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Parents, children and cybersecurity: Time for a big conversation

Make sure kids know about the dangers of online life. Teach them about how to stay safe on the Internet, both virtually and physically.

A child plays with a smartphone in his bedroom in San Salvador on October 7, 2018. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)
A child plays with a smartphone in his bedroom in San Salvador on October 7, 2018. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

The firm Keeper Security has released its Parental Practices Report: Conversations on Cybersecurity. The document explores parental attitudes, practices and concerns regarding cybersecurity discussions with their children and seeks to shed light on this topic for families.

The report reveals that almost one in three (30 percent) parents have never spoken to their children about cybersecurity matters.

Furthermore, around 40 percent of parents indicate they did not know how to create strong passwords and almost a third (32 percent) of parents give their children access to the household computer.

Commenting on the report is Chris Hauk, Consumer Privacy Advocate at Pixel Privacy expresses the concern over exposure of young people to unsuitable materials or people through a widespread access to the World Wide Web.

Hauk tells Digital Journal: “It’s a bit scary to think that close to half of children have both smartphones and own online gaming accounts. Parents need to treat new tech users the same way they’d treat a new driver.”

This advice extends to: “Make sure kids know about the dangers of online life. Teach them about how to stay safe on the Internet, both virtually and physically. Some parents may be reluctant to educate their offspring about possible online dangers, due to worries about scaring their child. However, forewarned is forearmed.”

A related concern is the freedom of access that many young people have and the way they access content in an unsupervised environment. To this Hauk observes: “A bit more than a quarter of all children have both their own email account and their own social accounts. Both of these types of accounts leave the child open to being preyed upon by online scammers and predators. Children need to be educated about how to practice safe email and social network practices.”

Also commenting on the report for Digital Journal is Paul Bischoff, Consumer Privacy Advocate at Comparitech.

Bischoff  looks more generally at cybersecurity vulnerabilities: “Although strong passwords are certainly important, there aren’t many hackers out there trying to guess them through brute force. Even more important than having a strong password is setting a unique password for every account, and enabling two-factor authentication whenever available.”

To remediate this, Bischoff  recommends the following actions: “A different password for each account prevents credential stuffing attacks, in which hackers attempt to use the same password and username combination on multiple accounts. Two-factor authentication makes it orders of magnitude more difficult to break into your account if your password is somehow compromised.

In terms of taking these recommendations back to parents and children, Bischoff is an advocate of open dialogue, He notes: “I always encourage parents to sit down with their kids and adjust their privacy and security settings together. Password managers go a long way toward generating and remembering strong passwords. Get one for you and your child, then learn how to set it up and use it side by side.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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