, keeping children safe on the internet is turning into a full-time job.
This increased use exponentially increases the risk that children will run into cybersecurity issues.
Sam Bocetta, our US correspondent and doting grandfather, has written a brief guide to keep children safe on the internet. Sam’s message – parents must do something and not treat a screen as a babysitter.
Keeping children safe on the internet during COVID-19
Children are far more vulnerable when it comes to cybersecurity issues – avoiding scams, hackers, or online predators. Why? Well, call it ‘general ignorance’ of these threats and the risks they pose. With children turning to online gadgets for their school education as well as to entertain themselves during the lockdown, they are more vulnerable than ever.
We will explain the simple steps and apps you can use to keep your children safe during the COVID-19 lockdown
Risks faced by children
The internet is a double-edged sword for children. It offers them countless opportunities for learning. But kids being kids it can educate them on just about anything else they desire! Stepping outside the safe boundaries presents them with opportunities for radicalisation, for explicit, adult, or violent content.
They are also naive about the ways of the world. Children overshare. It is all too easy to get them to reveal
- personal information (where they live, mum/dad’s name/occupation, pet names etc.)
- enter payment details, especially Pay Pal into unsecured websites
- download files containing malicious software.
The result – malware/adware/spyware infections, personal data exfiltration, loss of money to scams, ID Theft or taking over the camera!
It is essential to be sure that your children are safe online
And it is not just on their own or shared laptops, tablets or smartphones. The risks are not just theirs – but your entire household.
Not only should you take steps to monitor their activity. You should also use apps that can control where they go on the internet and what they try to access. In two words, ‘Parental Control’.
Set some standards, mum and dad!
It sure is tempting to treat an iPad or phone as a not so cheap babysitter or pacifier. But you could be starting habits that quickly become entrenched. What was that saying about putting a genie back in the bottle – can’t give on the one hand and take away on the other!
The best results will come from setting reasonable limits. A laptop is for schoolwork, a tablet for play and a smartphone for emergencies – rinse and repeat – and the message may just get through and stick after COVID.
Make the time to watch their activity. Yes, get off your collective bottoms and check their use (in the guise of caring). While older children may not like this (and depending on their age, may not need it) younger children do!
Back to those limits. How long is too long? Conversely how long is just right?
Forget COVID for a moment. How long should you insist your child study? Setting limits on play and on what they can do are appropriate. Helicopter parents have the right idea – work with the kids by observing to set mutually acceptable limits. Don’t hesitate to turn off the internet 30 minutes before meals so you can interact face-to-face – not over FaceTime.