What They Don’t Teach You at School About Online Safety
Children are going online at increasingly younger ages. According to Google’s data, most children will get their first smartphone by age ten. However, only at thirteen will the parents talk to them about online safety, creating a dangerous gap.
The honest truth is that there’s a significant lack of cybersecurity awareness. The Internet expanded so fast that most, including cybersecurity software developers, couldn’t keep up. The result is rampant cybercrime, including crimes against children. Furthermore, online safety is not yet taught in schools worldwide, and until such programs appear, parents must ensure their child’s online safety.
Cybercrime Against Children Increases
Cybersecurity specialists have analyzed FBI data to investigate the current condition of cybercrime against minors. In 2022 there was an increase of 20% in cyber attacks against children, continuing the upsurge from the Covid-19 lockdowns. The average monetary loss increased from $92 to $223 per victim.
However, much more important is the psychological damage. Online crime against children is particularly vicious and includes:
- Online grooming;
- Sexual exploitation and abuse;
Cybercriminals often seek the easiest online targets. Young adults not adequately introduced to online safety are especially susceptible to scams and grooming attempts from ill-willed individuals who exploit their lack of knowledge.
Cybercriminals infiltrate video game chat rooms and online platforms popular among children, so discussing online dangers is crucial before letting them go there. After all, any adult that has witnessed video game League of Legends salty chats can agree it’s no place for a child to learn behavioral models.
Cybersecurity Basics for Children
Teaching online safety from a young age is somewhat challenging, as it is a complex topic that few parents can speak with authority. Luckily, numerous articles like this one outline the basic principles of digital safety that are easy to understand for everyone.
The most important aspect is to keep open communication between children and parents. Minors should feel safe reporting their traumatic online experience if they stumbled upon adult content or were incentivized into sharing intimate personal details and pictures. Children don’t understand social laws like adults do and can fail to identify online threats. More so, groomers aim to create a mutual trust relationship before proceeding with seduction or blackmail.
The most important lesson is to prevent sharing of any personal details. Whether it is a telephone number, home address, first and last name, or social network account – this information must be kept private until the child comes of age to understand the full scope of cybercrime.
Luckily, cybersecurity software is there to help. A Virtual Private Network is an essential online privacy tool that encrypts the data flow and obfuscates users’ original IP addresses. Cybercriminals with average hacking know-how can monitor the unique IP address and extract valuable information, such as an approximate geographical location. Imagine someone threatening a young child online with ‘I know where you live’ followed by an accurate location. It may scare the minor into providing details for more devastating criminal activity.
Once a minor is old enough to take pictures and upload them online, it’s time to teach information security basics. Firstly, there should be no oversharing. The older generation that carelessly posted anything that comes to mind on Facebook is not the best example, as many old embarrassing posts come to light decades later.
Cyberbullying is among the most popular cybercrime methods. Minors and teenagers can experience enormous psychological pressure if their online videos or pictures are manipulated for cyberbullying. Remember that anyone with little experience can PhotoShop an image into something naughty. These fake pictures can become an especially traumatizing experience for minors.
For sharing any sensitive content (like pictures and videos) safely, using additional file encryption software would be best. These apps encrypt the files and store them in secure servers protected against data leaks. Understandably, minors will inevitably share some content over Facebook or TikTok, but the older they get, the more important it is to limit online exposure. Introducing them to secure file-sharing software and reasons why it’s safer from a younger age will contribute to healthier children’s browsing habits, today important for adults as well.
Cyberbullying and online grooming are exceptionally dangerous and traumatizing. Sadly, there’s an increase in cybercrime against children, and until schools develop reliable education programs, parents must take the initiative.
Establishing open communication based on mutual understanding is a prerequisite. However, additional cybersecurity software is just as important. We outlined only the basic tools that will protect your child’s online identity, but it’s also recommendable to implement broader cybersecurity solutions, such as an AntiVirus and website parental controls.