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Safer Internet Day: Keeping your child safe online

Tue, Feb. 6, 2018
CAIRO – 6 February 2018: Between the rise of internet penetration and the pike in children’s online presence, there is an urgent need for parents to keep their children safe online. Here are the top ways of keeping your children safe online.

Start discussing online safety at an early age

According to David Emm, the senior security researcher at internet security company Kaspersky Lab, one of the key ways to ensure your children’s safety online is by discussing online safety with them as soon as they start using the internet. Emm assures that making your children aware of what could be out there gives them a better opportunity to evaluate content well, meaning they are less likely to fall prey for the hurtful, damaging content out there.

In a similar vein, Michai Shulman, CTO of network security firm Imperva, suggests that there is a need to teach children to be aware of the “strangers bearing gifts.” In an interview with The Guardian, Shulman expressed his deep concern about children’s vulnerability to cyber attacks.

“My basic belief is that adults have proven once and again vulnerable to cyber attacks and therefore we cannot expect children to be any better – especially given that their sense of curiosity is far more developed and their sense of caution is far less mature.”

Teach them how to behave online

Shulman explained that he has explained to his children that they should not behave online any differently than they do in the real world. The internet expert also explained to his children “about hackers being a type of criminal that breaks into your house through the computer rather than through the window.” Using this analogy makes it easier for them to understand, Shulman explained.

“I also teach them to beware of strangers bearing gifts much like they should in the physical world. For example, I don’t allow my children to open a mail package if they don’t know who sent it (or got my permission to do so) – much the same way, I don’t allow them to open unsolicited email attachments.”

Similarly, Emm suggests that perhaps using the computer with their parents first makes children able to assess content better and offers both parents and children a chance to discuss the things that are there to protect us, like passwords, and how they should not share them with anyone. When it comes time for them to have a little more privacy, Emm suggests that parents should help their children “create a sensible password and explain why they should use different passwords for each account and the possible consequences of not doing so.”

Be careful of what you say online or post

David Robinson, chief security officer at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, perfectly summed up this point to The Guardian, “Once you’ve written something, you can’t delete it.”

“The Internet is a fantastic place,” explained Robinson, “but you have to be careful what you do and say when you are there. Don’t say things which you wouldn’t talk about in conversations with your family, think about what you do and say, you may well regret what you do by hurting someone or being hurt yourself.”

Robinson explains that it is important to caution your children against writing things online because they may not be able to delete them later on. It is true that Google in Europe has blessed internet users with the right to be forgotten, however, this right does not apply everywhere. Something one posts today could possibly harm them or their loved ones years on. “If what you do or say is controversial it will be copied many times and will always come back and bite you, even later inlife when you apply to go to college, university or even a job.”

In an important message to all internet users, Robinson stresses that children should always ask for help when they are uncertain. “Don’t be frightened to ask for help either; there are lots of places and people who can show you what to do and how to behave such as Get Safe On-line, friends and teachers.”

Previously, Chris Hoff, vice president of strategic planning and security at Juniper Networks, has also spoken out about the permanency of things posted or said online.

Monitor their usage

Samantha Humphries-Swift, product manager at cyber security firm McAfee Labs, stresses the importance of educating children“early and often.”

Involvement is everything for Humphries-Swift. In an interview with The Guardian, she spoke about how she monitors the sites that her daughter uses and vets all the applications she downloads personally. “This way, I can keep an eye on security settings and make a judgement on whether I think it’s safe and appropriate for her to use.”

“Communication is key – I like to be open, approachable and understanding about what my daughter is getting up to online. This way it makes it easier for her to come to me with any problems she’s experiencing online, and she’s happy to ask for advice,” she continued.

The McAfee Labs professional also stressed the importance for parents to take a look at resources, online or otherwise, available out there for parents to support their children against all harms online.

Similarly, Tracy Hulver, senior identity specialist for telecom firm Verizon, has expressed his concern regarding people trying to “contact kids by masking as people they are not and ‘infiltrating’ the child’s ‘inner circle’.”

As a parent, she believes that it is your role to monitor your kids and evaluate the people they connect with online. “Ask to see [your child’s] mobile devices periodically. Some children, especially the older they get, will not want Mom and Dad looking at their messages to their friends and that’s OK if the parent doesn’t want to do that. … But if nothing else, look to see what apps are installed, take a mental inventory, and if the parent is not familiar with the app, go online and do investigation. That way you at least know the types of social media services your child is using and to the point earlier, you should at least sign up for that service to see what it’s all about.”

These methods combined ensure that children will be able to stay safe online, protecting them against possible cyber attacks and increasing their awareness of the dangers out there.

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