When I was a teenager, my online world was limited to trawling star trek buzzing message boards and discussion forums, looking for people my age to talk about my very specific interests. My parents allowed me to roam freely on the internet, but I didn’t roam very far. I mainly used online tools for my schoolwork and most of my chat messages were from school friends. My parents did a minimal job of monitoring my online activity. I remember my dad warning me not to accept file transfers from strangers, but beyond that I was free to explore as I pleased.
Today’s online landscape is very different from the world of the early 2000s. Besides the abundance of pornography and predators in online social spaces, many other harmful activities lurk just below the surface, under the form of criminal schemes specifically aimed at children. Teaching kids how to browse the internet safely goes beyond installing invasive parental control software on their devices to block porn sites. Crafty criminals can circumvent parental control settings using social engineering to lure children into their traps.
Online risks for children
According to a recent FBI Internet Crime Center Report, crimes against children increased by 144% in 2020. Additionally, from 2015 to 2020, the FBI received nearly 10,000 reports of online crimes targeting children, totaling more than $2 million in financial losses . In a separate report from cybersecurity firm Surfshark, the company found that 6 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 12 face cyber risks online. This same report shows that educating children about the impact of cyber threats is an effective way to mitigate some of the dangers.
Social engineering threats
I recently spoke with Povilas Junas, Research Director at Surfshark (we reviewed the company’s VPN software, Surfshark VPN) about some of the specific risks children face and the role of education in cybersecurity in creating a safer world for everyone online. Junas told me that it was important to teach children to spot social engineering patterns. “Kids can be a little more naive and more sensitive to pressure,” he said. “Let’s say you’re posing as a police officer online. You might be able to trick a child into giving key information about themselves or their parents.
In a similar vein to online dating scams, cybercriminals impersonate anyone they choose online to obtain money or valuable personal information for identity fraud purposes, and children, especially younger ones, can fall into the trap. It is imperative that adults make it clear that not everyone is who they claim to be online and warn children to enter all conversations with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Stay safe in the game and beyond
The world of online games is also full of criminal schemes targeting children. Junas said, “There are purchases in the game. Children are used to exchanging goods and services for money, but they may not be able to distinguish official sellers from market sellers. black.
If you trust your child with your credit card, teach them how and when to use it online. Urge them to only buy games from official licensed vendors and avoid anyone asking them to pay for game goods or services via chat or social networking sites. Scammers can use phishing links to trick children into giving information or money via in-game chat or SMS messages. Teach your child not to open links from strangers and check unexpected links from friends via voice chat.
Make sure your kids know to look closely at familiar web addresses. Fraudsters set up websites that look like large gaming retail sites or social media sites, but with subtle spelling differences. For example, if you are a fan of BTS and want to follow the activities of the group, you can go to Weverse.co. Until very recently, the more common .com version of this address redirected to an explicit sex cam site.
How to Talk to Kids About Online Safety
There are many resources online that can help you talk to your kids about cybersecurity. the Internet Security Center has links to various programs for children, caregivers and educators. The US government Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security also offers a number of guides and tips for parents and teachers who want to help children stay safe online.
Junas told me that in addition to introducing kids to cybersecurity information resources, it’s important to establish an open line of communication with kids about their online activity. He said, “It’s about building trust. Basically, children need to trust the adults in their lives so they can come forward and share their doubts about sticky situations where they don’t know how to behave or react.
Junas went on to say that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting or educating kids about online safety. You must adapt your message to each child and remain aware of their needs. “When you start with six-year-olds, you can talk about basic things and apply a little more control,” he said. “You have a computer in a common area so you can watch what’s going on. As you get older, maybe you give them more freedom.
An easy way to block explicit content online is to use parental control apps. If you’re put off by the idea of paying to install third-party parental control software on your child’s computer or mobile device, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all have free parental control settings built right into their platforms. That said, parental control software can’t do much to protect kids online. Teaching kids about phishing schemes, scammers, and social engineering techniques can save everyone a lot of trouble and money in the long run.
To learn more about kids and online safety, you can read our story, 10 Things Every Parent With A Online Child Should Know.
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