In our previous article we busted the three main myths about teenagers in cyberspace and gave some tips on how to deal with the consequences. Now we want to focus on cybersecurity tips to solve the most common problems our children experience or might experience every day on the web.
The best way to keep your teenager out of internet troubles is education. You should be the one who teaches him/her how to browse safely, avoid cyberbullying, sexting, and other cybersecurity dangers.
If you have read the aforementioned article, you should already know that no matter how cautious or IT-savvy your teenager is, he or she might still get exposed to dangers posed by malware, his/her peers, or complete strangers. So even if your teenager sending nudes to strangers sounds like an otherworldly idea, consider that he/she might be pressured into doing just that. And maybe they’re receiving unsolicited pictures that would make even pornography moguls blush? In such cases, you cannot be a bystander. Time to learn some important cybersecurity tips to deal with these e-dangers.
This is probably a problem parents would never believe their kids face. “My son would never do such thing”, a proud/pious dad would say. But sexting, which seems like an innocent and arousing game, might go public lightning fast.
Parents might think sexting is like texting, just involving some adult-jokes about genitalia and whatnot. The situation is actually worse – it includes receiving and sending pictures of underwear, nude pictures, or even live videochats (which can obviously be screenshoted or recorded by another party).
50% of parents are unaware that it’s illegal for their child to take a nude photo of themselves in the first place.
In the UK, having images or videos of anyone (including yourself) under 18 is illegal. And if your child is 14 already, he will be getting a criminal record for “creating indecent images of children”. UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) states that 28% of parents have no idea that it’s prohibited for a child to send a nude or sexual image to a peer. 50% of parents are unaware that it’s illegal for their child to take a nude photo of themselves in the first place. Were you in the half that knew this was the case? And do you think your child knows? Or if he/she cares?
Now imagine your son having his phone taken by the police, who find that he has some inappropriate pictures of a girl from his school. They were shared by his classmate. Your son didn’t take those pictures, he didn’t approve them, but he has seen them and forgot to delete them. Now he’s eligible for indictment under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 – how uncool is that?!
The problem is that according to the aforementioned NSPCC’s study, only 39% of parents are concerned that their child may become involved in sexting in the future. We sincerely hope this is about to change and invite you to act now.
Talk to your child
NSPCC states that 42% of parents have spoken to their child about sexting at least once, and that’s a good sign.
Talk to your child to know his/her perspective and experience with sexting. NSPCC states that 42% of parents have spoken to their child about sexting at least once, and that’s a good sign. But almost 1 of 5 do not intend to ever have a conversation about it. If you don’t have such intentions either – shame on YOU!
Learn about the legal consequences
Learn about the legal consequences of teenagers having or spreading nude images of themselves or other teenagers in your country. Educate your child about that. Try to remember whether you’ve done any nudes whilst high for an artsy-fartsy photoshoot in your college years. Go to the attic. Find them and burn them.
Cyberbullying is now happening more often than face-to-face bullying. Usually it occurs on social networks. Often they feed off one another, as some wicked prank made online can be shared with the whole school so that next morning when you come everybody knows. Therefore, this is a complex problem that should be solved both online and offline.
Only 1 in 10 victims tells a parent or other trusted adult about cyberbullying.
43% of the teens have experienced cyberbullying, a study from London School of Economics and Politics concludes. Yet only 1 in 10 victims tells a parent or other trusted adult about it, according to the USA’s National Crime Prevention Council report. Such seclusion raises the risk of self-harm – victims of cyberbullying are two to nine times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Look for symptoms
If you see at least one of these symptoms – make sure you talk calmly about the situation with your child.
Make sure you notice possible symptoms of your child being bullied, which may include: having few or no friends, being suspicious of others, having problems fitting in, reluctance to go to school. If you see at least one of these symptoms – make sure you talk calmly about the situation with your child. Be sure he keeps you updated about the situation.
Block the cyberbully
Adjusting your privacy settings so that the cyberbully cannot follow you or your friends is also a good idea.
People, especially teens, may not think about such option or be afraid of the consequences, but you can always block unwanted users from your social networks and other web services. Adjusting your privacy settings so that the cyberbully cannot follow you or your friends is also a good idea. This is a good way to prevent future attacks from other cyberbullies.
Report the cyberbully
Sometimes it has to be done to stop it once and for all.
If all else fails, report the cyberbully to local authorities. This is not the most pleasant of activities, as cyberbullies tend to be from the local community and your kid might run into him from time to time, but sometimes it has to be done to stop it once and for all.
Leaking sensitive information
A lot of times parents use the same password for all accounts (usually the name of a pet). On what grounds do you rest your belief that your teenager is doing something differently? And what keeps you thinking your teenager hasn’t already guessed that password to access your accounts?
Personal information can be leaked by accident or during innocent chatting with a stranger.
Leaking personal information, such as your full name, address and birthdate may end up in identity theft. What is more, even strong passwords cannot ensure your data will be safe, especially if you use cloud services – a possible target for hackers.
