Cyber Safety

Cyber Safety for Parents

This is a very important Tech tip for me since I have become a father myself. I can see him becoming more and more curious with technology, mainly with our smart phones, grabbing it every chance he gets. As I have lived in a different technology age as my parents, my son will also grow up with very different technologies I was exposed to. With all new technologies, no matter how much benefit they will provide, there will be dangers associated with them.

Technology is opening new opportunities for everyone, promoting creativity and effective learning. It is no secret that children and young people are using the Internet more than ever and from an increasingly earlier age. With approximately 60 percent of Australian children and young people using mobile devices to get online the Internet is more accessible than ever before. The fact that the internet can also be accessed from anywhere it is hard to keep an eye on what you children or doing online. This ease of access creates valid concerns for many parents.

Safety for children on the Internet is one of  the biggest issues facing Australia’s youth. Parents are more concerned than ever about how they can actively protect their child while they are surfing the internet. It is important that parents and children are aware of these risks and of the steps they can take to minimise them.

What are the risks?

  • Exposure to inappropriate material, such as pornography or violence
  • Grooming
  • Physical danger, such as meeting strangers that are met online
  • Unwanted advertising & marketing towards children
  • Exploitation
  • Sexting
  • Harassment & bullying – Cyber bullying
  • Exposure of personal information & privacy
  • Identity Theft
  • Financial risks
  • Spam
  • Viruses

Cyber-bullying is bullying that occurs online, often through instant messaging, text messages, emails, and social networks. Cyberbullies may be the same age as the victims, or they may be older. If the perpetrator is an adult, it is generally called cyber-stalking or cyber-harassment.

Cyber-bullying can be just as hurtful as other types of bullying due to the volume of users that can potentially witness it.

Examples of cyber-bullying

Below are some examples of things that can be considered forms of cyber-bullying:

  • Writing hurtful things through instant messaging, text messaging, or online games
  • Posting derogatory messages on social networking sites
  • Posting or sharing embarrassing photos or videos
  • Creating a fake profile in order to humiliate someone

Responding to cyber-bullying

It’s important to teach your children how they can respond to cyber-bullying. You can tell your children to use the following techniques-

  • Don’t reply to the bully. Bullies often want to get a reaction from their victims. If you ignore them, they may lose interest. This can also show that you are above that behaviour
  • If possible, block messages from the bully. If the bullying is happening in chat, email, or on a social networking site, you can usually block all messages from the bully. Most of these services will offer this functionality
  • Keep all emails and other messages that the bully sends. You may need to use these as evidence at some point.
  • Report the bullying to a parent or trusted adult. If the bullying continues, tell a parent or trusted adult (such as a teacher) so they can help you deal with the problem.

Social Networking

Social Networking is a huge trend for young kids. Its a way for kids to interact online with friends but can also be exposed to strangers and unwelcomed interaction. Popular social networking sites include Facebook and Instagram. Users can communicate with others in many ways – exchange personal news and gossip, upload photographs and digital footage, and share links to interesting web pages.

Some of the potential risks of joining a social networking site include:

  • The bits and pieces of information your child puts on their profile may give away their physical address. For example, if your child gives their full name, nominates their suburb and uploads school photographs, anyone who wishes to could pinpoint their location.
  • Information about hobbies and interests provide an easy way for sex offenders to make friendly contact with your child.
  • Anything published online must be considered a permanent record. The type of material posted by your child may harm their future job prospects. These days, employers routinely screen potential candidates by checking their ‘digital reputation’.

