This introductory guide to online safety offers parents some useful security tips on how to protect their children.
Technology seems to have come a long way since the turn of the century. Back then, most of us had sturdy, box-like desktops with a connection to the internet that was sluggishly slow by today’s standards. Social networks were still in their infancy, online banking didn’t exist and no one had even heard of apps.
Fast-forward to the present and it’s an entirely different picture – 2015 is positively futuristic by 2000’s standards. Desktops are sleek, broadband is superfast, social media has become part of the very fabric of life and there is an app for everything. And yes, online banking is a matter of fact.
For many adults, all this change has largely taken place in the background of their busy lives. And while they may well have equipped themselves with the latest tech, their understanding of all things digital isn’t as comprehensive as they would like – 20 percent of UK adults, for example, are lacking in basic online skills.
This is troublesome for parents, whose children are increasingly being introduced to technology and the internet from an earlier age – they feel unsure about what to do, where to go and about how best to deal with this new reality.
As recent ESET research highlights, while the majority (88 percent) of mums and dads worry about what their kids may be able to access online, many have yet to take any meaningful steps to boost security.
So, with that in mind, let’s start small and help you fill in those knowledge gaps. This introductory guide will offers some useful security tips to get you thinking and inspired about online safety. It’s never too late to learn about this very important topic.
- Familiarize yourself with the internet and related technology
No one expects you to have the kind of knowledge and expertise to rival these brilliant minds, far from it. However, it’s important to know what you’re talking about, to understand the tools and websites that are popular with children of all ages and have some understanding of the risks of being online.
Why so? Well, you’re effectively in the dark about the pros and cons of technology and the web if you have no basic grasp about this area. Whether it’s reading about the signs of online abuse, learning about the threat posed to gamers or familiarizing yourself with social networks that are popular with teens, every nugget of information helps.
- Introduce technology and online safety as early as possible
Some parents may be cautious about introducing technology and even the web from an early age, but so long as it is done in a controlled manner, you can feel confident about what your kids are seeing and doing.
David Harley, a senior research fellow at ESET, has suggested that this important task is so vital that it should be introduced “way before nursery”. As he noted back in 2013:
“While I don’t advocate giving babes in arms immediate and unrestricted access to the cyberfrontier, it’s worth trying to give children a gentle, guided introduction: encourage them to try things, ask questions, and engage in constructive dialogue.”
- Keep having a conversation about social media and privacy
This is perhaps one of the most challenging areas to manage in terms of balancing best practice and being overbearing. In the end, it is up to every parent to work out what boundaries they feel comfortable with and ultimately play it by ear as their children grow up.
However, throughout their development, it is essential that you keep the social media conversation “active”. Stress the centrality of these networks in modern life (keeping in touch, sharing and learning) but also the dangers associated with them, such as solicitation from strangers and online predators.
Also, reinforce the importance of privacy from a safety point of view – in other words, be Share Aware, as the UK-based charity the NSPCC puts it. Let them know why sharing personal information should be limited on social networks because these details can easily be copied and further shared, even after the original post has been deleted.
- Make sure all your mobile devices are secure and protected
It used to be the case that the average family had one computer, a single static access point for connecting to the internet. That’s changed radically. From smartphones to tablets, laptops to computers, and Smart TVs to internet-connected games consoles, we now have numerous, web-friendly and portable devices at our disposal.
Given how difficult and impractical it is to always keep an eye on children at all times, there’s an even greater need for parents to feel confident that they can supervise their kids’ online activity even when they are away from home.
With parental control apps, for example, that’s possible. This technology allows mums and dads to “safeguard children on smartphones and tablets in this complex digital era”, while also preventing them from racking up an expensive bill with in-app purchases!
What makes this kind of security very effective is its adaptability – parents can alter settings based on their child’s age, as a case in point. Together, you and your youngsters can agree on what’s best in terms of settings. Not only is this empowering for them, for you it leaves you feel comfortable about the freedom you’ve given them.
Just the tip of the iceberg
We hope that the four security tips outlined above have you feeling more confident, engaged and enthusiastic about learning about internet security and just how important online safety is for the wellbeing of your children.
This is only just the tip of the iceberg, as there’s so much more you can do to ensure that your kids are successfully introduced to technology and the internet.
However, with this guide, you’ve made an important first step and set solid foundations upon which to develop your understanding of this ever-important subject matter. The world is becoming more digital by the day … it matters to be clued up.