Are Parents Overreacting to Online Dangers

The other day, a male friend brusquely stated that the dangers online are overrated. There is very little danger of either strangers grooming kids or offenders befriending kids to win their trust. Even the danger of children getting exposed to inappropriate material is hyped. He was of the opinion that it is in fact adults who keep talking about such dangers and bring it to the notice of kids!

You can surely gauge my reaction to that- shock, followed by utter incredulity! I mean what was this guy saying? That discussion of possible online dangers directs the attention of kids towards inappropriate content? That otherwise they would have never come to know of such issues?

This friend is, thankfully, a bachelor. He can be excused for having such thoughts which encompasses complete freedom for children to do as they please online without any monitoring. For as every parent knows, the world out there is not a bed of roses and children should be gradually prepared to face it-including cyber threats.

The online world is not very different from the real world- the same rules apply in both. But there are three big dangers in the cyber world that’s not there for a kid in the real world.

First, the people in the cyber world are often not what they profess to be. A 14 year old boy can be a 28 year old woman or a 65 year old man. The profile ID is a mask beyond which you cannot see. So if your 14 year old son befriends a boy of his age and plans to meet him up or a 13 year old is smitten by the friendship request from a dashing 17 year old boy, there are chances these people are not who they claim to be.

Second, the cyber world allows the child to venture anywhere, enter any site he pleases and connect with anyone who takes his fancy. There is no fear of the unknown here as the child is navigating safely from a familiar environment. Rather, a child gets the sense of adventure and often becomes daring, believing that he can come to no real harm. This dare at times leads him to forget the safety lessons.

Third, there are many crooks in the cyber world who are involved in hacking of accounts or phishing for data. Both adults and children fall to their tricks. Though global security firms like McAfee are relentlessly trying to identify and remove malware created by them, cyber criminals are improving their techniques and trying out new ways to con people. This may take the shape of a quiz, a survey, an account verification notice, a lottery, a request for a donation, a titillating video etc. Unfortunate victims have often lost their data and/or money to them.

So the cyber world is not a safe place for a kid alone. Just like an unfamiliar city road after dark. Or an isolated hiking trail. Or even a crowded fair. Your children do go downtown, or for a hike or to the fair but ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT. Similarly, when your kids go to cyber world, you need to monitor them till they become mature and responsible enough to identify threats and probable problem areas and steer clear of them. You educate them on safe cyber practices and ensure they surf from a secure internet connection. The keyword is therefore ‘monitoring’. And you do it for their safety.

To keep your kids protected from the cyber criminals, you can use software such as McAfee Total Protection on your PC as well as your laptop. The amazing parental control feature allows you to fix the net surfing timings and site access by age and weekday.

Safe Surfing !

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