The Parenting Paradox – Online Antics and Cyber Safety

cyber safety
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Kids often appear born into this world with a smartphone in each hand, but how can parents balance online fun with cyber safety?

There’s a paradox at the heart of modern day parenting. Many of us believe our kids are savvier than our spouses and parents when it comes to cyber security but – despite having an amazing grasp of ‘all things tech’ – their knowledge doesn’t always translate into safety.

According to a recent report by Norton, one in four parents’ online security has been compromised by their children’s actions. Usually, this happens through incidents including children downloading malware onto the family computer or responding to online or email scams. For children today, the internet is just another place to play and create, or to ‘hang out’ with their friends. Protecting children online has become more important than ever before.

Norton’s report shows 89% of UK parents worry about their children’s safety online – in particular that they will give too much information out to strangers (44%) and that their online actions will have repercussions for the entire family (36%). This is understandable when 38% of UK parents also claim their child has experienced online crime, including being cyber bullied and downloading malicious software.

Parents today grew up in an era when we could ask our own parents for advice surrounding technology, but when it comes to finding a format to educate our own children about it, we seem to be drawing blanks. As the first generation of parents raising children in an all-digital world we are what we call “Beta Parents”, unable to learn from the experience of our parents and essentially working this out for the first time. Many parents feel uncertain of how to best protect our families and therefore worry about what or whom our children may encounter online.

An open dialogue and some basic house rules parents can help their kids get the best of the internet and stay safe online. Following these tips, you can help keep your children cyber safe.

Password Protect

Parents should teach young children to use strong and unique passwords across all their accounts and never to share passwords, even with their friends.

Talk openly

Create a set of House Rules for your children for online communication, downloading, websites they access, and cyber harassment. It’s been shown that a decrease in negative online experiences is closely linked to households where there is an open dialogue with children about online safety.

Discuss the risks

Everything posted online is a digital footprint for children and can be challenging to completely erase, so sharing private information, photographs and the like (especially on social media websites) needs to be discussed. Parents need to ensure children are aware of risks and aren’t posting content that will compromise their safety or cause regret when they get older.

“Do as I do”

Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so they should be taught how to safely surf online and lead by example to provide them with a positive role model.

Think before you click

Whether they’re looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even seeing pop-up adverts, remind your child not to click links which may take them to dangerous or inappropriate sites. Clicking unknown links is a common way people get viruses or reveal private and valuable information to criminals.

Be Secure

A robust and trusted security software solution should be used in all household devices – from tablets to smartphones, laptops and desktops.

Find more helpful family online safety tips on Norton’s blog and check out this video on handling online security.