In the digital age, ensuring the safety of our children online has become a major concern. And with the prevalence of smartphones, social media, and gaming in children's lives, it is more important than ever for parents and guardians to be vigilant about cyber security. For the Safer Internet Day 2024, we want to shed some light on the threats kids face online, why they are targeted, and – most importantly – what you can do to protect them.
Staying safe against online threats can be a challenge for us adults as well. But children are particularly vulnerable to many online threats. In fact, some criminals specifically target children due to a combination of factors.
Lack of awareness: Children often lack the experience and awareness to recognize potential dangers online, like malware and scams. Additionally, they may not fully understand the consequences of downloading malicious content, sharing personal information, or engaging with strangers.
Trust and naivety: Children are generally trusting, and more likely believe the information and strangers they encounter online. This naivety makes them susceptible to manipulation by malicious actors.
Young criminals: Some online criminals are children themselves, and thus have no restraints against attacking other children. In addition, they are familiar with the online platforms other children use, and can create convincing attacks.
Unrestricted access: As digital natives, children have broad access to the internet, social media, and online gaming platforms. Without guidance and restrictions, they may expose themselves to risks and adult content.
Curiosity: Children are naturally curious, and this curiosity can lead them to explore unfamiliar websites or click on links that may contain malicious content, such as phishing or malware.
So, children are not only collateral victims of massive online crime. They are also targeted directly. And here are few examples of how that can happen.
Criminals often take advantage of children’s trust to trick them into phishing sites. For example, criminals hijack Roblox accounts with forged login pages advertised with fake ads that promise free content or in-game money.
Roblox is a gaming platform massively popular among children. And Roblox and other gaming accounts often include valuable digital content that can be sold for money. While criminals use similar tricks with other gaming platforms as well, Roblox is predominantly used by children.
Losing a gaming account can be hard emotionally as well as in monetary value. To prevent such incidents, teach your kids to be skeptical of unsolicited messages, emails, or friend requests. Emphasize the importance of verifying the identity of online contacts and protecting their login credentials. And install an internet security app that blocks phishing sites on your child’s device.
Installing mods is a big part of gaming. But mods, cheat files and pirated games often include malware and viruses. An unsuspecting child could endanger everything done with a computer by downloading just one malicious file. And this works also on mobile devices if a child installs something outside official app stores.
Install reputable antivirus software on devices used by children and educate them about the risks of downloading content from untrusted sources. Antivirus makes sure accidents won’t cause harm. Even better, if your antivirus includes parental controls, so you can prevent installing new apps without your approval.
As more of our lives happen online, so do the negative sides, like bullying. Encourage open communication with your children, so they know they can always come to you when they face problems. And it’s equally important to educate them to not bully anyone online, just like in everyday life.
It’s something no one wants to think about – but that makes prevention even more important. And the internet has made grooming and exploitation easier, as getting caught is less likely. Plus, now predators around the world can harass children.
Strict privacy settings help. Make accounts private and prevent unknown profiles from sending messages. Educate children about the dangers of sharing personal information, and to never send any nude photos. And it’s crucial to let your kids know that they can tell you and not feel ashamed if they encounter harassment. Many predators extort and scare kids to not tell anyone.
While the situation may sound bleak, it’s far from hopeless. You can help your kids stay safe. And here are some of the key elements of protecting your family online.
Foster a trusting relationship with your child, encouraging them to share their online experiences and concerns. Falling victim can be embarrassing, and getting angry at them will only ensure they won’t tell you the next time.
Teach children about responsible online behavior, the potential risks they may encounter, and how to respond to suspicious situations. But you can’t expect them to be security experts, so making sure they ask for your help when they don’t know what to do is important.
Parental control settings make the lives of parents much easier. Block access to adult content and apps and set healthy screentime limits. This way you can ensure a safe and balanced online environment for children, without you having to actively monitor everything.
Ensure that privacy settings on social media platforms are configured to limit access to personal information. Make profiles private, and block messages from unknown profiles.
Security apps exist to stop accidents from happening. As children might not always realize what they are doing, an internet security app that blocks malicious downloads and harmful web pages is crucial – both in protecting children, and your family’s devices. TalkTalk’s SuperSafe online security makes this easy. This complete security app protects your family’s devices against malware and scam sites, and it includes parental controls for limiting screentime and filtering harmful content. With SuperSafe you can protect up to 10 devices keeping all of the family’s smartphones, tablets and computers safe. Go to My Account and add SuperSafe to your account.
SuperSafe online security is just £5 per month. Once you’ve selected SuperSafe in My Account, you will receive an email to install the app onto your devices.
By understanding the unique vulnerabilities of children online and implementing proactive measures, parents and guardians can play a pivotal role in safeguarding their children from the diverse array of online threats. It is essential to adapt and stay informed about emerging trends in online security to ensure a safe and secure digital environment for the younger generations.