When schools closed down amid the COVID-19 crisis, kids’ education and social lives shifted completely online almost overnight. Unfortunately, most platforms and apps aren’t designed with child safety and wellbeing in mind; in the past year, there has been a disturbing surge of online child sexual abuse reports. And even before the pandemic, staying online has been linked to cyber bullying, depression, and suicide among young children and teens.
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Unfortunately, not using technology is not an option anymore. Most schools host classes on digital platforms, and messaging applications are the only way children can talk to their friends. Organized crime, however, has been quick to take advantage of this situation, where children are unaware of online danger, and parents have limited control. Specialist criminal groups may perform phishing, malware, or hacking attacks on children to steal their personal information and profit from compromised data. Here are some ways to protect your children in an online setting:
Have an honest discussion about online predators and hackers
It may be tempting to put off the difficult conversation about online safety and hope your kids don’t come across any online threats, but children will have a better chance of knowing how to deal with potential dangers if they are aware that they exist. Whether it’s the issue of online predators or hackers and scammers, it’s always better to tell children about these realities openly and honestly.
Explain how these grown-ups are bad people, and that they shouldn’t reveal any information about themselves (and the family) or share photos and videos to strangers. It could help to show them news articles about cybercrime so they have a better understanding of the threat. However, it’s also necessary to emphasize that the internet is not necessarily a scary place; give them examples of responsible online behavior and positive ways the internet is used.
Understand the psychology behind cyber attacks
Cyber-attacks may occur in a digital space, but the people who perpetrate them are just humans like us. This means they have psychological patterns and specific ways of thinking that we can try to understand — in order to better prepare our children for attacks. A feature article on cybercriminal psychology explains how we should take cues from psychological principles to help our children navigate the online world. For example, most people are more likely to share confidential information in less formal settings, like a casual conversation. This is why predators and hackers are more likely to pose as friends to gain kids’ trust.
The good news is that the psychology of cyber-attacks has become a major point of study at a higher education level. Forensic psychology programs look at the social psychology of criminals to better understand their motives, with the lessons learnt able to be applied to protect children. The result of this is that non-profit organizations like Kids Health are able to provide a comprehensive list of what to look out for. By better understanding how cyber criminals think, it becomes easier to know the likely methods that they will use to attack or contact your children online.
Establish ground rules with your children
Before giving a computer or mobile device to your kids, it’s important to have an age-appropriate discussion of what they should and should not do. Rather than imposing rules on your children, it’s better to involve them in the decisions for stronger compliance. One practice is to help them set limits on their online time; if they are not idle, they are less likely to drift into undesirable parts of the web or fall prey to phishing messages and malicious links. Even credible social network sites may contain malvertising, plugins, malicious apps, and other dangerous content, so it’s best to minimize their use of these apps.
Tell your children to talk to you before they share information with someone online, and to tell you right away if they see something scary, upsetting, or disturbing to them. Another important value to instill in your kids is to treat others online the way they want to be treated. Anonymity can bring out cruelty — even in kids — so they should try to help make the web a better place as well.
Article exclusively for: Mobicip.com
Written by Ruthann Jacobs