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Cyber-bullying and the ultimate cheat sheet to stopping it

The ultimate cheat sheet to monitoring teens in the digital age (and stopping internet cyber-bullying)

Pornography has basically been around since forever. But, thanks to the Internet and more so, with the anonymization of web browsing, it has increased sharply in accessibility and hyper-interactivity. As a result, children are increasingly involved in sexting, cyberbullying and pornography.

One in three Android device users sends inappropriate text messages to their friends, according to Bitdefender data. It’s not surprise, since nowadays, children are taught to use tablets, smartphone and their user-friendly mobile apps from a very young age. Yes, teachers and parents keep an eye on them while at school or home, but new technologies allow young kids to circumvent constraints.

Smart toys have also made their way into kids’ lives, making 21st century parenting even more difficult. Not long ago, a Wi-Fi enabled Barbie was hacked and turned into a surveillance device. The doll’s operating system was hijacked to get access to network names and IDs stored inside its network. Once inside, hackers got access to account information, stored audio files as well as control over the microphone.

This followed news that photos and conversations of 4 million children were leaked in a security breach affecting toymaker VTech.

So how can parents avoid exposing their children online and protect them from cyber-bullying?

Here are the ten recommendations that will help protect children and prevent cyber-bullying.

  1. Keep ad-blockers on to make sure kids don’t click on malicious ads.
  2. When choosing a security solution for your home computer, make sure it is equipped with parental control technologies to see what your kids are doing online. CyberSecure recommends Net Nanny 7 for Windows, an award-winning parental control software that gives parents the power to protect children by filtering out the harmful content and other dangers of the internet.
  3. Keep security software updated to fend off spam, malware, spyware and others.
  4. Most importantly, help children learn about security hazards, how to recognize phishing attacks and become good online citizens. Teach them about the implications of posting private information about themselves and about the persistence of this data on the Internet.
  5. When it comes to smart toys, parents should first understand exactly how the gadget works – how it connects to the Internet, what data can it access, where that data is stored and under what circumstances. Before buying it, they should do a proper research of the new toy, then weigh the risks and benefits – can this toy turn into a privacy hazard? Using data gleaned from the toy, could someone infiltrate the home Wi-Fi network to snoop on private conversations and steal other personal information?

The first thing parents should do before installing and connecting the smart toy to the Internet through its mobile application is to read the Terms of Service or privacy statement. They should also be cautious when asked about their children’s names or age, or any other sensitive information which isn’t necessary.

While smart gadgets are attractive, it’s important to educate children on cybersecurity issues which they may face, sooner or later. It is a hard one to tackle, but start early, as soon as they start going online. In a simplistic way, advise children on using passwords, cybercrime and what is proper etiquette. It’s equally important to teach children about the consequences of over-sharing information about their private lives. Facebook is a rich source of data for any cyber-stalker looking to find new victims, both online and offline.