If you wouldn’t do it offline – don’t do it online
This is a good cybersecurity tip for kids but it might not be the best for late teenagers, who already want to explore what they can and can’t do face to face.
Cloud-based service always has potential leak issues. So this is something your teenager should be warned about in the proper manner.
Sure, there are instances when even adult people store their nude pictures on a cloud-based service, which always has potential leak issues. So this is something your teenager should be warned about in the proper manner. That means not something like “Don’t you pose naked for a stupid selfie, young lady!” but rather “Yeah, if you have some sensitive photos, just like I did when I was high during my college years, make sure you save them on internal storage. You don’t want to end up where Jennifer Lawrence ended up, do you?”.
What happens on the internet, stays on the internet
Teenagers also need to remember that everything they do over the web is captured forever and could come back to haunt them. How? Many employers and university admissions offices look at social media profiles when researching candidates, so if there’s even a small chance something can ruin your child’s reputation, at least they should make their public profiles private.
Teenagers must remember, once they’ve written something – they can’t delete it.
“Just like when you say something when speaking to an audience, you have to think what you say on the internet. Why? Because tracking your identity is almost as easy as if you were speaking right in front of them.” – quote this to your kid to sound authoritative.
Teenagers must remember, once they’ve written something – they can’t delete it. Despite what Google is doing in Europe, the right to be forgotten doesn’t apply everywhere! If what they do or say is controversial, it will be copied many times and will always come back and bite them, even in later life when they apply to college, for a job, and especially to a retirement home.
Cyberperverts – a parent’s worst e-nightmare
In 2015, worldwide parent internet users survey has shown that 41% of parents are concerned about their children possibly communicating with cyberperverts. Their concern is pretty legitimate because 20% of teens who regularly go online say they have received unwanted sexual solicitation through the internet, guardchild.com states. The number may be high because parents imagine perverts and their cyber-counterparts as middle-aged men with beards, glasses, and trench coats.
Sadly, most of the time they look kinda normal and that’s why teenagers fall into their trap.
Sadly, most of the time they look kinda normal and that’s why teenagers fall into their trap, like an ant falls into the trap of an ant-eater’s long and sticky tongue.
The teenage years are also the years of the first “true loves”, crushes and heightened hormone-based senses. Therefore, it’s natural that your child, who is not a child anymore, seeks a romantic partner. Here is the danger of communicating via Tinder or any other dating site that you cannot know who you’re actually talking to: for all you know, this might be the aforementioned bearded middle-aged man with glasses and a trench coat.
So, not only can they lure out sensitive info, they can ask for a meeting in a secluded area where things can easily go wrong. Even if the person’s pictures are not fake, you should be cautious – he or she may be way older than your teenage kid. As you may remember, it is always considered cool to be friends with the older kids, let alone to have an affair with someone who is above the legal age for driving and/or drinking. Both these things can be combined and mixed with your child for a dangerous cocktail.
Strangers don’t have the best candy
To put it simply, your teenager shouldn’t behave differently online from how he behaves in the real world. Just as there are people who can steal your kid’s smartphone if left unattended, without proper protection, the information inside the smartphone can also be stolen. Usually, the goal is financial information, but for a cyberpervert this is a good way to learn more about the victim.
So if a stranger asks your kid to open a strange link or email attachment, it’s best not to do that.
So if a stranger asks your kid to open a strange link or email attachment, it’s best not to do that. The same cautiousness should be applied to links from friends whose devices might be infected to automatically send friendly-looking malware.
Moreso, if that stranger has a nice photo, is a couple years older, and asks him to meet ASAP after school, this should also not be interpreted by you child as a sign of him being ‘alpha’.
Become friends with your child on social media
Most of the younger generation ran away to Snapchat and similar apps after having to feel the embarrassment of their Mom or Dad commenting their #nofilter selfies. But in any case, it would be good if you were friends with your kid at least on some of the social networks to check once in a while if there are no new strange connections.
Just stalk them quietly – it’s not creepy if no one knows you’re doing it.
As you probably know, the age-old thing for teenagers is to be amongst the cool, popular kids. Therefore, they might be adding friends from dubious environments. So one of our cybersecurity tips here is this: don’t embarrass your kid with your comments on social networks, just stalk them quietly – it’s not creepy if no one knows you’re doing it. If you see strange older people commenting or liking your son’s shirtless selfie, better have a talk about that person in a non-intrusive way, instead of writing a comment on his wall using ten aggressive emojis. Children have to know you’re not there to judge them or “tell them what to do”, but to save them from bearded and bespectacled middle-aged men in trench coats.
Not only should you educate your teenage kids about the vices of this miracle called the Internet, but also educate yourself so you’re the authority and they do not have trust their peers instead of you. This doesn’t mean you have to be a tech geek – just know the main principles and then learn to apply them and tell your kid about them.
And the best thing to do is to start teaching about cybersecurity at the earliest possible stage. If you have younger children, are planning to have some soon, or having some despite not planning to, make sure to also read our cybersecurity tips for parents who have kids.
Goodbye and take care of your children.