Today is Safer Internet Day – a day to talk about what kind of place the Internet is becoming for kids, and what people can do to make it a safe place for kids and teens to enjoy.
We talk a lot about various online threats on this blog. After all, we’re a cyber security company, and it’s our job to secure devices and networks to keep people protected from more than just malware.
But protecting kids and protecting adults are different ballparks. Kids have different needs, and as F-Secure Researcher Mikael Albrecht has pointed out, this isn’t always recognized by software developers or device manufacturers.
So how does this actually impact kids? Well, it means parents can’t count on the devices and services kids use to be completely age appropriate. Or completely safe.
Social media is a perfect example. Micke has written in the past that social media is basically designed for adults, making any sort of child protection features more of an afterthought than a focus. Things like age restrictions are easy for kids to work around. So it’s not difficult for kids to hop on Facebook or Twitter and start social networking, just like their parents or older siblings.
But these services aren’t designed for kids to connect with adults. So where does that leave parents?
Parental controls are great tools that parents can use to monitor, and to a certain extent, limit what kids can do online. But they’re not perfect. Particularly considering the popularity of mobile devices amongst kids. Regulating content on desktop browsers and mobile apps are two different things, and while there are a lot of benefits to using mobile apps instead of web browsers, it does make using special software to regulate content much more difficult.
The answer to challenges like these is the less technical approach – talking to kids. There’s some great tips for parents on F-Secure’s Digital Parenting web page, with talking points, guidelines, and potential risks that parents should learn more about.
That might seem like a bit of a challenge to parents. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen has pointed out that today’s kids have never experienced a world without the Internet. It’s as common as electricity for them.
But the nice thing about this approach is that parents can do this just by spending time with kids and learning about the things they like to do online. So if you don’t know what your kids are up to this Safer Internet Day, why not enjoy the day with your kids (or niece/nephew, or even a kid you might be babysitting) by talking over what they like to do online, and how they can enjoy doing it safely.