Part two on helping your kids avoid online dangers: Gaming and social media
Editor’s note: This is the second post by Andrew Tipp in an ongoing series on how to protect your children in the digital age. The first post was on how to protect your kids from online porn.
Gaming the system
Porn isn’t the only threat to your kids on the web. More and more children are getting into online gaming at a younger age. Gaming itself isn’t bad – it can teach kids to think creatively and strategically, solve problems and learn to work in a team. But it can be a huge problem if kids try and cheat.
What do I mean by ‘cheat’? Well, gaming is a big business, and as huge games require days or weeks of play to make progress and become competitive, a lot of players look for shortcuts to save time or give them an edge. This usually comes in the form of hacks, which can be downloaded from torrent or file-sharing sites.
It’s bad that your kid could be cheating, or being cheated, in the gaming world. But the real danger is that in a lot of these hacks there are small chunks of malicious code or malware that’s designed to infect your computer and steal data. New research shows that up to 90 per cent of files on some torrent sites contain malware.
What’s scarier than your son or daughter downloading some nasty virus? That they’re the ones writing the malicious code and doing the hacking in the first place. Research has also found evidence that kids as young as 11 are creating hacks for games, which can allow them access to other gamers’ accounts. This means they can get at people’s credit card details and passwords, enabling them to steal and probably login into social media profiles.
Social media dangers
Kids are getting into social media and instant messaging at an early age. The same study that found kids as young as six have watched porn online found up to 17 per cent of 10-year-olds are social networkers, and by age 12 around a quarter of kids have at least one social media account.
Like gaming, social media can be a positive force in children’s lives; it can be a great way to learn, understand the world and connect with their friends and other kids with similar interests. But social networks can also be dangerous places for kids. Many are now like an internet within the internet, and almost impossible to monitor. On social sites kids can be exposed to grooming, trolling and cyberbullying, as well as violent or sexual videos and images.
How can you help your kids explore social media safely? First, ask yourself whether they should they even have an account and be leaving a digital footprint at all. Facebook insists that users need to be at least 13 to sign up for an account. Should pre-teens be social networking? Can they comprehend the risks and possible repercussions of having an online presence at that age?
Creating digital footprints
If you are letting your kids use social media, safety is mostly about settings and supervising. Help them make sure your children’s privacy settings are locked down, and educate them on the dangers of sharing too much information about themselves. Make sure your computer has adequate virus protection, and keep it in a social area of the house – so you can monitor who your children are interacting with.
Engaging your kids
The best place to start is by talking to your son or daughter, as early as possible. If they’re doing something they shouldn’t, find out why. If they’re ignorant as to why their behaviour is dangerous, explain it to them.
Eventually, your kids will grow up and use the web independently. You won’t be around or how any control of what they’re doing online. But you can take steps to safeguard them right now, and educate them about staying safer and more secure on the internet.
To protect against malware and viruses on your family computer, download the latest antivirus software. But there are plenty of other dangers not mentioned in this article. For more information on teaching kids about web safety and protecting your family online, be sure to check out GetNetWise and StaySafeOnl
—photo by wentongg/Flickr