From the moment you become a parent you begin to dread a conversation you will have to have someday in the future with your children: “the Talk”. This isn’t about that talk. It’s about an equally important talk that our parents didn’t have to have with us: internet safety. The internet plays a big part of children’s lives today, even the most sheltered ones. And the internet can be a wonderful tool… it can also be a very dangerous place. Knowing the “rules of the road” can keep your children safe online while making the most out of the great things the internet has to offer. And as our world becomes more connected, this talk is becoming more important than ever.
Recent research conducted by Trend Micro found that nearly 30 percent of U.S. households have three or more smartphones, around a third have two or more tablets and close to half have two or more computers in their household. Why is this important? Because you are ultimately responsible for your child’s safety online, just as you are in the real world. And those cyber threats aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, they found that two-thirds (65 percent) of American families have had their home PCs infected with a virus or malware. Over a third (36 percent) have had files lost or damaged, and 13 percent have had passwords stolen leading to consequences like identity and financial fraud or ransomware which can lock you out of your devices and render all your personal data useless.
And then there are child specific threats. Over a third (34 percent) of U.S. respondents claimed their children have viewed inappropriate content online. And 8 percent said their kids had suffered at the hands of cyberbullies. Unfortunately, bullying is as old as mankind, but in the cyber world taunts and threats can be far worse as the offenders feel they are hidden by a blanket of online anonymity. That 8 percent figure is likely to be far higher in reality, as many victims will choose not to report cyberbullying.
Trend Micro’s long-running Internet Safety for Kids & Families initiative was created to offer support and advice on these topics and much more, so check out their site. There’s also value in chatting to other parents about these issues. Sharing and learning from each other can help a great deal.
Remember: this is not a one-off thing – it’s an ongoing process that will require many tweaks and changes as your kids grow and you learn what works and what doesn’t. But stay honest and transparent, and keep the communication channels with your kids open at all times, and you won’t go far wrong.
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