Gift Your Kids The Know-How To Maintain A Healthy Digital Reputation

The Digital India initiative by the Government of India is aimed at ushering in a digitally empowered society. One of the core components of Digital India is bringing about digital literacy, the ability to use digital devices and interact in social networks, while adhering to online behavioral norms.

In this context, our next generation needs to learn a very important concept, that of digital footprints, and how to maintain a healthy digital reputation.

We all know digital footprints ensures what we say online will always remain online but what constitutes digital reputation? It is made up of everything that a person shares about themselves and others online -both written and pictorial that helps others cyber citizens to form an opinion about him/her. Given that both digital footprint and digital reputation have long term consequences, it is important for you to advise your children that their digital reputation depends on THEM.

They are creating the content that is on their social media pages. Their posts, comments, responses, photos and videos create a digital image of them that may or may not be desirable. They are therefore responsible for the way the cyber citizens perceive them.

Does digital reputation matter? Oh yes, it certainly does. In the increasingly interconnected world, people across the globe might never really get to meet you in person and discover for themselves your real nature. So, they tend to seek information about you online – be it for jobs, college admission or even for signing up on a hiking group. Why not take a critical look at all your social media accounts and see for yourself as others see you online and decide, do you like all that you see?

A few things that tweens and teens usually do that may affect their digital reputation:

  • Follow their peer: often leads to sharing of false content, embarrassing videos or photos or even cyberbullying of a hapless victim
  • Push boundaries: Curiosity drives them to veer to unexplored sites and/or check out inappropriate content, and even share the same with friends. If they become a victim of spam, this fact will be shared with all social media friends
  • Search for free content: The kids want to download posters, movies, songs or games for free and thus stand the risk of falling prey to malware attacks
  • Trust easily: This is why online predators find it easy to impress youngsters and earn their trust
  • Give privacy a short-shrift: Kids brashly disregard security messages, thinking they are savvy enough to keep off risky sites. But cyber criminals are way cleverer than them and hence find it easy to compromise their accounts and misuse them.

And lastly apart from being conscious of the above, the one cyber safety skill we need to remind our kids is: to STOP. THINK. SHARE. online

Cyber Parenting – Let’s Hear What Mothers Have to Say

Children’s Day is around the corner and it has me thinking. With all the brouhaha over a connected future and devices that can monitor, make decisions and communicate; are we doing enough to prepare our children to stay safe online? Are we, the digital immigrants, cyber-mentoring the next generation?

Parents today have a tough job bringing up kids in a high-tech environment that is not native to them. And for the safety of their kids in the virtual world, parents themselves have to learn and understand the good and the bad of the internet and be aware of the threat landscape.

The next step is to raise their children as responsible cyber citizens and the earlier they start the better it is and all said and done, parents are the BEST teachers for their kids

As Intel Security Cybermum India, I thought it was time to find out if parents were on the right path to teach their kids cybersafety, so I approached some of my mom friends on Twitter with targeted questions listed below. I hope it resonates with you if you are looking at taking the first step to raising responsible cyber citizens

Q- At what age did your child start using the net? Did you have a cybersafety talk at that time or before that?

Most kids do not have a defined time when they first go online, so moms found them too young to discuss cybersafety. However, the new breed of young mothers seem to be prepared to handle it when the time comes.

As Banker Mom, Shruti Mahajan Singh says, “My child is still young but I would be talking to her soon about cybersafety, cyberbullying, cyber love chats etc. and how not to get affected by them.”

Yojna Sharma, a social media consultant and blogger, says her child was exposed to the internet at the age of 2, when he watched nursery rhyme videos under his mother’s supervision. She explains, “Going forward I plan to regulate his usage for a max of half hour per day. I plan to have a chat with him probably when he is 4-5 and can understand things better but I have started exploring options on net safety like firewall etc.”

Q – What are the top internet usage rules at home that your kids have to follow?

Blogger Mom – Neha Jain has these rules for her kids:

  1. No social media presence until you turn 13
  2. No sharing of personal information
  3. No online interaction with strangers
  4. Stipulated time to go online
  5. Access the internet in communal space only
  6. Do not hide if someone tries to bully or makes you comfortable in any manner
  7. No downloading or installing any software without parents’ consent

Neha, you have covered almost everything. Great work!

Q – According to the 2015 Teen Tween Technology Report by Intel Security, 48% of the parents surveyed believe that the worst thing that could happen to their children is interacting with strangers online. What’s your take on this? Do you monitor your child’s online activities and keep tabs on online friends?

(A major threat online is that it brings the outside world right into your home! Your child can be approached by a stranger without your knowledge, something you would never allow in the real world. So how do moms handle this?)

Army wife and mom Jyothi Menon monitors her son online. She also follows basic safety rules like using security tools and keeping the laptop in a common area. She adds, “We have had a discussion about pedophiles and how they use false identity to lure unsuspecting children. He uses my mobile to WhatsApp his friends and is not on Facebook or Instagram yet.”

Q – Almost half the children surveyed last year said they have bullied people over social media. Do you feel there is a rise in cyberbullying? What should parents do to contain this trend?

Singer, traveler, InfoSec girl Parul Jain agrees. “They (parents) should interact with their children about their friends. And keep track of day-to-day activities. Also (parents should) tell them about cyberbullying. Most of the time parents are not comfortable to talk about these topics.”

Agreed. Parents need to break the communication barrier and discuss cyberbullying, stalking, abuse, morphing etc. with growing kids so that they can identify such behavior, know what to do, seek parental guidance and not get depressed.

Q – Please share what you feel is THE biggest threat online and THE most important cybersafety step that all parents should follow.

Blogger and Stay at Home Mom, Madhu believes that the biggest threat online is “ease of access to any content and related fields that show up in search!” while family lifestyle blogger, Richa Choudhary thinks it is ‘is getting influenced by someone on social media or get trolled.’- and both are right!

Madhu shares several cyber safety measures but ranks setting up parental controls as Number One on priority list. I particularly like the fact that she stresses on frank and continuous discussions with kids and the need for teaching them digital disconnect for a proper digitally balanced life.

Richa has the very same idea when she advocates “limiting app downloads, restrict inappropriate websites from opening; basically, closely monitoring your kids web usage.”

Thank you so much for your inputs ladies! I genuinely appreciate your approach to ensuring cyber safety by applying the right mix of monitoring, mentoring and communication. It’s heartening that parents are giving cyber safety its due importance and handling it rationally, helping to create ideal digital citizens who can handle the connected future of tomorrow.

Happy parenting!