There are many dangers lurking online. We hear horror stories all too often. A fear for a parent might, and should, therefore be their child’s safety, and in this case knowledge about social media behaviour is power.
Kaspersky Lab, which most of us might know better as the company that protects our hardware against viruses, has in partnership with Active Education just developed and launched a series of interactive cybersecurity roadshows. These roadshows are focused on children between the ages of seven and 13 years old and intend to open their eyes to the potential harm of a connected world.
“What should we do as parents? What should we teach our children in order to remain safe in this evolving world of online and digital?” asked Konstantin Ignatev, acting head of content analysis and research at Kaspersky Lab.
“Parents need to understand that the children of today were born in very new and different era – a completely different time to ours. A time when the internet is always accessible and gadgets are just the name of the game. Today the life of a child evolves around mobile phones, computers and tablets and usually there’s no getting away from technology until the child sits down to eat or goes to bed at night.
“Because of this constant contact to the outside word with hardware, adults need a clearer and better understanding of what happens online.”
A morning spent at Bryandale Primary School in Johannesburg, where the team took us through the motions of implementation, proved that those kids were enthralled, lapping up the tips and ready to protect themselves and each other.
One of the other adults invited to watch the show thought it quite amusing that the kids knew exactly what the team were talking about, when using their online jargon and slang – he of course had no clue!
Cyberbullying, safe social media behaviour and general rules of online protection are all the topics tackled by the team conducting the roadshow. In a fun and very disarming manner, the children are exposed to examples of what could happen if they’re not careful about the information they share or who they engage with online.
According to Kaspersky Lab data, 66% of children in Johannesburg are mostly interested in Internet communication media, better described as social media. On average, in South Africa, this figure was slightly lower at 60%, showing that the young residents of Johannesburg are among the most active users of social networks.
Experts identify several major threats associated with social networks. For example, children can accidentally or intentionally enter pages with adult content. And it’s not just about content related to pornography, but also about information related to drugs, suicide, as well as scenes of violence or weapons. The data shows that 20% of children based in Johannesburg open sites about drugs, alcohol and tobacco – the thought is that these are more to educate themselves on the matter.
Another danger is the stranger. Children on social networks make contact more easily with someone they don’t know at all, than they do in real life. A research report by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in South Africa revealed that 30% of children added new people who they’d never met in real life to their social media friends list.
But nobody ever really knows who is on the other side of the monitor – whether it’s another child or an adult aggressor.
The situation then could get worse as children like to publish their address or school details on social networks, and even post the places they visit. 67% of children shared details about the school they attend and 54% shared places and locations they could be found, putting them at risk.
In recent years, children have faced more and more cyberbullying. The same research shows that 22% of children reported having being treated in a hurtful or nasty way in the past year.
Kaspersky Lab’s experts have identified several clues to look out for:
sudden changes in mood for no apparent reason;
changing the style of use of the digital device and social networks (for example, the child begins to wake up at night to go online);
a sharp increase or decrease in the number of “friends” in the social network;
the appearance of “friends” with a big age difference;
abusive images and messages on the child’s page;
the child deletes the page on social networks.
What can parents do to help their children?
talk to your child and educate them about correct behaviour and security on the Internet;
explain publishing detailed personal information can be used by attackers;
explain that joining groups with potentially dangerous content, for example, about weapons, drugs, suicide is not necessary;
children should never follow links from unknown recipients – tempting offers can lead to infected pages;
finally, explain to children that “friends” should only be those they know personally.
The arsenal of Kaspersky Lab solutions to protect your child online includes Kaspersky Safe Kids, as well as a module “Parental Control” in Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security. These programmes help parents manage the device’s usage time, set up an Internet access schedule, and receive reports about the time the child spent on his/her gadget.
In addition, they protect the child from viewing adult content, inform parents of the signs of cyberbullying, provide statistics on calls and SMS, and much more.
“It often turns out that children are not looking for ‘bad’ or dangerous content, but stumble upon it by accident, for example, in social networks or in search engines. Parents need to prepare children for such threats and explain what risks there are. This is why adults themselves need to be aware of what potential dangers can be found on the Internet. Parental control programmes are certainly a good measure of child protection on the Internet. But all this is just ‘insurance’.
“The main thing in the matter of protecting children is education, both for children and adults. This is something that Kaspersky Lab takes very seriously on a global scale, and with this in mind, we decided to implement such an educational activation locally,” adds Ignatev.
“Children have access to so many technologies today; mobile phones, social media, games and more,” explains Riaan Badenhorst, general manager for Kaspersky Lab Africa. “While the internet provides many benefits to children, we know that it can also be a dangerous place. It is important to educate and create awareness about safety online – both among children and parents and we certainly feel that these activations are a good way to spread the word.”
And if any parent still has any questions, the clever people at Kaspersky have set up an email address for the month of August, where parents can ask anything with regard to a child’s online well-being: firstname.lastname@example.org