Are Your Kids Playing Virtual Hide-n-Seek With You?

We all grew up playing hide-n-seek. Remember how your toddler loved playing hide-and-seek as well? Well, today’s tech savvy kids have taken the game to an all new level by playing digital hide-and-seek with their parents. They have started hiding their online activities from their parents, just to enjoy some privacy and feel ‘grown-up.’

Now kids will be adventurous and try to stretch boundaries, especially teens. They also hide certain things because they may feel parents wouldn’t approve of them. These can range from networking at late hours, hacking, cyberbullying, connecting with strangers or watching age-inappropriate content.

So how do kids play the virtual hide-and-seek game with their parents? Aha, they sure know some smart ways around it that will keep you searching in vain:

  1. Using multiple email and social media accounts
  2. Signing up on social media platforms that parents don’t frequent
  3. Regularly deleting messages, temporary files and history
  4. Using the incognito mode
  5. Use of acronyms in messages
  6. Keeping passwords secret from parents
  7. Renaming contacts and files in devices

Consider the fact that 84 percent of parents allow their child to bring an internet connected device to bed, as per the McAfee Connected Family Study 2017. Do you think that can perhaps be the reason why it’s easy for kids to hide their activities from their parents? Further, 59% of parents monitor their child’s device usage, whereas 41% allow their child to use their devices whenever they want with no restrictions.

Websites are continually upgrading their security and introducing checks like minimum age criteria seeking to control the spread of fake accounts. Before exploring the online world, children need to first learn how to surf safely and handle online issues. As a parent, you are the primary educator for a child’s cybersafety training, you need to observe and guide them. It’s highly unlikely of you to leave your child alone, without keeping an eye out while going out in the real world. Similarly, why would you leave them on their own in the vast cyber world?

As your children grow older they will seek more privacy, and you may have to give them that freedom. It is important as it would instill in them a sense of ‘grown up’ and strengthen the bond of mutual trust between the child and the parent. But before you arrive at this stage, help them learn to stay safe online.

In the cyberworld, children sometimes may want to venture into unsafe territories and talk with strangers, away from parental monitoring. Not monitoring children would seem like a difficult proposition in such a scenario, unless you have parental controls activated or are aware of the online sites they visit and their passwords. They will try their best to hide their virtual footprints from you. Then what?

As your children sign up on social media sites, you need to be ready as well with the following tips:

  • Be friends with your children online
  • Encourage them to share their passwords with you
  • Periodically review the apps on your child’s phone and discuss the pros and cons with them
  • Activate parental controls to monitor them remotely
  • Keep communication channels open with them and ask them to be wary of online dangers, like cyberbullying
  • Advise them to share uncomfortable or negative experiences with parents immediately

Kids will be kids and we need to make allowances for them, understand and trust them to an extent. However, it is equally necessary that your children reciprocate that trust and respect for a fulfilling parent-child relation. For this, start their cybersafety education early on and be a parent as well as a friend to them.

So start today, if you haven’t already, and help your child stay safe online.

Combining The Old With The New

Mom look, that’s the app I was telling you about!” remarked my friend’s teen, pointing to an ad running on the TV.

Which one?”

See this, you can learn Physics at home with this app; Ramya tells me the lessons are very good and they make the concepts crystal clear. In fact they offer coaching in many other subjects,” explained the excited teen.

My daughter concurred, “Oh yes! I did an online course on Creative Writing. These courses are really good.

I was listening to the conversation and marveling at the level of awareness in today’s kids. They are so confident, aware of their problems and proactively look for solutions. They have friends hailing from different parts of the nation, and even the world, and they are well aware of global events. The world in fact has become a global village. Hence the demand for more knowledge, customized content and greater control over the learning process. This is the generation that is leveraging the net and digital devices to get the best of global education.

Education today is thus going beyond books and notebooks and understandably so. The internet has opened up multiple portals to the world of learning. There are just so many things to learn and so many ways of doing so. You can take lessons from an online teacher on a one-to-one basis, join a group education program, or do your own research using dedicated search engines and other customized tools- you take your choice. A plethora of such educational apps are available and many are free of charge. Even schools that still follow traditional teaching practices require children to do a lot of work online, including homework and projects, and children use these apps to enhance their learning and turn in great projects.

As a cyber security advocate, I however also consider the grey areas of learning with the aid of digital devices. These are mainly to do with the risks associated with all virtual world activities. Being aware of, and applying these checks, will make the entire learning process a safer and smoother one.

The following list will help you and your child to select the right educational app:

  1. Is the app age appropriate?

There are different apps out there for different age groups and learning levels. The right choice is necessary for learning to occur.

  1. Is the app free?

It’s always best to purchase the app. You will get better quality content and the app is more likely to be malware-free. Some apps and websites do offer free solutions and recommendations but for deeper learning, dedicated apps are necessary.

  1. Is this the right app?

Ask around. There are just too many apps and it is difficult to choose. Find out what apps your child’s friends are using. Ask your child’s teachers for recommendations.

  1. Does it need 2-way communication?

If the app requires the learner to take oral quizzes or tests with camera on, you will want to monitor this.

  1. What is the data requirement?

Ideally, there should be a mix of online and offline time or else data consumption might be high and child may be tempted to access social media sites at the same time.

  1. What permissions does the app require?

Class, age and email is permissible but if the app wants access to photos, contacts etc., then you may want to reconsider.

  1. Is the security at maximum?

This is necessary to identify unauthorized downloads that may occur and also to block pop-pups.

As we move towards our vision of Digital India, the use of digital devices is likely to increase in all fields and our children, the future digital citizens, are on the threshold of this changing scenario. Some of us may still be new to technology but it is still our duty to help make the digital experience for our kids the best and safest possible. Collaborate with teachers and other parents and do your own research online to always make the right choices for your child.

Next time we will explore if your kids are playing virtual hide-and-seek with you by selectively hiding their activity. Till then, sayonara.