Securus

e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

Don’t block your children from internet access – educate them on the safe use of technology

kids_with_mom
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

The Internet has completely transformed our world and is definitely here to stay. We can no longer imagine life without this fascinating tool at our fingertips, which opens so many doors for us at the click of a button. Whether it is movies, games, e-learning, e-business, social media – there is something there to entice everyone – young children included. We all know that young people are the most active users of the Internet and are most up to date with current trends in the virtual world. This makes the world wide web a wonderful place – but it can be very dangerous as well! Sadly, it is this group who are the most vulnerable target for cyber criminals with malicious intent.

A Unicef study suggests that 80% of all young people using the Internet are at risk of being abused, bullied or taken advantage of. Therefore, the dangers of the online world are a reality that cannot be ignored, especially as children are more likely to disregard all safety precautions whilst using the Internet. For many parents, the easiest solution to this problem is to eliminate the root cause of the threat by forbidding their children from going online. But does blocking the use of technology really serve any purpose? On the contrary, it could prove counter-productive as it may encourage children to use the Internet without the knowledge and supervision of adults.

A better way to tackle the situation is to discuss the potential dangers of the Internet with our children and inculcate safe online practices from a very young age. It is important to keep them abreast with the wonders of technology and use it to gain knowledge, for healthy interaction, entertainment, and to make life more convenient. It is not the technology in itself that is threatening, it is the naivety and lack of maturity of the users. Therefore, the onus lies on parents and educational institutions to be proactive in observing their children’s online behaviour and habits – while also engaging in regular ongoing conversations about the dos and don’ts of online etiquette.

Talking to your children about online safety

Explain to your child, in a manner appropriate for their age, how the Internet is a world in itself and that they need to be careful about what they reveal about themselves or their family. Discuss the potential dangers of the cyber world in a way that is easy for them to relate to.

Begin the conversation when the child is young

Discuss the topic as early as possible – starting at the time of the child’s very first associations with the Internet is vital for highlighting the dangers they could be exposed to. Explain the importance of passwords, of being discreet, and encourage them to be as wary of strangers online as in the real world. This helps to reinforce what is and is not acceptable, and makes healthy practices second nature for them.

Set limits

As it is so easy to get carried away and lose track of time while using the Internet, it is advisable to restrict online time to an hour or two every day, depending on the age of the child. This is important because parents can then actively supervise their child’s online activities and ensure their child does not get addicted. This helps emphasise the fact that whilst you are open to your children using the Internet, it cannot become a substitute for the real world.

Why conversations have a greater impact than blocking our children from the Internet

Denying children access to the Internet to ‘protect’ them is self-defeating. It can lead to them being more curious and sneaky in their access, with no regard for any kind of safety. It may make them rebellious and uninformed, rather than cautious and aware. And the chances of them misusing any technology they are provided with could increase.  Instead, talking to them will help them feel you respect their choices and trust them to make good decisions. This will create a healthy and open relationship between you.

As with all technology, it is not the Internet that is good or bad, rather the way we use it that determines how it impacts our lives. Frank, forthright and proactive effort from adults will make a lasting impression on their minds about the importance of staying safe in the virtual world.

To join the conversation about e-Safety and safeguarding children online, follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you would like to learn more about e-Safety solutions for schools, get in touch with us today.

Why you need to monitor how young people use technology

Technology
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Our lives have certainly been enriched with the advent of technology. In particular, the use of mobile phones have revolutionised our ability to communicate, regardless of time and place. However, although technology provides us with incredible benefits, this doesn’t mean it comes without its drawbacks.

Today, young people are becoming highly addicted to mobile phones. It is this addiction that is driving them away from the “real” world to the “online” world – some of them are obsessed with their online persona, as it gives them a chance to escape reality. This can result in tragedy though. For instance, take a recent case of a 15-year-old girl from north London, who was addicted to the internet and committed suicide, when online users encouraged her to harm herself.

An article published in the Childalert, UK reported that 9 out of 10 children in the UK own a mobile phone. While parents do benefit from the immediate communication they offer – especially considering their busy schedules, in today’s social media generation – a mobile device is not only restricted to ‘calling someone to talk to.’ Thanks to the internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels that are freely available to young people, with a simple click of a button. Teens who spend a lot of time on these social media channels, or on any other technical device, may suffer from depression and anxiety.

