Today's parenting challenges are online as much as they are in the 'real' world. So what advice does someone who lives and breathes Internet security have about protecting his kids online? Kaspersky's Andrew Mamonitis shares his experience with his three children.
Kid picture from Shutterstock
We all like to think of ourselves as unique snowflakes but we've all seen our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We've become creatures of an all-too-predictable collective habit. Throw a hash tag in front of a word and it suddenly becomes a trend; include the word meme and you'll get a flurry of reposts.
We do things out of habit in the most customary and recurring of ways. This is true from the way we access our emails, to what we look for in the layout of an online shopping store.
This is why social engineering, the art of manipulating people to reveal private information online, is very effective.
This got me thinking: if cyber criminals are catching out professionals at large corporations with relative ease, how easy would it be to outsmart one of my three children?
Exit Kaspersky Lab managing director; enter dad.
With three kids who are at the receiving end of my 'old' device recycling chain, it gives rise to questions around what all this increased connectivity, which we parents introduce to our children, really means.
The tech child
Let's face it. Like myself, most parents are often so busy slogging through their over-scheduled lives, that it's just so much easier to hand over your latest smartphone to keep the kids occupied.
Handing over my smartphone to my two-year-old helps keep my phone at a distance while I catch up on the things required of me during my so-called 'free-time'; a time which often involves more cooking and cleaning than actual rest.
Two clicks after watching Sesame Street, YouTube kindly recommends to my two-year-old a video of a car accident. And who would've thought the Wiggles would be just a hop, skip and a click away from a mash-up of racist and homophobic material brought to you by Mean Girls.
At the age of one, my son learnt how to grab hold of my smartphone, click the home button, and scroll to unlock the phone. He hadn't even spoken his first word yet, which probably means he has watched me do more texting than talking.
The 'middle one'
In the age of the app and school 'netbook', my five year old girl is growing accustomed to the Internet.
She is learning the skill of online browsing and regularly transfers her school files across to her USB. This, however, is a common way computer viruses are transferred across to home computers.
Her passwords too are often kept to a bare minimum, often identifiable by her favourite song of the day, or favourite Peppa Pig character, which she replicates across all her login details.
My oldest son is at the top of my 'old' device recycling chain. At ten years old, he is yet to enter the world of Facebook and Instagram; a world his mum and I are already a part of. Our social profiles are 'friended' by people he has grown up with his whole life. He too will probably seek to join our online social network of family and friends.
For now tough, he still has access to online forums. Like the real world, it offers opportunities for encountering people and content not suited to his age.
Kids aren't fully aware that what happens online tends to stay online. Pictures and comments posted online can be captured and spread amongst friends, which is a leading cause of cyber bullying for kids his age across schools.
He is however at the age where he seems to think parental supervision is equivalent to spying.
So, what are some often over-looked practical steps to protecting your family online?
- If handing your child your smartphone, be sure to log out of your YouTube and social network accounts so age-inappropriate material cannot be accessed without an adult signing in.
- Make sure your child has not bumped up their age on Facebook and other social networking sites to adult age;
- Ensure your children use legitimate online viewing tools to stream videos and music to avoid any virus hubs!
- Chats and online forums outside of an educational context can be fraught with dangers. Make sure your child avoids sharing personal details online.
- Be cautious of free public Wi-Fi hotspots. Public connections can allow malware and unwanted apps to be downloaded and installed on your device.
- When choosing a password, think outside the box. (Kaspersky Lab offers a cool way to check how secure your password is.
So, happy Father's Day, kids!
Andrew Mamonitis is the Managing Director of Kaspersky Lab Australia & New Zealand.