Making Online Safety a Priority for Our Tech-Savvy Children

The joy of parenthood!

We offer our children the best opportunities to help them become happy, healthy, responsible and educated citizens. While we want to understand their needs and desires to become the ideal parent, we also remain concerned about their well-being, taking outmost care to ensure that they grow as responsible citizens. This concern has become much more profound in the last couple of years as our teens and tweens convert into digitally savvy netizens who want to share and access information at the flick or swipe of a screen. That said, it is quite natural for us to jump upon on any new studies that helps us understand how our children are adopting the digital wave.

The Teens Tweens and Technology 2015 study from McAfee is the go to study for me. It examines the pattern of online activities among the teens and tweens aged 8-16 in India in great depth. The good folks at McAfee unveil their findings annually, which allows us to take stock of trends over the years.

I personally look forward to this study to understand the new trends amongst children as they adopt digital technologies. This year’s study also includes information on the behaviour of parents too, thus offering a holistic overview of what we as concerned parents think about our children’s online footprints.

Today I will be sharing with you the key conclusions from the study of Indian parents and children.

Starting With Good News: Parents Rated High on Cyber Safety Awareness

This year, the study has showcased a very positive finding: Parents have become more aware of Internet-related threats, thereby starting to educate their children about them. Nearly 91% parents polled said they have discussed the risks of social media with their children, including that of cybercrimes, cyberbullying, identity theft, data stealing, online reputation threats. In addition, 85% of the parents claim they follow their children on their social media networks.

Further, most parents want their children to receive online safety or cyber security training in the next 2-5 years to keep their personal information and themselves protected. I believe that this is a good sign of things to come as more parental involvement translates to better guidance for children online and consequently, greater safety for them.

Onto The Concerning News: Children Could Be Fooling You!

The study indicates that some parents considered their children’s knowledge of social media far superior to their own, and this hampers their attempt to monitor their children online. Technology-savvy tweens and teens also know how to hide their social media presence from their parents by using aliases or by deleting search history. Some children indicated they do not want their parents to see their social media pages and confess they would behave differently online if they knew their parents were watching.

But are all parents watching? No, because they do not want to pry on their children’s online life as they trust them, but they are aware that the risk of a stranger connecting with their children online is definitely real. And this has them worried. Yet surprisingly, only around 1 out of 6 parents discussed stranger-danger as a topic with their children.

Stranger Danger is Real

The survey reveals that almost half (44%) of the youth polled would meet or have met someone in person that they first met online. That’s quite an alarming number, isn’t it?

Children tend to be inquisitive and adventurous by nature. Clearly, they are interested in meeting new people but parents should educate children about how they can interact with new people by joining sports or various extracurricular activities and that meeting someone in person they met only online should be strictly avoided.

Another key finding was that most tweens and teens who were polled maintained that they are conscious of the need for maintaining privacy. However, many unintentionally share details like name, date of birth, photographs etc. This increases the chance of a cybercriminal preying on them.

Children Admit to Cyberbullying

Most children today are aware that social media platforms are being used to troll and bully and they are scared of becoming victims themselves; yet, a large number of those surveyed admitted having bullied someone online by posting something rude or mean about them, exchanging inappropriate language or tagging them in a mean picture.

This calls for serious pondering on the part of the parents in particular and the society as a whole; are we bringing up a generation of rude, vengeful, aggressive children? Cyberbullying indeed calls for serious planning on educating children to become ideal netizens.

Children Could be Inviting Trouble Online

Despite their awareness, only 42% have said they have never done anything risky online. The rest admitted to doing activities including playing video games with strangers, uploading intimate photos and messages, watching porn, bullying someone, purchasing harmful substances or gambling. Parents should ensure that children are made aware that such risky behaviour can cost them their future and have an impact on their parents even.

So What Can You Do?

  • Talk to your children, frequently and openly, about digital threats, hygiene and etiquette. Explain why it is important today to manage one’s digital reputation
  • Monitor and mentor children online – don’t just leave it to the children to work out their problems. Let them know you are there for them if they need support and suggestions
  • Stay updated on all new social media sites and issues related to those. Ask your children about the new sites, their pros and cons and the wisdom of signing up on several sites
  • Be strict about following rules online yourself and guide children to do the same. Appreciate it when children stick to the rules, like not signing up on Facebook before 13
  • Use security tools with parental controls on all Internet-enabled devices to monitor children online and guide them accordingly
  • Ensure your security software is updated and running and talk to your children about cyber safety

I will be participating in a tweet chat by MyCityForKids and McAfee on 29th Oct 2015 to discuss more on the blog topic with the hash tag #TeensTweensTech2015. Join the conversation to learn how to make online platforms safe for you and your loved ones.

Also, follow me on @Cybermum_India to know more on the findings from Teens, Tweens & Technology 2015.

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