Get Your Kids Talking About Online Safety
By Gabriel Friedlander
Not Much Different Than Grown-Ups - The Attack Method is the Same
Your kids may be ahead of you in terms of technology, but emotionally they are behind. Teaching kids/teens about cyber security is not much different than teaching grown-ups. Cyber criminals use the same type of attacks, they just use it in different contexts. For example, instead of sending a phishing email, they may send a link on Instagram Messenger.
Cyber criminals usually go to the extreme. They will either offer something too good to be true - like free virtual coins for a game, free homework, or will try to scare you to death - like claiming they hacked your webcam or have embarrassing footage of you.
It’s important to discuss that urgent attempts to get you to click now or otherwise you risk losing the deal or will get in trouble, are probably scams. There is no time bomb ticking and kids should always consult with you before clicking or sharing any private information.
Start as Young as Possible
It’s important to start as young as possible in setting up ground rules, otherwise, it will be almost impossible when they become teens. You should require your kid to share with you their password to their phone or any app you approve at an early age. This will become a norm when they grow up. Asking out of the blue to monitor their personal devices when they are a teen is not an easy conversation to have.
Take the Position of “I Don't Know Everything”
To have a meaningful conversation about cyber security, take the position of “I don't know everything." Be curious and ask them questions about different things that are happening online, similar to how you ask them about their day at school. Basically, make them part of the decision process and proud of the things they know.
If You Are Not Comfortable, Find Someone Who Is
If there are topics you are uncomfortable talking with your kids about, find someone who is. It is better than letting your kids learn from the internet or friends…
There is only one world! Not two - online and offline. If your kid is upset, insecure, or just having a hard time being a teenager, you should also check in on their online activity. If anything, they are probably even more vulnerable online than offline. As parents, we don’t have to understand a lot about technology to figure out something is wrong. Whatever happens online or offline will present itself the same way in our kids.
Talking About Privacy
Once you step outside your home, there is really no privacy. You can wear a hat, cover your face, but you just can’t become invisible. It is the same when you are online. Just like there are things you don’t do or say in public, the same goes when you are online. No website or app can guarantee 100% privacy. We just leave so many trails behind us when we browse the web, so we need to be mindful of what we share.
Let’s begin with things that should never see the light of day, like private pictures. These should never go online. Then there are things we really care about, like our SSN, bank account, or medical records. Whenever anyone requests this information, we should ask why they want it, what they are going to do with it, and how they are going to protect it. However, kids and teens need to know that they should never give this information out without parental consent. Then there are the things we care about, but it won’t be the end of the world if they are exposed. These things should be password protected. Lastly, there are things we want everyone to know about. The more we share the more we need to invest in our defense. There are different technology solutions that provide different layers of privacy, however, the best way to maintain privacy is to share less.
Talking About Sexting
Social media is full of provocative pictures and videos of celebrities. Some celebs proudly admit they send nude pictures to their partners - this is called Sexting. Unfortunately, teens who live on social media see this as a norm and sometimes do the same. They probably realize it’s bad behavior, however, they don’t realize sexting among teens is Illegal! These nude photos are considered child pornography, whether they include a face or not! Teens that sext run the risk of having to register as a sex offender. Anyone including a minor who sends, shares, or forwards nude pictures of a minor can be criminally charged with the distribution of child pornography. Even the person who received the pictures can be charged with holding pornography pictures. A charge like that can haunt them for life. Many colleges and employers check online profiles and criminal records for illegal activity or bad judgment.
Putting aside the legal aspect, teens can face humiliation at school, and just about everywhere they go when these pictures get out of control. So first, sending nude pictures or videos of a minor, even if the minor is you, is illegal - don’t do it. Second, anyone who receives a sexual picture of a minor should delete it immediately. The reality is that not everything adults do teens should do, or be allowed to do… that is just how it is.
Kids Will Try to Hide the “Stuff”
Many kids know when something is inappropriate. There are many apps that help hide pictures, videos, etc… Get to know the different apps kids are using today. We created a list "The Most Popular Apps Kids Are Using Today"
They Must Report Any Unusual Event
Let them know you are expecting them to tell you about any type of unusual event, like an inappropriate chat message or picture, even if they did not respond or “handled” it, you must be told about it.