Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Why parents should work with their children to tackle online security

Social media: love it or hate it, you can’t avoid it, and that goes for our children, too. It is everywhere. So, what can parents do to help kids stay safe online?

The first thing is not to fight against it. This is how the world works now. When we say social media is ‘everywhere’, we mean everywhere. Instagram has recently trumpeted about reaching 700 million users, while Twitter has now claimed to have active user numbers in the region of 328 million. Meanwhile the leader of the pack, Facebook, has soared to over 2 billion active users as of June 30, 2017. The list goes on.

It’s hardly a flash-in-the-pan, either. Facebook boasts a whopping growth rate of 20 million active users per month, while Pinterest’s monthly active users went up to 175 million earlier this year. Another popular platform, Reddit, is thought to have added 16 million users to their platform. The world has never been so connected. You’d have to be a social media hermit to avoid it.

It’s easy to explain its popularity. Devices, phones, accounts and apps are everywhere. It’s never been simpler to stay in touch, to upload, share, tag and like.

But there’s a catch. And it goes back to the numbers game that the platforms themselves play. Because although we like to teach our kids to share and share alike, you can share too much. And they can get caught in the numbers game of seeking more and more ‘likes’. And then there’s cyber-bullying and the sinister world of strangers appropriating your online information.

There’s also the time-factor, too. It’s easy to let devices devour whole days, especially on weekends and during school holidays, leaving homework as well as straightforward social interactions, books and good old ‘playing’ lagging far behind.

Like any parent, I’m concerned. But for me, banning phones, blocking access without explanation and building cyber-walls won’t work. I’m tech-savvy but I know my kids will soon outstrip me in the wherewithal to wheedle their way around any restrictions I put in place.

As ever, education is the key and talking to your children, discussing the issues with them and preparing them for what lies in store will go a long way to helping them steer a safe course through the social media seas. It’s basic parenting, after all.

But just as teaching children to cross the road safely can’t eliminate the danger caused by a reckless driver, no amount of open and honest discussion and education is going to completely close off all risks.

Which is where products like Kaspersky’s Security Cloud come in.

Kaspersky’s solution is much more than a way of keeping kids safe online. Kaspersky’s Security Cloud is a service which provides privacy protection, password encryption and even a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for ultimate protection across devices. It guards against malware and viruses on laptops and android devices too.

It also allows parents to see if a child tries to access an unsuitable site, giving them the chance to veto a child’s choice. And that, for me, would be the starting point to a discussion. In answering the question ‘why?’ (‘why won’t you let me watch/access/play that?’) this is where the serious business of online education begins.

Parents should always let their children know that a device is being monitored and what steps are being taken to keep them safe. Open, honest and age-appropriate discussion is as important than any technological solution. But when used alongside Kaspersky’s Security Cloud, that discussion can begin before any damage is done.

The software can be set up to link up to 20 devices via the main MyKaspersky account (which you must install in order to get started) all of which then need the have the Kaspersky Safe Kids app installed. You can tailor the restrictions to suit and a traffic light system of levels makes it easy to assess what is and isn’t going to be suitable.

Not, of course, that that should be an end of the matter.  My advice would be to prepare to justify your decisions and reason with your children. And prepare to be wrong! Not all unknown online content is going to be bad. Let’s not forget there’s an awful lot of ‘good’ out there as well.

After all, over 2 billion Facebook members, 700 million Instagrammers and over 300 million Twitter users can’t all be wrong!

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