As parents, one of the biggest challenges we face is keeping our children safe. If that wasn’t difficult enough, we need to balance it with giving them enough trust and freedom to make their own way in the world. No wonder us parents are in a constant state of worry. When it comes to being online, a whole new world opens up. That’s why the Safer Kids Online website by ESET has been developed to build a safe online environment for children. It is designed to educate children, parents and teachers about cybersecurity and raise awareness about its importance.
Why cybersecurity education is important for children
Did you know that one third of all the people on the internet are children? Our kids are growing up in a time when technology is an integral part of life. We can shield them from it as much as we want while they’re young, but eventually they are going to need to learn to use it. Parental controls are important, allowing us to give them some freedom whilst keeping them safe. But it’s not enough.
We need to accept that our job as parents is to prepare children to be adults. They have to face the dangers of the world themselves, including those on the internet. In a previous career, I spent a few years working with both victims and perpetrators of crimes committed online against children. As a parent, this has made me hyper-aware of the risks. So for me, the main worry is that I will be over protective. I want my children to develop their own awareness of the risks so that I can slowly and gradually step back and know that they will be safe.
It’s easy to assume that parental controls will be enough for now and education should come later as they have more freedom. But the earlier they learn, the better. Internet Matters is a not-for-profit organisation that works collaboratively across industry, government and with schools to reach UK families with tools, tips and resources to help children use technology smartly and safely. ESET has worked closely with them to develop the Safer Kids Online website.
Using the free Safer Kids Online platform with children
The Safer Kids Online website has a section of useful articles for parents, as well as a selection of videos for children. Each bitesize video covers a different topic so as parents, we can choose what our kids watch and when. I sat down with my eight year old to watch one video, but she loved it so much we ended up watching a few. We started by learning about oversharing on social media.
The video introduces viewers to “Sharetonia”, a planet where everyone shares everything. We establish that the character in the video has 5,000 friends on his phone, but that he doesn’t actually know most of them. Despite this, he shares personal information in a lot of detail. The issue of oversharing is raised. Then, things take a worrying turn when things are stolen from the character’s workshop.
At this point in the video, children are asked whether the incident was due to oversharing. Interestingly, Libby said that it wasn’t, so she clicked “no” in the video and we were taken to a second video. It explained that in fact, it was due to oversharing. Then there’s some information about what you can and can’t share. It doesn’t frighten children off by saying not to share anything, in fact the character is encouraged to share his creativity. However, they are told to be careful about sharing location, address and phone number.
ESET Safer Kids Online Workbook
If online learning isn’t right for you or your child, ESET has an alternative tool to help you talk through this important information. Their Safer Kids Online Workbook is as fun and interactive as the videos and you can download it for free here.
It helps children to recognise different apps and helps parents to talk through personal and non-personal information. A fun word search brings up some words they might not be aware of, then there’s a colourful poster with the catchy “Be SMART Online” motto. It explains some simple but important rules and children can then create their own poster on the next page. The last page explains prevention methods in a simple, easy to follow way.
The workbook offers a different approach that can be used to reinforce learning from the website. The focus is on keeping it simple and fun and we all know that’s how children learn the best.
The advice is so simple and easily absorbed that Libby definitely grasped it. She loved the video too, so we watched a few more. I’ll revisit both those and others with her as she gets older. Watching them together also gave me food for thought. Libby is aware of my job and she knows about social media. She knows that I share things on Instagram and YouTube and she is aware of my blog. In fact, she would love her own blog and YouTube channel in the future.
Whilst I absolutely encourage Libby’s love of digital creativity, watching the videos with her has made me realise that she hasn’t grasped what you should and shouldn’t share. She has no idea how careful I am about what I put online and what I don’t. Thankfully, we have a few years to work on it before she gets anywhere near social media. I am so grateful that we started early and will be able to work on her awareness over the next few years. I would recommend the free Safer Kids Online resource to anyone.