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It is the responsibility of adults to help children be aware of the risks presented by spending so much time on the internet and protect them from its inherent dangers. Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic shift towards favouring online learning where children as young as pre-schoolers attend virtual classrooms, cybersecurity is more important now than ever and must be prioritized accordingly. While the internet has made it possible for many of us to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic by keeping us connected to our workplaces and peer groups, the question arises as to how well our children are protected from the internet’s darker side. In this article we will present a few basic guidelines in the field of cyber awareness.
As guardians, we must help young children learn the basics of internet security so that they can safely navigate the internet. This can be done by introducing them to online games and videos that include computer terms like cyberbullying, network etiquette, virus protection, etc.
Children must be reminded regularly to NEVER disclose personal information about themselves or others when online. Strangers should never have the opportunity to learn a child’s name, age, home address, or phone number online. By limiting the sharing of personal information online via email, Twitter, Facebook, online chatrooms, and bulletin boards we can reduce their exposure to online threats. Parents should talk to their children about the risks of communicating online with strangers as well as the risks of sending messages or uploading photos to the internet. Online games can help children understand how to protect their personal information and familiarize them with the consequences of identity theft. For older kids, examples can be useful in explaining the risks inherent to various scenarios.
Keeping antivirus software updated is a good starting point to limiting cyber-risk. By keeping security up to date, you can protect your family from scammers, hackers, and other online threats that can compromise your computer and possibly your family’s financial security and other personal information. Using programs that automatically verify and update your computer security increase the likelihood of detecting unwanted or malicious programs before they can pose a threat. Nowadays this extends beyond your protecting your laptop or PC – even TVs and alarm clocks can be smart connected devices and serve as access points to the internet. Precautions must apply to any connected device.
To prevent unauthorized access, ask your children to use different passwords for all their accounts. If they have their own cellphone, they SHOULD use two-step verification. Good password protocols including use the of letters, numbers, symbols, upper and lowercase help to limit chances for malicious parties to access personal information. At the same time, parents and teachers should emphasize what NOT to use in passwords such as names, words, birthdates, and anything a stranger might be able to guess or uncover. This ties back in with why personal information should never be revealed on social media platforms like Meta (formerly Facebook) or Twitter.
Never relax your vigilance. Guardians should constantly review their children’s online activity as this can help ensure their safety. Explore the various options for parental control and consider which options best meet the needs of your family.
Cyberbullying is defined as intentional insults or threats using electronic technology and it can occur at any time or place. Teach your children to think about what they post online about other people and themselves, and the consequences that these messages can have if they carry potentially harmful or hurtful information. At the same time, be constantly aware of your child’s activities, and if you suspect that someone is bullying them, don’t be quiet – make these facts public and/or report them to law enforcement agencies as the situation demands.
In conclusion, keeping our children safe as they navigate the internet starts at home with good practices that are vigilantly maintained. The next generation is growing up in the digital age whether we as parents and teachers like it or not. That means we must ensure we understand this new aspect of childhood safety and do our best to stay informed and current with the constant evolution of threats and the requisite safety measures we can put into place to protect them.