Why should you teach cyber security to your children?

Just a few months ago, kids were going to school, parents were worried about giving their kids limits on computer and mobile time at home, and the digital future was the stuff of science fiction. With COVID-19, school came online, worries about spending less time in front of the screen fell by the wayside, and now the standard of people's lives is becoming digital. Now, technology has become the means to play, to see family, to do school work, to hang out with friends.

Teachers, English classes, educational therapists, the whole infrastructure that parents have always turned to for support for their children, has moved online. Likewise, the threats to childhood, such as bullies, scammers, fake news makers and manipulators of all kinds.

Therefore, some care is important.

Monitoring applications

There are applications to monitor what children and adolescents do on their mobile phones. They limit the time of use and monitor the actions of their children, blocking resources and generating reports that report the actions performed on the phones.

There are many paid ones and some free ones, like Google Family Link. It hides apps, locks the device and limits usage time. Reports on the child's actions on the mobile can be generated monthly or weekly. For each child, up to five monitors can be added.

Reduce exposure

In the age of social media, posting or sharing something online may seem harmless to the very young, who were born digital. However, you can explain to minors how the virtual world works: once an image is online, it stays online forever.

Advise children and teens to be cautious about sharing on social media. And talk about adjusting profile settings so that only friends can view posts.

Also, beware of open webcams during video conferences. Make sure no identifying information is shown on a video call. And monitor young people to make sure they're chatting on secure apps with trusted people.

Secure the wireless network (Wi-Fi)

Your home connection appears to everyone within range of the router. Hide it. This way, only those who know the correct name of the connection can access it. To do this, access the router's interface. In the wireless security part, select the option that does not show the SSID (Service Set Identifier. It means the name of the connection). It is also important to activate the router's firewall, if it has one. Often the device comes with firewall disabled.

Strangers who seem trustworthy

The anonymity that the digital world can offer is often abused by cyber criminals. They pose as a trusted friend or a young person of the same age to start seemingly harmless conversations. A study by the US Centre for Cyber Security and Education revealed that 40 per cent of American children had already chatted with a stranger online. Most worryingly, 53 per cent provided phone number, 30 per cent sent text messages and 15 per cent tried to meet the stranger.

It is essential that you teach your child to spot red flags in any online communication with strangers. The advice is to keep an eye on the people they connect with, always explaining some of the risks they expose themselves to if they are not careful.

Cyberbullying

Children can be ridiculed in social media posts, in mean comments, they can be the victims of rumours and even threats. In online games, teenage player characters may be subjected to incessant attacks, turning the match into an open humiliation.

Cyberbullying has serious psychological effects on a child. And most of the time, out of shame, young people don't talk about it with their parents. Keep an ongoing dialogue about your children's online lives and create an environment for them to expose possible harassment. And if there are cases, report them immediately on online platforms or to local authorities.

Cyber theft

Today, children and teenagers have access to credit cards. Ensuring they shop responsibly, only on trusted sites, can save them from becoming victims of identity theft or fraud.

Advise teens not to store credit card information when shopping online or for any in-game purchases. And encourage them to never give out such personally identifiable information online.

Online account security

Most teenagers already have an email and whatsapp account. It is therefore important that they know about the dangers of phishing emails and scam messages and how to protect personal information. Encourage your teen not to click on suspicious links or open attachments from unknown senders.

Secure passwords are also crucial. We've already done a video on this. Most kids play online and set up their accounts so that they unlock interactions with other players. Any database of users is useful to cyber thieves.

Instruct young people not to recycle passwords and to enable a two-factor authentication method where possible.

Take a break

It's easy to feel overwhelmed with information at this time. News, games and constant updates on social media cause fatigue. Talk to your kids about how this is affecting the family. And think about some activities to get them to take a break from the screen for a while.

Cyber security software and specialized apps to monitor your child's online and mobile activity can help, but nothing will replace an open dialogue. Talk about what's happening in your kids' online and real lives. And create an environment where they feel comfortable talking about what they're experiencing.

By: Bruna Martins