The human psyche is psychedelic. While it is the sole cause for all developments that have sustained the species, it also looks at all change with suspicion, and rightly so - the survival instinct is just as strong as the instinct to innovate. More often than not, any development is associated with risks and maladies that must not be overlooked. The Neolithic agrarian revolution, for instance, while indeed a big step for mankind, was an important reason for the population explosion of today. The industrial revolution of the last century, again a fantastic development, caused pollution issues that we continue to grapple with. The digital revolution in the turn of last century, while adding silicon-appendages to man, has arrived with it its own set of real and imagined downsides. Although the ATMs may not lead the charge just yet, the real risks of technology are many and serious, and cannot be overlooked. No wonder then that an entire month - October- is dedicated to the awareness of cyber-security issues in the USA.
The challenges to security among children arise from their natural traits of innocence, curiosity and possible rebellion among the older ones. Thus the security issues arise not only for children from devices but of devices from children. For example, a child may inadvertently delete or alter files and programs while using it for playing, socialization or work. Mistakes are inevitable, even with adults, but with children, the additional fear of punishment may exacerbate the problem through deception.
- Being involved - This is particularly important for smaller kids. Parental or adult involvement is essential in the digital world so that the child may be guided to use the tools of the technological era safely and effectively. This again hinges on the awareness levels of the supervising adult and it is important for the adult to stay updated on the latest developments, especially in social media.
- Setting rules - The natural inclination of a child, nay, human in general, is to stretch beyond boundaries and rebel. But it is essential that a conservative boundary be set for children in the digital domain - a boundary that is appropriate for the child’s age, knowledge, and maturity levels - and with a leverage allowed for transgression.
- Monitoring - The line between monitoring and hovering is subjective and limits must be set according to the social and familial settings, in order to monitor the activities of the child in social media and other digital domains.
- Communication - The physical and emotional health of the child is critically linked to the level of communication with the adult. Open and honest communication between parent and child is the first step towards fostering trust and thus digital safety. It is important for every adult to remember that when a child takes a risk on the Internet, she may jeopardize the safety not only of herself but also of her family.
Perhaps the most objective approach to ensuring cyber safety among our children is the implementation of parental controls. There are various protection tools available, starting from simple virus scans to child-protection software that a parent may adopt to protect her family against some more common internet dangers. Software solutions (like Mobicip) could be installed on all the devices at home so that parents and/or a responsible adult can control the digital activities of a child without being too restrictive. There are also hardware solutions that can filter information at the source. Age appropriate search engines such as kidsclick and askkids can help a child navigate the Internet without risk of exposure to objectionable material.