Education, Engagement and communication is the key

Parents can be encouraged to deliver key messages to form the basic understanding of the dangers of the internet and educate on cyber safety when online. These key points include –

  • Don’t let potential risks stop you from letting your child use technology for their education and personal interests. Technology can be used for great benefits when used appropriately.
  • Discuss with your children how they may recognise the difference between online information that is helpful or unhelpful, true or false, useful or not useful. For example, government or education websites may contain more accurate information than opinions that are posted on an unfamiliar person’s blog.
  • Increase their own knowledge and become more adept at engaging in online activities and exploring social networking sites that are being used by their children. Talk to your child about what they’re doing online. Take an interest in their interests and consider co-viewing or co-creating with them on some activities. Ensure you’re familiar with what your child is doing online, and their favourite apps or websites.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of the internet—spend time looking together at sites that are fun, interesting or educational. Find sites together that are age and stage appropriate for their children.
  • Encourage their child to question things on the internet. When looking at a new site, their child could ask questions such as, “Who is in charge of this site?”, “Have I found information or is it just opinion?” or “Is this site trying to influence me or sell me something?” Remind your child that not everything you read or see on the web is true, and not everyone online tells the truth. Internet users are increasingly being required to wade through the noise, distractions and opinions that now flow freely online. Children need guidance to learn this skill.
  • Create your own internet/device rules for your household and have your child agree to adhere to them. This might include designated tech free zones such as cars, meals and bedrooms. Many experts recommend these three areas as key places to avoid using devices. At the end of the day, remember you’re in charge. Set boundaries and consider using filtering software and parent controls on devices (but be aware that this is only part of the solution).
  • Teach your child to keep personal information private online. YAPPY is a useful acronym to remind children of some of the personal information they should not share on public online spaces (blogs, forums, social media etc.). YAPPY stands for: Your full name, Address, Phone number, Passwords, Your plans.
  • Avoid supporting your child to sign up for sites that are 13+ if they are under age (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc). When they are old enough to register, make sure your child sets their online accounts to private to limit access to people they know well.
  • Encourage your child to balance their screen time and green time, and encourage offline interests. Be wary of health problems from overusing technology (eyesight, posture, hearing etc.). Perhaps it depends what the child is actually doing. But it is recommended that create a purpose for being online rather than just long stretches of passive viewing of material that is not educational. Additionally, using technology collaboratively at suitable times better than using inappropriate apps or sites alone late at night or when other tasks are a priority.

Five ways to protect your kids online

If your kids are spending time online (and these days, most kids are!) you may be looking for a way to control what they can access. There are some great programs out there, like Net Nanny and Net Nanny Social, that will help you do that, but they can be pricey. They’re also not always necessary. Even if your children are computer-savvy teens, you can do some basic things to your router and computer to control their online activities at home.

Set up WPA security on your router

A savvy teen can download software that will hack a WEP password in less than a minute, but WPA will prevent them from accessing the Internet without permission or doing so from an unprotected account. (It will also prevent kids from working around online controls at home by using a mobile device instead of a computer).

Set a password for your router

This may seem like an obvious move, but if you use either the default password or one that your kids can guess, they may be able to use a Linux boot disk to get around any controls you set.

Control administrative access

Make sure kids don’t have administrative access on the computer. It’s also a good idea to make sure that kids have their own accounts on your home computer and that the one you use is password protected.

Windows security options

If your home computer is a PC, download Microsoft Family Security Essential. (If you have Windows 7, it may already be installed, so check first!) This program will allow you to choose from three levels of filtering for each account on your computer, block specific sites that you don’t want your kids on, and see what sites your kids have tried to get onto. It will also allow you to see how much time your kids are spending on the computer and what programs they’re using.

iOS security options

If you have a Mac that runs OS X 10.5 or higher, you can set up what Apple calls managed accounts for your kids. Managed accounts will let you take advantage of the parental control options your Mac already has. You’ll be able to control who can iChat or e-mail your child and which apps they can use, as well as the websites they can see. You can also limit which files they can access on the computer. Apple’s Support website also has instructions on how to set up parental controls for managed accounts.

These measures may not be enough to prevent all teens from getting into trouble online, but they’re a good way to start before you buy monitoring software that you may not need. If your children are young, following these tips should be enough to prevent them from accessing adult content. For more information on how and why to protect your kids online, review our Internet Safety for Kids and Internet Safety tutorials.

Things to remember

Keep an active eye on what your child does when connected to the Internet.

Teach your child strategies to protect themselves online.

Your child should only make online contact with people they already know – strangers who want to be your child’s online ‘friend’ may in fact be mature-age sex offenders.

Report unwelcome contact to the relevant authorities.

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