Help Kids Navigate Through Unique Cybersecurity Issues
The Internet can provide children with many benefits, including greater access to educational tools and greater connection with peers and family. But with these benefits come security threats that can be unique to kids. Kids are getting online at earlier ages, and spending more time on the Internet. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, kids aged 8-18 spend about 7 hours and 38 minutes on the Internet each day. With so much time spent online, kids can face many cyber threats, including:
Cyber Predators. Cyber predators are people who search online for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way. According to Stop.Think.Connect. National Network partner, NetSmartz Workshop, predators “take advantage of children’s natural vulnerabilities, such as their desire to appear adult or their need for attention.” Parents can take advantage of NetSmartz’ resources to learn the warning signs of inappropriate online relationships, and how to safeguard their children from falling victim to a cyber predator. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Directorate recently released a smartphone app, Operation Predator, for the public to help law enforcement find fugitives and child predators. HSI also partners with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Netsmartz Workshop and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to educate kids, teens, parents, and educators about cyber predators through Project iGuardian.
Cyber Bullying. Cyber bullying is the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often anonymously. According to the National Crime Prevention Council Teens and Cyber Bullying study, 43 percent of teens have been victims of cyber bullying, and more than half of them do not tell their parents when cyber bullying happens. Cyber bullies can take many forms – they can be peers, adults, or anonymous.
Identity Theft. Most kids do not have bank accounts or credit cards yet, but identity theft is still a big threat for children online. Criminals use the Social Security numbers of children to open fraudulent accounts. According to the 2012 Child Identity Theft Report, 26 percent of identity theft victims were between the ages of six and 10, and identity theft doubled in 2013 for children age five and younger. Parents can help children prevent and respond to identity theft by following these tips from Stop.Think.Connect. Cyber Awareness Coalition partner the Federal Trade Commission:
- Know the warning signs of potential identity theft
- Check whether your child has a credit report
- Repair any damage that might have been caused by contacting credit bureaus and filing fraud complaints
- Keep your child’s personal information safe, and
- Understand who has access to your child’s information (such as schools) and how they use this information and keep it secure.
Privacy and Reputation Management. This may be more of an issue for teenagers, with over 96 percent participating in social media networks. This participation includes sharing a lot of personal information. According to the Pew Internet Research Center’s Teens, Social Media, and Internet Privacy study, 91 percent of teens share photos of themselves, 82 percent share their birth date, 71 percent share their school name, 53 percent share their email address, and 20 percent share their cell phone number. Sharing this information may make teens more at risk for identity theft, cyber predators, and cyber bullying. Parents and trusted adults should educate their teens about responsible online behavior, starting with these tips from the Stop.Think.Connect. grades 9-12 Student Tip Card:
- Keep your personal information private, including your family members, your school, your telephone number, and your address.
- Think twice before you post or say anything online. Once it is in cyberspace, it is out there forever.
- Only do and say things online that you would do or say in real life.
- Use strong passwords with eight characters or more and a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
- Think before you click–don’t open emails from strangers and don’t click on links for unfamiliar sites.
- Use privacy settings on social networking websites such as Facebook.
Because cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, raising responsible online citizens from a young age is important. Through its Toolkit, the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign offers a variety of resources for students of all ages. Access the Toolkit at www.stcguide.com.