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#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | The rising importance of parental control solutions and their security concerns


To keep children safe online, parents must inculcate a healthy internet hygiene in their wards from an early age.

To keep children safe online, parents must inculcate a healthy internet hygiene in their wards from an early age.

How parental controls can protect children’s privacy online?

Inappropriate content, cyber predators and bullies are challenges children face online today. The pandemic exacerbated children’s reliance on technology and digital platforms. But, several parents lack information and skills to keep their wards safe online. 

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Antivirus firm Norton recently, in a survey, highlighted concerns about children’s online safety. According to its report, 86% of Indian adults said it is important now more than ever before for parents to talk to their children about cyber safety. They also kept cyber safety on a par with teaching healthy habits to children. The study further pointed out that three-quarters of Indian parents surveyed (78%), discovered their children to have done something on their smart devices without their permission.

To keep children safe online, parents must inculcate a healthy internet hygiene in their wards from an early age. Here are some ideas for parents to set up controls on different online platforms run be large tech firms.

Alphabet

Family Link allows parents to set up a supervised account for their children by laying out digital ground rules for their child’s account, like restricting content, approving app downloads and purchases, setting screen time and more as their children learn, play and explore online.

The app also allows to block or hide inappropriate apps for children, remotely lock their devices, see the location of their signed-in and active Android devices, manage children’s access to specific websites when they are using the Chrome browser on Android and ChromeOS, change the content, access and other settings for YouTube experiences including YouTube and YouTube Kids, and review children’s app permissions like microphone, camera, and contacts access on Android and ChromeOS.

It also allows users to manage settings like SafeSearch for Google Search. The SafeSearch feature helps filter out explicit results, like images containing violence, while searching on Google. It’s already on by default for all signed-in users under 18 including those who have accounts managed by Family Link. It can also be turned on for shared household devices that children might be using. However, SafeSearch only works on Google search results and won’t block explicit content on other browsers.

Parents can download the Family Link app on their devices from the play store. They can then open settings in their childrens’ devices and set up parental controls to connect to the Family Link app.

Microsoft

Microsoft offers a Family Safety app that helps the parents track their children’s online activities and locations, build healthy habits among them and create a safe space for kids to explore online.

The app allows to set parental controls to filter inappropriate apps and games and set browsing to kid-friendly websites on Microsoft Edge.

It helps to track kids’ online activities, balance their screen time by setting up limits for specific apps and games on Android, Xbox, or Windows, and device limits on Xbox and Windows.

Other features include tracking children’s locations and their driving history like top speed, driving routes, and Manage spending on apps and games.

Parents can download the app in Google Play or Apple app store, sign into or create their Microsoft account, add family members by email or phone number to create a family group, follow prompts to connect their Windows, Xbox, or mobile devices, and enable Family Safety features.

Meta

Over the years, Meta has invested significantly to ensure online safety of children on its platforms. It introduced a Child Safety Hub on Facebook to support parents, caregivers and educators with policies, resources and tools on safety and well-being of youth online. Available in 13 Indian languages, the hub centralises and expands upon Meta’s expert-informed, research-based programs in the areas of online safety, digital literacy, well-being, and bullying prevention.

The company also launched a Parents’ Guide available in English and 7 Indian languages on Instagram. It is aimed at helping young people be safe, by informing parents about all the safety features that exist on the platform.

Meta has also developed warnings and safety notices across its platforms to educate people on who they are engaging with. These notices discourage inappropriate interactions with children on Messenger and Instagram and restricts adults to find and follow teens.

In India, Meta is supporting the RATI Foundation (Aarambh India Initiative) to launch ‘Meri Trustline’, a helpline that is dedicated to offer support to children under the age of 18 years who are in distress on account of facing online safety concerns like cyber bullying and loss of control over sensitive media including self-generated child sexual abuse material.

The helpline, operational between 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, will be available in both Hindi and English to children and other stakeholders including caregivers, parents/guardians, teachers, siblings, young-adults, and allies.

The initiative will offer support in different ways depending on the need and severity of the issue – Technical Support will include assistance in taking down content that the child feels is intimate/private. Emotional Support will be offered in the form of counseling to callers in mental distress. Social Support will extend to callers that require social work intervention. Informational Support will include factual and expert knowledge regarding the issue. Legal Support which includes legal advice and intervention for victims and families and Referral Support that will connect the victims to organisations across India and institutions including law enforcement.

What are some other security concerns parents should watch out for?

While the parental control solutions may help digital parenting, some of them may also introduce serious security and privacy risks to children and parents, as they have access to a significant amount of privacy-sensitive data, pointed out a report by researchers from Concordia University, Canada.

The teen-monitoring app, TeenSafe, leaked thousands of children’s Apple IDs, email addresses and passwords. Family Orbit exposed around 281 GB of children data, the report noted.

Between 2015 and 2017, researchers from the Citizen Lab, Cure53, and OpenNet Korea published a series of technical audits of three popular Korean parenting apps mandated by the Korean government, Smart Sherif, Cyber Security Zone and Smart Dream.

The security audits found serious security and privacy issues in the apps. Smart Sherif failed to adequately encrypt data on storage or in transit while Smart Dream allowed unauthorised access to children’s messages and search history.

It is not possible to validate all parental control apps that are available in the market. Instead of opting for third-party parental control apps, it is always advisable to use the built-in tools or apps on Android or iOS devices that restrict the use of select content, Arindam Mitra, Co-founder, CTO and President of Services, ProcessIT Global, said to The Hindu.



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