Living in a digital age has made it far more difficult to protect our homes and families from threats we cannot physically see. Technology is everywhere when our homes becomes smart homes and schools providing online platforms for education at an early age. Although it may seem that malware attacks and cybercrime live in the adult world, cyber thieves regularly target children and teens where they’re most active – chat rooms, social media, video streaming sites and online video games. Children are good targets because they may have high levels of trust in people and low levels of knowledge in cybersecurity. According to the department of Homeland Security, kids between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes per day online. Assuming a child sleeps eight hours a day, this means almost HALF their time awake is spent online! While the benefits are fantastic, there are great possible threats posed to children on the internet.
- Cyber Bullying
- Cyber Predators
- Identity Theft
When it comes to malware, viruses, social engineering, and phishing, children are a target and cyber criminals are going after as a result of their lack of caution when it comes to fan sites and advertisement enticements. By using social trends, products and games available for purchase, these leave a platform to ask for credit card information and leave the device susceptible to hacking and theft of personal information. It is important to have frequent conversations with children regarding these threats. It is beneficial to ask kids if they have noted any suspicious popups or questions on their tablets, or a home computer. . The greater awareness there is, the more cognizant kids will become.
Mobile devices are a little trickier, and the average age of a child in possession of a cellular phone are becoming younger. . There are security apps for mobile devices, but the best way to protect mobile devices is to use a PIN (personal identification number or password).
Video streaming sites also pose a serious threat as many videos do not actually contain the content as advertised. While your child can’t get a virus while watching a YouTube video, they may accidentally click on a link in the comments section, an advertisement or a video description and infect your device with malware. Additionally, there have been recent cyber predators falsely advertising a toy or children’s product to entice the child. Once the audience is captivated, a video encouraging the child to inflict self-harm or provide details in a form about where they live and attend school pops up. It is important to discuss with children what is suspicious activity when on an electronic device connected to the internet. There is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to cyber safety!
Be proactive and not reactive when it comes to digital security. You can do this with certain protective measures, which are easy to implement:
- Set up parental controls for Windows and Mac devices.
- Set up parental controls for web browsers. For Chrome, you can create a supervised profile to monitor and block any content they visit.
- Ensure passwords are protected and changed frequently and have your child share with you.
- Ensure antivirus protection is installed on all devices and the version is up to date.
- Check your phone’s settings. Smartphones have privacy and security settings that control access to specific information such as which apps can access your contacts, calendar or location and to help you keep information from prying eyes. Look at the settings carefully and change them if necessary.
- Use geolocation with care, certain apps are used maliciously and can track a child’s location for predatory use.
While we can’t eliminate risk all together, we can significantly reduce the risk posed by hackers and cyber criminals by being proactive.
By initiating these conversations early and educating children or teens basic tips, they’ll be set up for success and over time, can learn to utilize these regular safety habits. Similar to insurance, cybersecurity may be something you avoid thinking about until you need it. But when disaster happens, you’re always glad it’s there.