Keeping Kids Safe Online

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Robert Siciliano


It is no surprise that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the Internet and the people who use it. The Internet is like a bad neighborhood with bad guys around every corner.

Any parent with an ounce of sensibility should recognize that when your child is on the wild wild web, they are at the same risk as they would be walking through the red light district in any big city.

I’m not saying this because I want to instill fear and panic, I’m bringing this up because sex offenders, pedophiles, criminal hackers and identity thieves treat the online world as if it was the physical world and use the anonymity of the web and the easiness of approach to seduce your children into doing things they wouldn’t normally do.

The Secret Online Lives of Teens, a survey conducted by McAfee, reveals that tweens and teens are relatively clueless about online privacy. The study sheds light on this generation’s tendency to use the Internet in ways that translate to danger in the real world.

There always has, is, and will be a predatory element out there. Generally, most people don’t want to think about that or even admit that it’s true. Instead of acknowledging the risks, most people completely discount this reality, telling themselves, “It can’t happen to me or my kids.”

The good news is you can do something about it. As soon as a family member becomes active online, it’s time to educate them—no matter what age they are—about cyber safety.

  • Set up the computer in a high-traffic family area and limit the number of hours your children spend on it.
  • Be sure you have computer security software with parental controls.
  • Decide exactly what is okay and what is not okay with regard to the kinds of web sites that are appropriate to visit
  • Use only appropriate monitored chat rooms
  • Never log in with user names that reveal true identity or that are provocative
  • Never reveal your passwords
  • Never reveal phone numbers or addresses
  • Never post information that reveals your identity
  • Never post inappropriate photos or ones that may reveal your identity (for example: city or school names on shirts)
  • Never share any information with strangers met online
  • Never meet face-to-face with strangers met online
  • Never open attachments from strangers

Once you have established the rules, make a poster listing them, and put it next to the computer.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing Home Security and Identity Theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures.

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Raymond Choo Criminologists have long argued that crime is most likely to occur with the concurrence of (1) opportunities for crimes to occur (2) the presence of suitably motivated offenders, and (3) the absence of capable guardians and other deterrents to crime. For example, ICT and the new media channels such as social networking sites enable offenders who are motivated by personal sexual gratification to target children and young people individually or collectively.

Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation via ICT and the new media channels because these mediums are attractive to them. Children and young people often use these mediums unsupervised and increasingly have access to portable devices with the capacity for data storage, digital photography and communications such as third generation mobile phones. The types of offences that are relevant to online child exploitation include accessing, sending or uploading child exploitation material; grooming and procuring of children and young people over the internet; possession and publication of child exploitation materials; and sexual assault of children and young people.

The potential for responding to online risks lies in an effective partnership between the public and private sectors. A legislative approach is useful to keep children safe in the online environment, but it is unlikely that law enforcement alone can cause a noticeable reduction in the online child-grooming statistics, making non-legislative responses crucial in improving internet safety for children. The role of public policing agencies is only one, albeit important, part of the overall response to cybercrime.

User awareness and education/training are distinct activities, and both are critical in mitigating online child (sexual) exploitation. Children and young people are generally more technologically savvy and at ease with the use of web 2.0 (e.g. social networking sites) than their parents, teachers and other individuals tasked with taking care of them. The virtual/digital generations are increasingly communicating in ways unfamiliar to adults in virtual venues only dimly grasped by them. It is not surprising that adults are not up-to-date with recent advances in ICT used by the virtual/digital generations and, therefore, also have difficulty in coping with or responding to online risks faced by their children.

There is, arguably, a need to address this educational need. Besides focusing preventive strategies on children, parents should also be included in the educational programs. For example, parents should ensure that children and young people are subject, to some degree, to family rules that limit the frequency and their connection time, and be familiar with the communication technologies (e.g. instant messaging programs and social networking sites) to reduce their child’s risk behaviour in the longer term. The issue of adult awareness is crucial when it comes to effective action by parents and schools against cyberbullying. Both parents and teachers should be aware of the various types of online risks (including online child grooming) and of what actions can be taken.

There is also a need for further research to analyse best practices on awareness raising and educational activities from countries such as New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, Japan and other OECD member nations to effectively respond to online risks faced by children and young people. Findings of the research could then be used to support the government in evaluating the effectiveness of cyber security education and awareness raising programs, and provide the evidence base in implementation of sound strategies.

- See also report entitled "Online child grooming: a literature review on the misuse of social networking sites for grooming children for sexual offences" ( )
Pete Herzog Hi, nice article but I think you need to take the McAfee study with a shot of salt because they want the results which sell product. If there's an independent study that proves the same, I'd be interested in seeing it. However, from working with kids for so long, they are not that bad with privacy. Many recognize it and understand its need. The problem often is adults and educators who require children to put themselves online to access school content, interact with groups, and partake in pictures or video of social activity. The children are then misinformed or falsely assured of their safety, if at all. They are also told that they don't have to join if they don't want to but then they also don't get to participate.

Security awareness itself doesn't work as it's produced: too many rules for too many situations. It's also different for adults then kids. It requires critical thinking and weighing of benefits against loss even over the long-term and with economic ramifications not likely apparent (like the hassle of dealing with bureaucracy in the case of identity theft).

Perhaps the biggest problem is not that our authority figures are clueless but that parents often no longer raise their children. For economic and personal fulfillment reasons, the family seems to be falling apart with more requirements falling to outside authorities to teach children values. Things they could be learning in the home like "whatever you send someone or whatever you write will be around for ever" which is a basic lesson we know from the age of letter writing anyway. But parents don't sit with children to "catch up on their correspondence" to grandma anymore, although they could via e-mail, which teaches them things you say and don't say in writing.

So the real challenge is not a Security Awareness program for kids but an updated values program for the world. That's how we keep kids safe online AND everywhere else.
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