Ways to Ensure Children’s Safety on the Internet: Cybersecurity Experts’ Views and Advice

On the occasion of World Children’s Day, we share an article, containing recommendations and a few tools, which can help to protect children from inappropriate content on the Internet.

As the saying goes: "Two lawyers, three opinions". The situation is no different for IS specialists when it comes to children's safety online. To supplement traditional advice, we conducted a survey and asked the opinions of dozens of security specialists.

Often, a child's first and favorite gadget is a smartphone. Even stringent IS experts concur that nowadays it's difficult to do away with smartphones, however, most of them agree that smartphones should be equipped with parental controls. Furthermore, 44% of the experts believe that high school students should use smartphones with parental supervision.

Parents have the option to receive data on their child's location. Required locations, such as home, park and school can be pre-set, and data may be obtained in real-life mode via GPS as well. This tool can be effective in keeping kids safe, but it’s also dangerous. There are numerous reports and news highlighting software vulnerabilities, which make gadgets dangerous, as intruders may obtain data on a child's location. Gadgets for children, for instance, smartwatches, no matter how cheerful or colorful in design, are often used as means for secretly obtaining information. There are even countries where the production, purchase, or sale of such gadgets is prohibited, for instance, in Germany.

Many cybersecurity experts believe, that usage of such devices is dangerous, and many experts favor using a phone with the help of which parents can call their child and, in case necessary, track their location.

Nowadays phones are used not only for making calls but for exploring the world which leads to serious risks. A child can experience social engineering attacks, and face adult content, fakes, propaganda, and even potentially dangerous strangers. To ensure safety, some parents rely on child mode. The most popular parental control PC features are available in operating systems, such as Window’s Microsoft Family Safety. 

The solutions listed below work both with computers and mobile devices:

  • Antiviruses can be useful, especially if they are equipped with built-in functionality for parental control. Nowadays, many solutions have such functionality. Some vendors have even developed a product designed specifically for the protection of children.
  • Parents can also configure limited functionality in children’s profiles. For instance, when setting up a Google account, parents can specify the level of search result filtering. Similarly, social media platforms like Facebook offer options to limit a child page's visibility to users who aren’t on the friends list.
  • Specific third-party services can also be used to configure a child’s access rights to the Internet, allowing or prohibiting visiting certain sites. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer such services as an additional option to the basic tariff plan.
  • Ensure control on the level of the router. Even budget routers often have basic parental control functionality, which helps to monitor and control a child’s activity on the Internet, limit access to certain sites and control the amount of time spent online.

All these measures can be useful. However, it’s strictly required not to be naive, no one should rely only on these measures and believe, that compliance with the recommendations helps to solve the problem entirely. For instance, inappropriate content can still find its way onto devices through free games. In any case, only half of colleagues, who took part in the survey believe that these settings are effective in safeguarding elementary school children. 

Other experts are even more skeptical and prefer to instill healthy paranoia from a young age. Most information security experts are strict with their children and believe that it’s of crucial importance to teach children basic safety rules and explain the following:

  • How to choose appropriate passwords (it’s important to explain, which passwords are the most reliable ones)?
  • How to implement two-factor authentication and why it’s important?
  • How social engineering attacks are performed and which tactics are used?
  • What are viruses, how are they uploaded, why are they dangerous and what to do in case a device is infected?
  • What is identity theft (what is Personally Identifiable Information, where it’s dangerous to leave it, what may happen if such data is leaked)?
  • How to ensure privacy (reveal the potential online threats, how to mitigate them and what to do to protect against lurking and other threats)?

It’s useful to use ready-made e-learning educational courses to gain relevant knowledge, it can help both parents and children. There aren’t plenty of good courses developed, however, there are some useful ones. No matter if you use a ready-made course or develop your own. It’s important to keep the course content up-to-date with current threats. You may reveal to your child the dangers of deepfakes, and explain, that a completely different person may be behind a mask of a classmate, both on a photo or even video (including real-life mode video). Besides, our CISO has recently prepared the article, revealing, how deepfakes are made and how to detect them.

Lastly, it is crucial to explain that anonymity on the Internet doesn’t exist. Also, stress the responsibility for online behavior and emphasize the consequences that follow breaking the law or engaging in unethical activities on the internet.


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