#childsafety | Pause for a second: Do you know what your kids are doing online?


Three women in Havana check their mobile phones after internet access was restored in Cuba. — © AFP

Young people are well versed in navigating the Internet. However, proficiency at using a web browser does not mean that all young people understand the dangers that lurk online. There are many bad elements that can lead to distress and mental health issues, including sextortion and self-cyber bullying.

Sextortion is where a bad person suggests that to the victim that they send some sexually explicit media of themselves. With cyber bullying, the victims are at a greater risk than nonvictims of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors. So too are the perpetrators of cyber bullying, who are also at risk of suicidal behaviors and suicidal ideation.

Considering these issues is Mykolas Rambus, Co-Founder and CEO of cybersecurity start-up Hush. Hush compiles users’ digital footprints and proceeds to eliminate any information that could be used as a threat. The service also brings this content to users’ attention while taking comprehensive action to remove it.

Rambus tells Digital Journal: “Cyber risks for young people can pose reputational issues, safety issues, and financial issues in the long term if left untouched. Are parents truly aware of what’s out there about their kids?”

Rambus also signals some worrying trends. For example, he notes that U.S. FBI recorded a record number of sextortion cases in 2020. Moreover, this is a number that 2021 is set to break.

Although underage sex crimes are rare, children are one of the targets of sextortion attacks. Rambus says that: “Underage kids are naive to their lack of privacy when they send suggestive pictures or nudes. If a bad actor gets access to these images, they can extort the individual in the photo (or their family) for money.”

Rambus also points out that cyber concerns are not relegated to salacious images. Here, he addresses: “There are more prominent — and common — reputational cyber concerns in the images kids post and are tagged in depicting illegal behavior like underage drinking or drug use. Comments posted online by a child will follow them for the rest of their life for the eyes of college admission officers and future employers.”

The issue of wellbeing is also of importance, says Rambus: “Kids’ cyber footprints can also be an indicator of a mental health crisis. The pandemic brought an increase in digital self-cyberbullying amongst teens where the individual will create a fake account and post mean comments about themselves.”

He also calls out: “Depression brought by social isolation is to blame, experts explain, and can be an indicator for the need of professional aid. More important than removing this content is getting the necessary help for the child posting it.”

The advice from Rambus will prove useful to parents who are unfamiliar with some of the current and less savoury developments online.



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