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Teaching kids about cyber security

Technological innovation has changed the lives of people around the world and across all age demographics. It is rare to see someone without a smartphone these days, and most people are reasonably familiar with the gadgets they use. You probably use technology quite for work, school and during your free time. And why not when the digital environment has made our life so much easier: You can order anything, from dinner to clothing to furniture and have it delivered straight to your doorstep – often within hours. If you love holidays with your teenagers, you could plan the entire trip abroad from the comfort of your living room. You have endless choices for entertainment at your disposal via the use of streaming services. You can watch the latest films, concerts and visit museums half a world away from home. Not to mention that the internet has made it much easier to stay well-informed, with unlimited resources at our fingertips in just a few seconds. However, with accessibility and efficiency also comes the need for responsibility. If you haven’t yet discussed the issue of cyber security with your children, it’s not too late to start:

The importance of cyber security at home

There is no demographic more familiar with technology and more finely attuned to its intricacies than young people. Our children and teenagers were born into a world in which tech is already a dominant force, so naturally, they often feel more comfortable with technology than their parents. Even if they come across something unfamiliar, it’s much easier for them to understand and learn than it is for their parents. For most youngsters the online world has become an inseparable part of childhood, and most kids spend at least 45 hours online every week. That is equivalent to the time most parents spend at work, if not more!

For this reason, it’s essential to teach your children about internet safety and cyber crime. You should do this in a way that doesn’t send the wrong message: Firstly, don’t seem alarmist or overly concerned as they will then likely ignore your advice. Secondly, avoid the trap of giving vague advice. And thirdly, do your research and prepare before you have a conversation with your children about cyber security, to ensure your advice is relevant and up to date, so that you are not outsmarted by your teen. Here are some of the things you should do to protect your children from online dangers:

1. Secure family and kids’ devices

The internet is great. It offers so many entertainment opportunities that you are likely never going to get bored as long as you have access to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. However, as a parent, you should be aware of the possible dangers of the internet and advise your children to value web security.

It’s important that all devices your children use, whether personal or common ones shared among household members, including Alexas and smart TVs, should be kept updated at all times. Ignoring upgrades and failing to use a strong antivirus software will leave your systems vulnerable to hacker attacks. Your personal details can be stolen in this manner – an event that can create significant financial, mental, and emotional discomfort.

Children are common targets for identity thieves because they have no credit history, credit score, or card statements. As a result, children are 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen. According to a US study by Javelin, roughly one in fifty children a year become a victim of identity theft. Nearly $ 1 billion were lost as a result. Your child’s name and date of birth can be used to take out credit cards or open loans. If your kid does indeed become the victim of an infringement, you could file a data breach claim. Working with professional solicitors will give you the best chance of a positive outcome and compensation.collection of family smart devices

2. Talk to your children about cyber bullying

While the arrival of social media platforms has enabled us to connect with people across great distances, it also poses significant risks. Cyber bullying is one of the most common dangers of social media use amongst children. If your child is active on social media, there is a risk that they are being bullied by a person not known to them or someone they know through their friends or school. Although it may appear harmless at first, considering the bully cannot physically harm your child, the mental strain of cyber bullying can take a massive toll on your child’s self-esteem and mental health.

Take your time to talk to your children about the risk of cyber bullying. Tell them exactly what cyber bullying is and how to stop it. Should they have experienced any form of trolling or bullying online, acknowledging their feelings on the matter is very important. Your child should feel that you are entirely on their side and that you are offering your full support. Encourage them to talk about what happened to you or another trusted adult, even if they are embarrassed about any lies or media that might have been spread about them. Once you have all the facts, you can take steps to stop the bullying:

  • report the abuse to the app’s administrators,
  • depending on the type of abuse, report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP),
  • suggest deleting the app or taking a break from social media,
  • encourage your youngster to speak about their experience to you and their friends,
  • teach your teenager about online safety, abuse, and the law or give them access to that information through websites such as
  • give your child a list of helpline numbers.

It is important to reduce the risk of isolation that victims of bullying often struggle with by encouraging new hobbies and new friendships to strengthen them emotionally. If the impact is severe, arrange for your teenager to talk to a therapist or counsellor.sad teenager with laptop

3. Protect your teens from online predators

Unfortunately, cyber predators are a sad reality. Explain to your children that the anonymity of the Internet allows people to hide their identities and pretend to be someone they are not, typically someone close in age to them who will try to use manipulation and control tactics to harm them. Give them clear examples, by telling them that predators will try to lure them into exchanging personal information, sexual content, and possibly try to meet them in person.

It is paramount that you teach your child to never provide information about themselves to online strangers. They should also be vigilant about what they post online, especially when it comes to personal information, their location, and photos. Remind them that once a comment, photo or video has been uploaded, it is usually there forever and might cause them considerable harm in the future.

If something inappropriate does happen, make sure that your child feels comfortable talking to you. They need to know that you will listen to them and help solve the situation. Don’t overreact or blame them even if that is your gut instinct. That will make matters worse. If children and teenagers feel like they cannot come to you for help, they will shut you out, and you will have no idea what is happening in their lives. It is essential that there is trust. If you suspect that your child has encountered an online predator, document the interactions and report the situation to law enforcement authorities immediately.parent talking to your child about cyber security

4. Ask your kids to use their common sense

The online environment is not that different from the real world, and the same common-sense rules apply. Your children already knows that they shouldn’t talk to strangers in the street, even if they seem kind and well-intentioned. The same applies to the internet. If someone wants to contact them directly, they should inform an adult. They should also be wary of anything that looks too good to be true, such as offers to receive expensive items for free. Personal information such as age, the school they attend, their home address, and so on should never be shared online.child with tablet - cyber security risks

Final thoughts

When you think about all the dangers your children can face online, you might become overprotective and even consider banning them from accessing the internet. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic solution. Nowadays, we need to the internet as a resource for news, school, work, shopping, etc. And if your teenager did nothing wrong, why should they be punished? It might cause them to go online without your permission. Instead of banning them from the internet altogether, try to teach your children the principles of cyber security, so that they can recognize the dangers of the web and protect themselves from cyber crime. And if you have a relationship built on trust, they will come to you for advice if they find themselves in a situation that they feel unable to handle themselves.

About the author:
Single Parents on Holiday are the no. 1 tour operator for single parent family holidays. In addition to our family holidays, we organise singles holidays for the over 60s for single parent empty nesters and any other solo travellers wishing to join a fully-organised group holiday without kids. 

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