Unsupervised access to the internet & social media may expose children to malicious content, cyber bullying and identity theft
Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cybersecurity solutions, today cautioned parents to supervise children’s online activities and educate them on safe surfing. The Internet provides unprecedented opportunities for children to communicate, learn and develop new skills. However, parents need to be aware that predators lurk online and could potentially expose children to inappropriate content, criminal behavior and falsehoods.
According to a UNESCO global survey on cyber bullying covering over 7,600 children and youth (aged 8–17 years old) in 25 countries, the highest rate of cyber bullying is in Asia — China (70%), Singapore (58%), and India (53%). China and Singapore were also the only countries to report a higher rate of online bullying than face-to-face bullying. Other Asian countries that reported lower levels of cyber bullying include Malaysia (33%), Pakistan (26%) and Japan (17%; cited in UNESCO, 2015).1
“As the Internet, particularly mobile broadband, becomes more accessible and affordable, more children are going online for longer periods. Parents need to be more aware of the dangers lurking on the Internet,” said Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet. “While the Internet offers educational material, fun games and ways to connect with friends, it can also be a virtual playground for cyber bullying, malicious content, and for criminals or predators to prey on kids and their families, leading to things such as identity theft, crime and much worse.”
To help ensure kids stay safe online, Fortinet’s cybersecurity experts advised parents to:
- 1. Talk to children about your expectations for them online – Try setting boundaries that may include rules about how long they are allowed to be on the computer, what sites they are allowed to visit, what software programs can be used, and what tasks or activities they are allowed to do based on age suitability, knowledge and maturity.
- 2. Teach the importance of keeping information private – Personal information and photos posted on the Internet can be dangerous as they can be used against families by those who meant harm. Once uploaded on the public domain, they can be difficult to remove and can have haunting effects later if misused. Check your kid’s privacy settings on social media sites to prevent strangers from accessing personal information.
Make sure your children understand:
- Never to give their name, phone number, email address, password, address, school name, or picture without your permission.
- Do not respond to malicious or hurtful posts.
- Do not open emails or attachments from people they don’t know.
- Do not get together with anyone they “meet” online.
- 3. Let them know that if they see something, say something – Children should be warned about the dangers of the Internet so that they recognize suspicious behaviour or activity. Allow children to come to you with questions or concerns if they happen to see something on a website, in an email or in a chat room that does not seem right or makes them uncomfortable.
- 4. Be aware of their computer activities – Monitor your children’s activities online, including which websites they are visiting. Ensure you have a sense of who they are communicating with and that your children actually know the people they are talking to if they are using email, instant messaging or chat rooms.
- 5. Keep computers in a common area – It will be much easier to monitor computer activity if you keep your computer in a common area. This prevents kids from doing things they shouldn’t do, and you can also intervene should you notice a behaviour that could have negative consequences.
- 6. Consider implementing parental controls – Certain web browsers enable you to restrict or allow only certain websites to be viewed on computer, which is known as “whitelisting”, and these settings can be protected by a password. Although no technology is fool-proof, there are available commercial software applications that can be installed to monitor, filter and restrict access to dangerous content online. Parents can also check with their Internet service providers and mobile carriers if they provide restriction services as optional add-ons.
“As every family situation is different, you need to decide what is best for your family. Parents need to help their kids become more cyber-savvy and at the same time, put effective protection methods in place to keep them safe online,” concluded Rajesh Maurya.