27 per cent of parents believe their children have been exposed to cyber threats in the last 12 months, according to a study.
Security specialist Kaspersky Lab conducted the research ahead of Safer Internet Day, which takes today (February 11th).
The results revealed that despite their fear of dangers such as children accessing inappropriate content or suffering cyber bullying, one fifth of parents (22 per cent) take no action to monitor or protect their children’s online activity.
“Regardless of how their children are accessing the internet, parents must remain vigilant, supervise their internet use and consider parental control technologies,” commented David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
“As a parent myself, I find these statistics particularly worrying when you consider the increasing number of children using connected smartphones today. After all, when children use mobile devices to access the web, they are using the same internet, with the same risks – yet parents are often not as aware of the dangers.”
The study also found that 18 per cent of parents had lost money or data from a personal device as a result of their child’s unmonitored access.
“There is a common misconception that smartphones and tablets don’t need the same level of protection as a PC, but with such a high percentage of parents not having a clear view of their children’s online activity, this way of thinking needs to change,” continued Emm.
“The internet is an incredible resource, both for social use and in an educational capacity. But in the same way as we would teach our children to cross the road safely, we must teach them to be aware of, and respect, the dangers of the internet. Just because a threat is out of sight, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it front of mind.”
Emm offered the following set of tips to parents to keep their children safe online:
- Both Android smartphones and iPhones come with in-built parental controls – when purchasing a smartphone, ask the sales assistants to demonstrate these features. They have policies in place and a responsibility to make parents aware of these. By creating a demand, it is more likely they will let other parents know.
- Apply settings that prevent in-app purchases to save hefty bills should children stumble across a game with expensive add-ons.
- Install security software – these providers will offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, for example, adult images and senders of nuisance SMS messages.
- Encourage children to talk about their online experience and in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Open a channel of communication so they feel they can discuss all areas of their online life without fear of judgment or reprimand.
- Protecting children from cyber bullies is especially challenging with smartphones as they can be targeted in so many ways, especially out of view of their parents. Deal with cyber bullying as you would in real life by encouraging children to be open and talk to a trusted adult if they experience any threatening or inappropriate messages. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are making children uncomfortable.
- Use the internet for good – there are sites that can advise both parents and children on how to manage online threats. Take a look at http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/.
Image of shocked children courtesy of Shutterstock.co.uk