In today’s demanding digital era, cyber parenting is the need of the hour. Today’s digital natives are exposed to an unrestricted virtual world where they indiscriminately share personal information that makes them vulnerable to various cyber exploits. This makes it important for a mother to don an additional hat of being a cyber-mother and work towards building a cyber-smart family.
According to McAfee’s Tweens & Technology Report 2013 (a study which analysed the online behaviour of India’s next generation of digital natives), Indian kids between 8-12 years were found not exercising caution while communicating online – 36% of Tweens had chatted with strangers online, placing themselves in risky situations and vulnerable to risky internet behaviour.
The study also showed that on an average, Indian tweens use 3-4 internet enabled devices for entertainment, social networking, and research and school assignments. Further, there has been a growing trend of Indian tweens (kids aged 8-12) having unauthorised Facebook accounts despite being under the stipulated age to access Facebook which is 13 years. 3 in 4 (70%) kids admitted to currently using Facebook and 59% admitted sharing personal information on Facebook.
This unauthorised access and oversharing of information on social networking sites apart from other communication channels such as messaging apps, smart phone games, etc makes the online lives of kids potentially vulnerable with negative experiences like cyber bullying, befriending unknown strangers, getting into relationships and accessing provocative content. And in this scenario, guiding our kids and proactively sharing potential threats and how to deal with them plays an important role. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, here are some steps that you can take as a mother to handhold your children and create a cyber-smart family:
- Become a digital literate yourself and stay updated. It’s really easy to learn. Just learn the basics of operating a computer and signing up on social media. You will pick up more as you go ahead.
- Work as a team to set boundaries. Discuss what is OK and what is not OK regarding what kind of web sites are appropriate for them, which chat rooms to visit, and what kinds of things they can talk about there. Get to know your child’s online friends as you do their school and neighbourhood friends. Learn to surf the web and chat online yourself so you understand what it is that your child is doing.
- Talk and share. Talking and discussions will take you a long way with your child especially if we discuss cyber threats that are more prevalent today. Referring to one’s own experiences always can help you be their confidantes.
- Review their digital footprints. Drill into kids that “what goes online stays online”. Ensure that your child knows the long-term consequences of posting comments, status and pics. Tell them how pictures are morphed, words are used out-of-context to create wrong impressions and how posts can affect career & college prospects
- Brush, wash & sign-out at night. Teach kids digital hygiene along with personal hygiene. Just like they brush teeth and wash hands to keep out germs; they must use strong passwords, take regular backups, not download files from dubious sources, click on a link after verifying authenticity and keep the anti-virus running and Firewall ON to keep out malware. They must also sign out of all accounts every time.
- Have security software installed on all Internet-enabled devices. The need for advanced security software like McAfee Total Protection and can’t be emphasized enough. If you set up parental controls, you will be able to monitor your kids on all the devices simultaneously. You will be informed if strangers approach your child online or if inappropriate content or language is exchanged. You will also be able to regulate internet use and website access. You can also use free tools such as McAfee Mobile Security available for Android and iOS devices to prevent privacy invasions, data loss, identity theft and McAfee Site Advisor® technology that protects users from malicious websites and browser exploits.
And lastly, the mantra you need to give your child to stay safe online is “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”