More than a quarter (27 per cent) of parents have said via a study put together by Kaspersky Lab, that they ‘think’ their children have been exposed to online risks, such as accessing inappropriate content or cyber bullying in the past 12 months. Why ‘think’ ?
It is time to encourage open communication with our children – talk to them daily about their internet usage – what they have been doing, what they have seen? Use of the internet needs to be viewed as a point for conversation and not something you do in isolation. Dealing with issues, like cyber bullying or inappropriate images should be talked through with a trusted adult. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are making children uncomfortable, and you will only know this if you keep talking.
Despite this research one in five parents (22 per cent) takes no action to govern their children’s online activity – whether on the home computer or mobile devices.
Regardless of how their children are accessing the internet, parents must remain vigilant, supervise their internet use and consider parental control technologies. However, as a parent myself, I find these statistics particularly worrying when you consider the increasing number of children using connected smartphones today. After all, when children use mobile devices to access the web, they are using the same internet, with the same risks – yet parents are often not as aware of the dangers.
The study also found that 18 per cent of parents had lost money or data from their personal device as a result of their child’s unmonitored access.
There is a common misconception that smartphones and tablets don’t need the same level of protection as a PC, but with such a high percentage of parents not having a clear view of their children’s online activity, this way of thinking needs to change. The internet is an incredible resource, both for social use and in an educational capacity. But in the same way as we would teach our children to cross the road safely, we must teach them to be aware of, and respect, the dangers of the internet. Just because a threat is out of sight, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it front of mind.
David Emm from Kaspersky Lab offers the following tips to stay safe online:
1. Both Android smartphones and iPhones come with in-built parental controls – when purchasing a smartphone, ask the sales assistants to demonstrate these features. They have policies in place and a responsibility to make parents aware of these. By creating a demand, it is more likely they will let other parents know.
2. Apply settings that prevent in-app purchases to save hefty bills should children stumble across a game with expensive add-ons.
3. Install security software – these providers will offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, for example, adult images and senders of nuisance SMS messages.
4. Encourage children to talk about their online experience and in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Open a channel of communication so they feel they can discuss all areas of their online life without fear of judgement or reprimand.
5. Protecting children from cyber bullies is especially challenging with smartphones as they can be targeted in so many ways, especially out of view of their parents.
6. There are sites that can help and advise parents and children on how to manage online threats. Take a look at http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/.