Can excessive use of technology really cause depression in teens?

Here is the evidence –  “children who spend more time on computers tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression,” suggested Public Health England officials to parents.

Public Health England issues guidance on good health to the NHS, UK. The report further revealed that one in ten children now has a mental health issue and a third of teenagers feel low, sad or down at least once a week.

Additionally, Tablets for Schools conducted a survey where 2,228 students (11-17-year-olds) were monitored and they found that almost 40% of pupils sometimes felt addicted to their internet enabled devices.

How can you tackle this?

It’s important to teach your pupils how to use technology safely. Digital technologies have amazing potential to support young people’s learning, fun and creativity, but you need to help them understand the negative side effects of the internet.

  • Start a dialogue with your pupil about safe use of technology, help them understand why they should stay away from some specific sites.
  • Monitor their hangout places online – get familiar with those websites and allow them to show you their favorite sites.
  • Inform them that they should never give out identifying information about themselves, friends or family members, which includes: names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords and credit card numbers.
  • You must create a technology “inventory” through which you can check whether they have any access to adult programming, or if parental/teacher controls on the internet browser’s software are enabled.
  • Choose an e-safety and user monitoring solution for your school – Securus offers the best system to safeguard your pupils against the wide range of threats they face in the digital age.
  • Advise your pupils to confide in a teacher if they face any type of harassment and bullying online.

 

How can a school cope with children who are capable of hacking its systems?

Young man is typing on laptop and looking at screen
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Computers and laptops occupy a desk in almost every child’s home today. Additionally, schools also have a dedicated time assigned exclusively to computers for research purposes.

Easy access to technology has brought many positives to education. But increasingly, schools need to be aware of computer-savvy children whose sophisticated skills could create challenges for their IT systems.

Hacking has its roots back in the 1950s and 1960s and was defined as a person who understands the systems and tries to break them, with good or ill intent, or simply to see if it can be done.

Could one of your pupils be a hacker?

The hacker personality is mainly characterised by “curiosity” about and “passion” for technology. Some other traits are: persistence, technical prowess and innovative ways of perceiving problems. Normally, such traits are considered ‘gifted’ by teachers and parents, which can make it difficult to detect that their teens are gradually dabbling in hi tech crime.

But, here is why this is considered a serious crime:

Even in the case of a teenager, if they ever break into systems (even if not for the purpose of stealing and using information online) they can be prosecuted under the same laws as a terrorist who hacks into systems.

A recent article published by Huffington Post revealed that one in ten (16 to 19-year-old teens) engage in some form of illegal cyber-activity. In fact, the article further reported that over a third of them would be impressed if a friend managed to replace a homepage of a major bank with a cartoon. The survey was conducted with a sample of 1,500 (16 to 19-year-old teens).

It further concluded that teens seek this sort of respect from peers, but many may be naïve about the consequences of their actions.

“I see kids of 11 and 12 sharing credit card details and asking for hacks,” said Chris Boyd, Director of Malware research at FaceTime Security.

Graham Robb, a board member of the Youth Justice Board for Ministry of Justice, UK explains the risks involved in hacking for young people.

“If they get a criminal record it stays with them. A Criminal Record Bureau check will throw that up and it could prevent access to jobs.”

The story of Ryan Cleary who was accused of a hacking attack

In 2011, 19 year-old Ryan Cleary made headlines when he was arrested for hacking the website of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Cleary created a remotely controlled network of zombie computers known as “botnet.” He carried out distributed denial of service attacks using “botnet” that resulted in websites getting flooded with traffic to make them crash. Another similar attack he carried out was against the British Phonographic Industry’s website and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s website.

In 2013, Cleary made news again for all the wrong reasons – he was found with more than 170 indecent images of children, some as young as six months.

Are you concerned that your systems may be susceptible to hackers? Have you implemented e-safety measures in your school? Securus-software not only provides solutions but also partners with schools in safeguarding their pupils online. Follow us on Twitter to get daily updates on e-safety solutions.

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