Shielding our Digital explorers - Nurturing Safe Digital Practices For Children

Shielding our Digital explorers – Nurturing Safe Digital Practices For Children

“Curiosity in children is but an appetite for knowledge” – John Locke

The innate desire to explore, learn, and grow is a hallmark of childhood. As a child of the ‘90s, I was an especially mischievous one, often venturing off on my bike to uncover new paths, meet new playmates, and miraculously find my way home, thanks to the wisdom imparted by my grandparents. In those days, the perils were physical: watch out for traffic, only cross at the “Zebra Stripes”, and beware of strangers.

But times have changed. Today’s youngsters are more inclined to explore the digital realm of the internet than our old backyard hide-and-seek adventures. Yet, the digital frontier isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It has its digital “Free Candy Vans” lurking, waiting for unsuspecting children.

Children are increasingly becoming targets of cyberattacks, and it’s crucial for parents and guardians to understand the risks and protect our young digital explorers. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2022, over 200,000 identity theft cases affected children under 18. “1”

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) reports a 50% increase in phishing attacks targeting children in the past year. “2”

You may wonder, why are malicious actors targeting children? The shocking reality is that they are targeted far more often than we’d like to admit and here’s why.

Why are children targeted?
Why are children targeted?

Why Are Children Targeted?

The threat landscape is vast because children now have access to numerous devices-smart toys, watches, smartphones, and laptops-all easily connected to the internet. In comparison to 2010 when only four in ten children had internet access, today, more than nine in ten children aged 5 to 15 go online on any device. UNICEF’s 2023 report reveals that one in five children has experienced a cyberattack, aligning with the increased targeting of children. “3”

Children’s innate curiosity, while admirable, can make them more trusting of strangers, providing ample opportunity for malicious actors to exploit this trait. Even if your child is a tech wizard, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are security savvy. Threat actors have noticed that and often use games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Among Us to target children. These three games alone account for over 75% of phishing attacks used to inject malware onto devices that may contain sensitive information like credit card details. “4”

Phishing is a common social engineering technique employed by threat actors, enticing children with in-game rewards or gift boxes. However, the most concerning threat is cyberbullying. In 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received over 32 million reports of child sexual abuse material – an alarming 82% increase in reports from the previous year. “5”

Many children may be too scared or unaware that they’re victims, implying that the actual numbers are likely much higher.

How can you keep children safe?
How can you keep children safe?

How Can You Keep Your Children Safe?

Ensuring the safety of our young digital adventurers in the online realm demands a multifaceted approach. While specific solutions might be necessary in some instances, these practices outlined below will significantly contribute to your child’s online safety.

Education: While schools and governments may provide guidelines for young digital explorers, additional parental education is vital. Teach your child about the dangers, such as avoiding online strangers, the risks of sharing personal information, the perils of clicking on suspicious links, and recognizing and reporting suspicious behaviour. You, as a role model, play a crucial part in shaping your child’s growth and development.

Supervision: Many devices come with parental control settings. Enabling these settings and monitoring your child’s online activities will allow you to see how they navigate the internet. Combined with education, this helps ensure safe internet use.

Open Communication: Encourage your child to share their daily experiences with you. Establish a safe space for them to communicate, whether good or bad. This open channel reduces the likelihood of them seeking attention online and falling victim to cyberbullying or worse.

Lead by Example: You, as a role model, have a significant influence on your children. Demonstrate how to surf the internet safely and responsibly to your child, this will allow you to foster open communication with them.

Cyber Hygiene: Teach your children about the importance of keeping software, apps, and antivirus or security programs up to date. These updates fix potential security gaps and protect your child’s devices from being compromised.

Cyberbullying Avoidance: Discuss cyberbullying with your children, especially on social media and in online games. Teach them to report bad behaviour and, if they become a victim, guide them in documenting evidence and contacting the online support team and, if necessary, local authorities.

As we celebrate Children’s Day, let’s remember that ensuring children’s safety in the digital world is just as crucial as safeguarding their physical well-being. By staying informed, fostering open communication, and proactively implementing measures, we empower our digital explorers to thrive and learn securely in the online realm. Together, we can make the Internet a safer place for all children to grow, learn, and discover.

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Joshua Anthony

MarCom Strategist Josh, brings a dynamic blend of creativity and analytical prowess honed through hands-on experience including launching a personal Shopify Store as a hobby when he was still in university. He finds joy in delving into market research and analysis , crafting strategies that resonate in the ever-evolving landscape of marketing in Cybersecurity. Josh is also an avid gamer and a custom computer build enthusiast.

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