Over three in five children have access to the Internet, and they spend over 45 hours per week online. When a child is using their smartphone, tablet, or computer, there is extra risk. Children are innocent, highly curious, seek independence, and fear punishment. Mistakes happen to all of us, but children are more likely to take risks, more likely to be oblivious to the resultant error, or keep an error private because of fear of negative parental repercussions.
Limiting their online activity time – game playing for example – doesn’t mitigate the risks of children deleting a vital program file or visiting a malicious web page that infects their computer with a virus.
Impressionable children are more readily scammed than adults. Because the nature of the Internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick children.
The COPPA Act was passed by the Federal Government to protect children younger than 13 when online. It sets guidelines for businesses when gathering information from children over the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) administers COPPA and provides guidance for parents and children in their online activities – check out https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/kids-online for valuable resources.
Also concerning is the emergence of cyberbullying, affecting children who use email, text and social media. Over 50% of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, with the same number having engaged in cyberbullying. Another 33% of adolescents have received online threats. Inappropriate content is also readily available to minors which can have traumatic effects.
Following are some suggested actions for concerned parents:
● Be aware and involved
● Keep child’s computer in a shared area
● Set rules and boundaries
● Teach your children
● Encourage your local schools to teach digital competence
● Monitor computer activity
● Exercise smart toy oversight
● Ensure contact with your child via smartphone
● Set up parental controls for device operation. These are available through your operating system security options, add-on security software, and various web browsers
● Mitigate cyberbullying – If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, preserve any evidence and report it to your local police. A valuable resource on this specific topic (and general parental guidance) may be found at https://saferkidsonline.eset.com/en-us .
In summary, here is what parents and teachers should share with their children if they are using the Internet and/or cyberbullied:
FOR FURTHER READING:
CyberGuardian: a SecureTheVillage Guide for Residents is available on Amazon.
A complete Security Checklist is available: https://www.nerdsiview.com/security-checklist-2/
References for Village Residents are available at SECURE THE VILLAGE: https://securethevillage.org/residents