Internet Safety for You and Your Kids: 4 Cyber Wellness Tips
The Internet can provide hours of fun and be a great resource for you and your family. Children can do their learning online, from homework and project research to communicating with their classmates and teachers. Come play time, there are plenty of educational and entertaining shows on the Internet for kids to watch or they can play interactive games online with friends and family.
But there is also a dark side to online access, and it comes with risks such as cyberbullying on social media, inappropriate content and predators who tap on websites and apps children use and pretend to befriend them. Often, children may not think twice before sharing their phone number, address, photos or other personal information. This makes child identity theft a big cyber security threat for families.
In Singapore, a Global DQ Report in 2018 showed that Singaporean children spent between 35 and 45 hours weekly on their digital devices. It’s all the more important for you, as a parent, to know your children’s online activity, what and how much they share online and who they interact with. But how do you start to ensure Internet safety for your kids? We’ve put together some useful cyber wellness tips to help you and your family.
Parents must know the prevailing cyber security threats
Threat 1: Cyberbullying on social media
Children are especially vulnerable to risks that come with early access to the internet and social media. Their innocence and trusting nature make them easy targets for cyberbullying. Online bullies tend to be daring in their tactics as they cannot be seen. Cyberbullying can range from obvious acts such as mean or cruel comments on social media platforms, to those that are a little more difficult to detect such as online predators impersonating someone else to get personal information out of children with the intention to hurt or embarrass.
In Singapore, 43% of children polled say they have been victims of cyberbullying. In reality, cyberbullying is likely far more rampant than what is reported, and, as a parent, you want to protect your family when they go online.
Threat 2: Child Identity Theft and Loss of Privacy Online
Despite the fact that the minimum age to open an account of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and Snapchat is 13, there is a growing number of children under the age of 13 using such social networks, with or without their parents’ knowledge of consent.
Child identity theft is another serious matter. Children do not understand identity theft and may not be aware of the full extent of their online activities so they may be persuaded to divulge personal information and pictures with fraudsters, who may pose as a trusted friend online. Their constant social media updates can also tip off predators on their movements alerting them of their current location and activity. They may also click on phishing emails that could result in their account being compromised and personal information being accessed. They are more likely to use simple passwords that are easy to guess, and use the same one for multiple sites, which make their accounts vulnerable. As children, they may also have a higher chance of misplacing or losing their belongings a lot more – including their mobile phones – where all their personal data is stored.
Furthermore, there is a growing trend of parents setting up and running social media accounts for their children, citing reasons such as using it as a portable photo album, as well as something that documents the important moments and milestones of their children’s childhood.
Such accounts risk compromising the online privacy, and expose children to strangers that may have unsafe intentions. Parents should think twice before setting up social media accounts for their children, and consider limiting the number of photos shared so that it lowers the level of distribution that can occur.
5 Tips on what parents can do to prevent cyberbullying
Tip 1: Understand the threats and their implications
It is important for parents to understand the various platforms on which cyberbullying and cybercrime can occur, and identify the onset of such cases. As a parent, you should keep a look out for the different types of cyberbullying, which can include flaming, outing, exclusion and identity theft. Not only will these affect your child’s online security, it can also affect them emotionally and psychologically.
Be vigilant. If your child spends a significant amount of time online, always keep an eye on their activity and look out for early warning signs such as changes in behaviour, sleeping or eating patterns. Changes in your child’s mood may be the effects of cyberbullying, so sit down with your child and discuss your concerns with them.
If your child starts receiving suspicious mail such as marketing mailers and advertisements, and credit card forms, this could be a sign that your child is a victim of child identity theft and someone has been using your child’s personal particulars. Early detection will allow you to put in measures and ways to prevent identity theft.
Tip 2: Set limits on your children’s online activity
As your children grow up and start exploring the world, you will establish rules and parameters on what they can and cannot do. The same boundaries should also be applied to online interactions.
Have a heart-to-heart talk with your child about why you need to be strict about enforcing limits on their online activity. Once they understand why they are more likely to be targeted the reason you are setting boundaries is because you care and don’t want them to be in danger, they will likely cooperate.
Tip 3: Explain the threats of cyber security to your child
Teach your children about cyber security threats that they potentially face on the internet. Show them how to be responsible internet users, share cyber wellness tips and effective ways to prevent identity theft.
Start by teaching them what information is considered private, such as their identification cards and passport numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers, and what can be posted publicly. This would allow your children to learn the differences between what information is safe to be shared online will guide them in their daily online interactions.
Don’t forget to assure your child that you are there to help and they can come to you anytime they suspect that they may be facing cyberbullying or may have divulged important personal information. Communicating openly with your children and assuring them that you are not restricting their online action is very important as they navigate this digital world.
Tip 4: Get help when needed – Can you report cyberbullying to police in Singapore?
If you are wondering if you can report cyberbullying to the police, the answer is yes. Governments around the world now recognise cyberbullying and related crimes as major cyber security threats, and law enforcement agencies are ready to step in and assist you and your family.
You may also consider counselling programmes targeted at cyber-related crimes. There are various support channels such as trauma counselling, IT support and legal advice available for your children and family should they fall victim to cyberbullying on social media or a cyber security threat. You may also choose to speak to other parents to seek advice or go online to refer to parenthood forums to see how other parents have handled similar incidences. If you are unsure, you may also turn to the authorities.
The Internet has undoubtedly changed our lives for the better, with children being increasingly enamoured by what it enables them to do for their learning and interactions. However, the exposure and engagement with the Internet brings with it risks, but know that help is always available and that you, as a parent, are never alone – simply reach out to the many support channels, people, and resources out there for ensure Internet safety for kids. Once the right safeguards and boundaries are in place, you and your family can enjoy all the wonderful things the online world offers.