Children are the most vulnerable part of our society, both in reality and the virtual world. But teenagers are facing different and sometimes even more difficult challenges. That’s why we want to tell you about the biggest cybersecurity threats your teenage kid risks facing each day.

This might not seem obvious at first sight, but just look at these stats from multiple studies conducted in Europe and the US:

  1. Parents buy smartphones for their children when they are as young as 5 years old (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK).
  2. In 2016, the average age for a child getting the first smartphone was 10.3 years old, down from 12 in 2012 (Influence Central, US).
  3. Almost 25% of 8 to 11-year-olds and 3 in 4 of 12 to 15-year-olds has a social media profile (Influence Central, US).

This means that your teenage daughter or son probably already has a smartphone and your concern is how to prevent him or her from getting in trouble on the internet. For this, we need to bust some myths that prevent parents from helping their children act safely in an online environment.

Myth #1. Your teenage kid knows more about cybersecurity than you

teenagers know more about cybersecurity

Are you one of those parents who thinks this young generation is more tech-savvy than you are, and that there’s no point in even trying to give them tips about cybersecurity? Turns out, the reality is counter-parent-intuitive and quite alarming:

The reality

These two conclusions made by researches form London School of Economics and Politics will probably make you rethink just how digitally native your children are:

  • 1 of 3 teenagers think they know less about the internet and related technologies than you
  • One third have no idea how to block pop-ups, choose the best app or turn off location sharing

The danger if you cling to the myth

Believing that your kid knows how to act safely on the web poses a threat to the whole family.

This means that your kid is exposed to dangers you thought might never bother you, such as:

  • Infecting their laptop or smartphone with dangerous malware
  • Leaking passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive data
  • Using illegal websites (leading to legal issues)
  • Being involuntarily exposed to adult material

What you can do

Find out what your teenager knows about cybersafety and learn together with him.

Learn more about internet technologies and educate your teenagers about them. See what the best anti-malware software available is, how to create strong passwords, and how to enable two-factor authentication. Also, if you’re living in a country that is known for monitoring online activities, learning how to use a good VPN to protect your identity is a must.

Myth #2. Only a small minority of teenagers experience issues online. My kid is not among them.

cyberbullying

Every parent thinks their kid is special. And for them he/she is. We do not want to think differently, only to show that there’s a much greater chance your kid is being bothered online than you think.

The reality

The danger if you cling to the myth

Thinking your teenager cannot be abused online makes it harder to see the signs that he/she might be a victim.

Psychological and emotional consequences you and/or your teenage kid might suffer include:

    • Increased chances of depression
    • Poor results in school
    • Suicidal thoughts or even attempts

What you can do

Communication is the key – if there’s a mutual trust, every problem can be solved.

Talk to your child, and try to see if she/he’s coming home upset. Try to gain her/his trust and assure her/him you’re always there to help. If you manage to speak to her/him, you can make the best decision: either to deal with it in the family circle or seek third-party help, like psychological counseling or even calling the police.

Myth #3. Your teenage kid will tell you if something bad happens online

cybersecurity and teenagers myths

You might have experienced this already – children can be reluctant to speak about issues with their parents. So if your child has never told you about cyberbullying or some other upsetting online experience, that doesn’t mean he/she has not faced it. In fact, he/she might still be experiencing it, even on a daily basis. Some parents think that if it happens to their teen, they will know. Turns out, it’s not really like that.

The reality

According to the NSPCC research of 11-16 year olds and their online experiences, only 1 of 5 teens who were upset by something online have had an eye-to-eye conversation about it. What is more, this was only the 3rd most common reaction after blocking the person who made them upset and not visiting the site where he/she was bothered for some time. This means that not only you but also his/her friends might not know there’s a problem, which, according to the same study, lasts more than a week 18% of the time. And the older your child gets, the more he/she will talk to the friends instead of you. Also take extra attention if your child is a boy – they tend to keep silent twice as often compared to the girls.

The danger if you cling to the myth

By waiting for your kid to tell you about an issue, you are making it harder to solve.

These are the most common upsetting scenarios which your 11-16 years old child might experience or continue experiencing as per NSPCC study:

  • 36% Trolling
  • 22% Exclusion from social group or friendship
  • 18% Aggressive and violent language
  • 14% Pressure to look or act a certain way
  • 12% Cyber stalking
  • 12% Receiving unwanted sexual messages
  • 10% Racism

Among the less spread upsetting experiences are personal information thefts or requests, pressure to send or respond to sexual message, homophobia, and sexism.

What you can do

Talk to your child regularly and you will be able to notice if something bothers him/her.

Every parent should look for signs that his teenager is upset and gain his trust so he/she feels safe to tell what happened. The biggest mistake is thinking that nothing brought to the table means there’s nothing to bring. We also have a few more cybersecurity tips for parents that should help your family stay safe on the web. Be sure to check them out.