Although the Internet is an incredible place for children to learn, play games and experience new things, it exposes them to a world of risks. Chat rooms, IMs, gaming and social media sites can also put them in danger, from exposing them to predators and inappropriate content, to cyberbullying.
“Technology can play a crucial role in protecting kids from the dangers they face online, and helping parents become ‘digital parents’ who understand what they are doing online,” says Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Intact Software Distribution.
He says it’s only natural for parents to want to raise their children as well as they possibly can, to protect them and keep them safe from harm, so that they can grow up carefree. “Parents need to equip them with the right tools to advance in life and help them grow into stable and understanding adults. We cannot isolate them from the online world, but we can certainly make it a safer place.”
According to him there are several questions parents need to ask themselves. “Firstly, do they really understand the dangers that children are exposed to while online. They should also know which social media sites and applications their children use, and whether they hang out in chat rooms, and use Webcams, and applications such as Skype.”
He adds that it is crucial for parents to be part of their child’s online life. “Remember that kids today grow up in a world of devices and technology. Every home contains multiple gadgets and devices that connect to the Web — some are for business, while others are for personal use,” Campbell-Young says.
“For kids these days, technology is a normal part of everyday life. They switch between gadgets, apps, and media platforms many times during the day without batting an eye. The latest and greatest apps and technology trends influence their behaviour and the ways in which they consume media and the way they perceive the world. There is no separate digital life from their normal lives – they are one and the same – and parents need to understand and embrace that.”
Remember that the Web opens the door for trusting young people to interact with virtual strangers. People they don’t know in real life, and might even actively ignore if they saw them in the flesh. Online sexual predators will gravitate towards forums and sites where children hang out, much like ‘offline’ paedophiles hang out in parks or playgrounds. They scour social networking sites that are popular with kids today.”
Campbell-Young says there is increasing pressure on parents to teach their kids about right and wrong, which has become a far more complex issue with the advent of the Internet. “Before the Net, parents knew exactly who their children were hanging around with, and this was pretty much limited to classmates, friends and family. Today’s parents need to not only understand what their children are doing in school, but what they are doing online too.”
F‑Secure has introduced a product to help parents do exactly that, called F-Secure Safe. “It adapts to the different protection needs of small children, teens and adults and combines internet security features with parental controls. The new Family Rules feature also enables you to manage your children’s protection profile remotely via a My F‑Secure portal,” Campbell-Young adds.
“It helps parents maintain a healthy balance in their children’s lives by keeping their device use and screen time in moderation. It also filters content, allowing your kids to browse the Internet safely, blocking any harmful content automatically. It can also locate a device remotely, and view its location on the map through My F‑Secure, so parents know where their children are at all times.”