Whether we like it or not, the communication channels for kids changed considerably during the last 10 years. They don’t meet anymore, they don’t call each other so often, but they’re constantly connected on social networks.
At any age between 11 and 14 years old, depending on the trends amongst teenagers and some local laws, your child will want to create a Facebook or VKontakte account, but a significant part of the responsibility of their online activity lays on the parents’ shoulders.
Saying NO is pointless
Some parents wait for a “round” number, like turning 16, or other important event, refusing to let their child create a social media account until then. This effort is pointless, because teenagers will create accounts in order not to remain the last ones in their group without an account. It’s part of the belonging. If you try to stop them, they will simply create this accounts behind your back. Resistance is futile, you have to take back control.
If you have a computer in your living room and you’re under the impression that this way you can monitor the online activity of your kid, you’re wrong. You forgot about smartphones, tablets, school computers, video games consoles, or even.. smart fridges: they’re still in the equation. They can make friends using any of these devices and they’re undoubted favourite will be the smartphone. This will lead to a lot of trouble that you and your child have to be aware of.
The smartphone will be your child’s main screen. Take this into account when you set the rules
When you’re at a personal computer or smartphone it’s very easy to forget that there are millions of people on the Internet, all within a couple of clicks distance. They’re close to your kid, as well as they are to you. The littles ones can be a point of interest for scammers of all sorts, who try to fool people using various methods. In the worst case scenario, your kids can get unwanted attention from pedophiles. To better protect them from all these threats, they should use the rules of online safety with you. These rules are as important as traffic rules.
The rules are simple: never give your name to anyone, nor the name of your school, nor your home address. Tell your parents or the persons responsible about any worrying conversation and closely monitor the content with privacy setting set on “public”. Photos and videos are even more dangerous. They can offer information about what happens in the child’s life, especially when geotagging is available. This function should be permanently deactivated on the kid’s phone.
The most important rule
The worst mistake that both parents and kids make is to think that internet is just a game. When you don’t have a person in front of you and you don’t get normal feedback like gestures, inflection and mimic, it’s easy to feel that everything is a game and you can offer too much information on yourself.
The second mistake is not understanding how your circle of friends and friends of friends, together with bots, will see every word written on the Internet. This is exactly why one of the most important things that you have to do is to explain your teenager for the rest of his life not to write on the Internet something that you wouldn’t tell someone to his face, in front of the whole classroom or in front of all the friends. Only those who understood this rule are truly qualified to use social networks. To remember easily, you can separate this rule in two parts: pay more attention when you write than when you talk & words and actions always have consequences.
Don’t write on the Internet something that you can’t tell someone to his face, in front of your friends
Agree before you start
Even if you know that the little one really understands all the rules, sometimes, from the bottom of your parent heart, you’d like to make sure that things go well. Don’t secretly check this, behind your kid’s back, but make sure that you agree with your child about the way the monitoring will go.
Does your child agree to tell you the password of his account? To add parents in his friends list? Would you trust the features of a special program for parental control?
Used correctly, parental control softwares are the easiest option. They are conceived to notify parents in specific situations (for example, when certain keywords appear in the conversation), without being necessary to check all your kid’s messages.
Certain “administrative measures” taken in advance, like blocking the internet access until the kids finish homework or completely giving up smartphones for serious actions might be recommended. Of course, thing means respecting the imposed measures and limiting the children’s freedom only when they don’t act responsible.
Being afraid of Bullying
One of the most dangerous things that happen to teenagers on social networks is online bullying (also called cyberbullying). Researchers showed that this is not a simple matter and it has long term consequences, that affect the victims’ life.
There are two major differences between online bullying and the one that happens in school: online bullying continues even after school and it can reach even uglier and exaggerated forms, because of the lack of personal contact.
There’s a number of ways and shapes of bullying: getting the password of an enemy and writing things on social networks from their account, uploading photos that depict the victim in an embarrassing situation, public revealing of a secret and so on.
Adults might not hear about all these forms of intimidation, but these things can seriously depress teenagers, therefore, if there’s any suspicion or if you spot a sudden bad mood for no apparent reason, you have to take it into account and see what it is about. From talking to monitoring through parental control, there are ways to discover and end bullying.
There are some NGOs in different countries that help parents, but even there where they’re not active, there’s always a good option: contact the school where your kids go to.
The downside is possible too: to discover that your child is the aggressor. In this situation, your reaction has to be immediate and total; you have to understand how serious and dangerous this is and what are the possible consequences. There have been cases of suicides among the victims and the aggressors are facing charges with criminal liability
Discover the children’s interest
Social networks are not the only things that captivate our kids nowadays. Our colleagues regularly collect KSN statistics KSN (Kaspersky Security Network) based on the notifications sent to „Parent Monitoring” mode.
These allow them to evaluate the categories of websites with potentially unwanted content that the kids access the most. These stats are anonymously collected from computers set on “Parent Monitoring” mode, regardless whether or not they’re set on Parent Monitoring. We excluded social networks from the analysis and created a top of unwanted content websites, frequently visited by children in Russia.
It is worth mentioning that the percentage of visitors on websites from the “weapons” and “uncensored language” categories was bigger in Russia than in other countries that we analysed; only in Russia these categories were in the upper third of the rating. You can find more details about this rating on the SecureList website.
Become a travel companion
The best way to keep contact with your child while he embarks on a journey into Internet’s World is to do things together. Help him create his Facebook account and set the correct privacy level. Read the relevant notifications (for example, from our website and our friends - Threatpost) and tell your kid that his photos from Snapchat will not self destroy and that, based on his searches and the ads that he gets, it’s possible to guess what he searched for on Google. Teenagers are very worried about their online privacy so let them know you’re on the same side, to win a few bonus points: some extra trust from them.