Managing your family’s cybersafety can often feel overwhelming. But one thing I have learnt in my 22 years of parenting is that there are no silver bullets for any parenting issues. Whether it’s toilet training or driver training, it takes time and often a combination of strategies. Teaching your kids about online safety is no different. Yes, you need to put in the hard work and continue to have the conversations. BUT if it was possible to supplement the talking with some strategic parental controls and an automatic layer of cybersecurity, then I would consider that to be a parenting no brainer!
Well, this parenting no-brainer exists. Let me introduce you D-Link’s latest D-Fend Router which not only includes McAfee’s Secure Home Platform which automatically protects all your Wi-Fi connected devices but some pretty impressive parental controls too. And all this happens while users are delivered fast wireless connectivity with increased range and reliability. Awesome!
Being a First-Generation Digital Parent Is A Tough Gig
As a generation of parents, I believe we are the busiest yet. Not only are we juggling our brood of kids and their lives but many of us are also managing ageing parents, plus our own careers, relationships and social lives. And just to complicate things a little further, we are also the first generation of digital parents. Managing our kids and their fleet of devices comes with no guidebook or tried and tested generational wisdom, which makes our job even more complex. How easy did my parents have it – all they had to do was buy the Atari console in the 80’s!
But the job of a digital parent is only set to become more complex with Gartner estimating that by 2020 there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices operating in our world.
Many Parents Don’t Know Where To Start With Cyber Safety At Home
When I speak with parents about how they manage their kids and devices, there is a recurring theme – many parents know they need to be doing something to protect their kids from online risks, but they often don’t know where to start. As a result, nothing often happens. Research from McAfee confirms this too with almost a third of Aussies taking no steps at all to install security protection on either their own or their kids’ internet connected devices.
But there is no doubt that many parents are concerned about the risks. Research by Life Education in partnership with Hyundai Help for Kids shows that an overwhelming 95% of Aussie parents rated online safety as a very important issue which is very encouraging.
What Online Risks Concern Aussie Parents the Most?
Aussie parents have many concerns about the risks posed by the online world. I believe however, the following are the ones that increase parents’ blood pressure the most!
Screen time – The time our kids spend glued to screens is a huge concern for many Aussie parents. Whether you are concerned about ‘tech neck’, the growing rates of childhood obesity or simply, the lack of conversation at home – you would not be alone! Research by The Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that 12-13 year old Aussie kids are spending a whopping 3 hours a day in front of screens during the week and then 4 hours on the weekends. No wonder many parents are concerned.
Gaming – Recent research conducted by McAfee shows that some Aussie teens are spending up to 4 hours a day gaming. And while parents naturally worry about the opportunity cost associated with the time, their greater concern is around the risk of online grooming and of exposure to inappropriate and violent material.
Cyberbullying – This is the big one for many parents and rightly so. Cyberbullying can be absolutely devastating for victims. A quick google provides just far too many examples of young adults who have suffered significant psychological trauma or even lost their lives as a result of unchecked cyberbullying. Last year, our e-Safety Commissioner reported a 35% increase in cases of reported cyberbullying as compared to the previous year.
But Why Aren’t Parents Taking Action?
As a group of parents, there is no doubt we are concerned about screen time, gaming addiction, online grooming, and cyberbullying but many of us aren’t taking the necessary action to intervene and protect our kids. So, McAfee probed a little deeper in recent research and discovered that almost half of Aussie parents believe that their children can manage their own cyber safety from the age of just 10. Now, when my boys when 10, they were barely able to manage their own lunchboxes! So, this belief truly stuns me.
So, we have some parents who just don’t know where to start and others who believe it isn’t their responsibility. Regardless, there is clearly a need to take some decisive action to protect our kids from both online risks and problematic anti-social behaviours.
What Steps Can Parents Take Now to Protect Their Kids Digital Lives?
The good news is there are a few simple things parents can do to protect their kids and their growing fleet of internet connected devices. Here are my top tips:
Check a Device’s Security Track Record
Before buying any connected device, always research the brand and read reviews on a product’s security (or lack of). A quick web search will give you some pretty fast insight into the potential device’s security standards. Going with a notable brand that has a proven security track record is often the best option.
Always Change Default Settings, Use Strong Passwords & Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Default and weak passwords are the biggest threat to the security of internet connected devices. Hackers are very familiar with both default and obvious passwords which makes it super easy to access the data on your devices. Know these passwords and use them to access the data on your devices. If the thought of remembering several passphrases daunts you, go for a password manager. While a strong and unique password is a great place to start, enabling two-factor authentication on your devices and accounts will mean you’ll need to verify your identity with something that you (and only you) have access to. This is most commonly a mobile device, which ensures a higher-level of security.
Keep Your Devices Up To Date
Device software updates are often always designed to protect your device from recently discovered security bugs, vulnerabilities and threats. If you’re in the common habit of ignoring update notifications, turning on auto-update will ensure you apply these patches in real time and have maximum protection.
Invest in a Router that Protects Your Devices & Offers Parental Controls!
Investing in a Wi-Fi router with built-in protection like McAfee’s Secure Home Platform is one of the easiest ways of both managing and protecting your family’s fleet of devices. Not only does it automatically protect any device that connects to the Wi-Fi but it comes with some very strategic parental controls. So not only can you take back control and proactively manage your kids’ screen time but you can set up customised profiles to ensure they are visiting only suitable sites.
As a mum of 4, I believe that managing the risk in our kids’ cyber lives needs to be a genuine priority for us all. So, yes, let’s keep talking to our kids about online risks and the need to self-regulate our online behaviour. But, if we could also add in a later of automatic protection for our kids’ devices from McAfee’s Secure Home Platform and some savvy parental controls to ensure our kids are on track then I think that’s a pretty compelling parenting hack for us first generation digital parents!
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