Are you worried about your child’s online safety?

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A whopping 84% of parents worldwide are worried about their kids’ online safety, according to the latest survey* commissioned by Kaspersky and conducted by the market research company Savanta. Despite this, the report shows that globally, on average, parents only spend a total of 46 minutes talking to their children about online security through their entire childhood.

Comments Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager of Kaspersky in Africa: “Although these are global figures, I feel that this situation is likely mirrored in the local market and something that needs attention to change. With the digital world expanding continuously offering opportunities that cannot be ignored, we tend to be quick on the uptake of exposing children to all things digital, to support their schooling requirements and recreational activities. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the digital world is also a dangerous playground, filled with bullies and strangers that just like in the real world, pose risk to children.”

“… we should not lose sight of the fact that the digital world is also a dangerous playground, filled with bullies and strangers that just like in the real world, pose risk to children.”

Using technology has quickly become the daily norm. Not only is the working world tech-reliant but globally the education sector is evolving towards more tech-related learning – meaning that children today need to understand how to use technology to successfully get through their schooling career.

It’s not surprising then that the Kaspersky survey found that of the respondents, more than 9 in 10 children between 7 to 12 years of age globally now have an Internet-enabled device, smartphone or tablet. Naturally, and considering this reality, children’s privacy and security online are becoming one of the parents’ most prominent concerns – but what are parents doing about it?

Some of the most dangerous online threats globally, according to those parents who participated in the survey include:

  • Children seeing harmful content, such as sexual or violent (27%);
  • Experiencing Internet addiction (26%); and
  • Receiving anonymous messages or content inciting them to carry out the violent or inappropriate activity (14%).

Over and above these, there is also the concern of cyberbullying – which is particularly relevant in the local market.

Adds Badenhorst, “In the local market, we are hearing more about cases of a loss of life due to suicide as a result of cyberbullying. Having children of my own, this is a harsh reality that I am very concerned about and especially considering that a 2018 report, by research company Ipsos Global Advisor, shows that among 28 countries South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying.”

How to reduce the potential risks that children face

Parents and/or guardians need to take the time to explain the dangers of the Internet and teach their children at consistent intervals about safe Internet habits and practices. While globally 81% of parents say it is a joint responsibility between parents and schools to teach children about online safety, 86% believe that parents are better positioned to undertake this important teaching as children generally trust them more.

Dr Tertia Harker, a social worker with a Doctorate in Psychology in private practice in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, says, “Today people look to technology as much more than a series of tools that can be used to complete certain tasks. In fact, for many people technology has become so integrated into every facet of their lives that it is viewed as a ‘lifeline’ that people feel they cannot live without – and content people are consuming through the use of technology affects their view of self.

“Essentially, people are looking to technology and the world around them to fill an internal void – and children are particularly sensitive to this as they are still very innocent and rely on feedback from the world around them to begin to form their view of self and the world.”

How to protect children and encourage children to be safe when engaging on the Internet

Harker indicates that it is important to:

  1. Form a nurturing and trusting relationship (between parent/guardian and child/ward), by:
  • Teaching children self-awareness and self-acceptance.
  • Teaching children mindfulness and to be fully present in the moment.
  • Building children’s self-esteem.
  • Encouraging open and honest communication as a priority in your home.
  1. Guide and support children to form an identity outside of technology, including:
  • Supporting children to connect to nature and friends – with no technology present.
  • Teaching children to entertain themselves with no technology present.
  • Teaching children to not compare themselves with others on social media.
  • Encourage children to speak out about harmful content and predators they may come across online.
  • Always set a good example by your own actions when using technology.

“While schools are and will continue to play a key role in supporting the education of online safety, ultimately this is a task and duty that parents/guardians should be driving forward and taking very seriously. We do unfortunately have to accept that the Internet allows children to encounter content we never want them to see and while we know how difficult it is to sometimes talk about these concerns with children, if parents/guardians feel uncomfortable or not well equipped to do this, there are various resources available to support them and that they should look to leverage on,” suggests Badenhorst.

“A 2018 report, by research company Ipsos Global Advisor, shows that among 28 countries South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying.”

Further tips to protect your kids when online

  • If you know what your child is looking for online, you can offer help and support, and teach as you go about using the information carefully.
  • Discuss with your child how much time they can spend on social media, if they have social media accounts and teach them about what information is not okay to share online (school, where they live, contacts details etc.).
  • Try not to limit your child’s social circle online and teach them to take care when choosing friends and acquaintances. The same ‘stranger-danger’ principle applies in the online world.
  • Subscribe to a reliable security cloud such as Kaspersky’s which helps to guard your family and private data, plus protect your kids online and beyond.

*To learn more about the most common fears, threats, experiences, and tactics when it comes to Internet safety for children, click here to download the full report.