You don’t need to be a technologist to keep your kids safe. You do however need to become an expert on the dangers they face and ways to protect them.
If companies are at risk from bad actors, kids are in downright peril. Destructive people have found ways to bully and manipulate them from the internet (via their phone), often right under their parents’ noses. We can use what we’ve learned protecting organizations to develop cybersecurity around our children.
Here are some steps you can take to keep your children safe.
We want to believe the best in people, but the truth is sometimes they are the worst. Just like foreign governments and mercenaries are already on our organizations’ electronic networks, pedophiles and abusers are in our kids’ ecosystem. It’s awful but true. To face these risks effectively, we must start by admitting there’s a problem — a big one.
Read up on current threats. Find local resources to help you. In my resident state of Michigan, experts will come out to schools or local community groups to educate students and parents on cybersecurity risks and challenges.
In most cases, kids understand today’s technologies better than their parents. They are growing up fast, and they know how to get around controls. At the same time, understand that bad actors have infiltrated social media and apps, even those – especially those – that cater to minors. They are master manipulators, and they are everywhere.
Become an expert on the iPhone, or whatever type of devices your children have access to. Apple’s Genius Bars will give you free appointments to walk through cyber-safety for your kids. Learn how to put the right settings in place. Turn off all adult content. For younger children, only allow text. No more Snapchat – you can hide anything. Get extra controls from applications such as Bark or SaferKid.
Adapters and even some masking tape can do the trick. Don’t allow applications access to your microphones or your cameras. Turn off location services. Those apps don’t need access to your camera, microphone or location; they sell that data, sometimes on the Dark Web.
Do a thorough review of your phone and get rid of anything you aren’t currently using. Bad actors can find their way into apps you are not actively using or monitoring.
Many apps exist that allow you to forward all your kids’ texts to you, or to see across all their social media. This is extremely helpful to detect bullying, inappropriate sexual contact or other dangerous situations, or manipulative cyber behavior that your kids may not yet recognize or have not told you about.
These apps allow you to limit, restrict or block access to certain apps, contacts, texts, calls or ads. Many of these apps also have location controls so you always know where your kids are. Here are some examples:
Teen Safe https://teensafe.com/
Kidgy Parental Control App https://kidgy.com/
We all remember or dealt with bullies in our past but cyberbullying today has reached a whole new level. Tripping and laughing at a kid who falls in the cafeteria has been replaced by filming him and sending it viral. Group texts can add another aspect of berating and demeaning a child.
Often, children or parents think deleting a contact from a kid bullying your child is enough. It’s not; you have to block that child completely, on your child’s phone as well as any apps your child has.
As a parent myself as well as a cybersecurity expert, I have learned that there are many crucial questions beyond if parents will be there. Who else will be there? Do they have older brothers? Is there an older relative, like an uncle or grandfather, who live at the house?
Social media requires many of the same questions. Who is on that group chat? What is the purpose? Who monitors it? Kids are in just as much if not more danger on social media than they are at a strange location.
To protect our kids from the darker truths, it is important to educate them to recognize danger and know what to do if they face scary situations.
Educate your kids on what is appropriate and what is not, and why. People can abuse children remotely. Explain to your kids what can happen. Pedophiles are manipulative; it’s up to you as parents to learn about these threats and put your kids in the safest position possible.
Kids text in jargon, and it may surprise you to know what some of those letters and numbers mean. Check them out and stay up to date. Here is an example from the following website: https://internetsafety101.org/acronyms
121 stands for one-to-one; it is used to single someone out in a chatroom to talk to them 121, or privately.
IRL means “in real life,” as in “Want to meet IRL?”
AFK is “away from keyboard.”
FTF and F2F means face-to-face, as in “Let’s meet FTF.”
ASL means Age sex location. As in, “What is your ASL?”
CD9 means Code 9; parents are around.
GNOC is “get naked on cam.”
There’s even KPC – keeping parents clueless!
As these acronyms continue to be added into the social lexicon, it makes sense to search the jargon on an ongoing basis, or if there’s anything in a text to your child that you don’t understand.
Your most valuable tool in defending your children is the word “No.” Put in the right context, they might not agree or like it, but they will understand you are trying to protect them because you love them.
No more KPC here.