Cyberspace not a safe children’s play space

1Do you know what your children do online? Would you be horrified if they were sexting, being a cyber-bully, exposing family secrets on social media, or contemplating meeting online strangers in the real world?

A new Norton (by Symantec) report reveals 74 percent of parents are oblivious to their kids’ online activities, 41 percent of Australian parents never check their children’s online activities, 52% never discuss sexting, 41% cyberbullying or 37% stranger danger online.

“From websites to apps to games and online communities, children have access to a ton of content that can affect them both positively and negatively,” said Mark Gorrie, Director, Norton by Symantec, Pacific region.  “Children are interacting online at a younger age and more than ever before and it’s impossible for parents to watch over their kids every second they’re online.  Parents need to arm their children with the knowledge and skills they need to use the Internet positively without compromising their privacy and security.”

I am going to reveal a very personal experience. It relates to my two adult children who are now the wrong side of 30. Having been in the IT industry since the early 80’s I gave them each a ‘386-sx’ computer when they were in pre-school. The idea was to help give them an edge using educational games like Reader Rabbit, Math Rabbit, and more. It worked and they became extremely computer literate.

In the 90’s things changed – the internet emerged and my now teenagers embraced it. “Daughter is a queen of the chat rooms,” I would say beaming. Never once did it occur to me that the internet was not safe. Not to dwell on it but I was horrified to stumble on the content of the chat rooms and the danger they encompassed. Not to mention that son had healthy pubescent desires and the internet provided a cornucopia of content. I learned very quickly that it was hard to talk about such things and even harder to police its use. I could only hope that my wife and I provided a suitably moral environment and that the kids had sufficient common sense to realize the dangers.

Kids grew up well adjusted – probably in spite of installing parental lock-outs and a key logger to see what they were doing. There is no substitute for simply talking about the issue.

Back to Norton’s findings.

Alarmingly 18% of Australian parents had been warned about their child’s social media activities by their school. Approximately 15% of parents had admitted to having at least one child impacted by cyberbullying, while one in three children identified themselves as being impacted by cyberbullying. Some 27% of Australian parents admitted that their young children had joined a social networking account even though they did not meet the minimum age rule.

To help counter this and promote online safety, digital ethics and privacy, Norton has collaborated with author, child rights activist and parent,  Tara Moss, to be its first Australian Norton Family Ambassador.

“Security, privacy and online ethics are now a necessary part of parenting, just like road safety and safe sex education. Kids using connected devices in the comfort of the family home may look harmless, but activity online has consequences and impacts beyond the home and beyond that moment. As with anything else, education and guidance are needed. To some, the Internet is not part of the real world, but it is. Things said online are sent by real people and received by real people, and when the recipient is a child, unpleasant online exchanges can be more damaging,” said Moss.

“The Norton survey reveals there is a general lack of awareness about the role of parents in educating children about Internet security and privacy. Many parents have not grown up as connected to the online world as their children and may be unaware of the potential impacts of online activity. While schools and governments have invested in teaching children safe Internet practices, it is no longer enough. Parents need to get informed about what they can do to protect their children and take an active role in their children’s understanding of privacy and online ethics, as well as their online well-being,” Moss added.

Top Tips for Parents:

Have an open dialogue – It is important to start the conversation with your children early and have open dialogue with your kids. Set aside time to discuss appropriate online behaviour and create age-appropriate “House Rules” about how computers, smart phones and gaming systems are used. It is also important to be a positive role model for children and lead by example.
Educate children – Spend some time educating children regularly about the dangers of the Internet and create awareness around issues such as sexting and cyberbullying. Check to make sure your kids are not sharing private information like passwords, addresses and phone numbers with people they don’t know.
Explore technology – Consider free parental control technologies, such as Norton Family, that help to enforce the ground rules and can limit the sites that can be accessed and the type of information that can be shared online.

Source: IT Wire