Chil­dren are now con­nect­ing to the In­ter­net from a young age. And, with the in­crease of schools in­te­grat­ing smart de­vices into their cur­ricu­lum, par­ents need to know what se­cu­rity mea­sures need to be in place to pro­tect their chil­dren. By Fundiswa Nkwa

Bona - - Contents -

En­sure your child’s safety on­line

The In­ter­net can be a dan­ger­ous place for chil­dren. Find­ings from a study that was re­leased in 2016, con­ducted by UNICEF South Africa into chil­dren’s (aged be­tween 9 and 17) in­ter­net use and on­line ac­tiv­i­ties, ti­tled South Africa’s Kids On­line, found that 1 in 3 has been ex­posed to hate speech and in­ap­pro­pri­ate im­ages on the In­ter­net. And, one in five has met a stranger that they first en­coun­tered on­line. It also found that they tend to not re­ceive enough sup­port from par­ents, teach­ers and friends around in­ter­net us­age, and are free to use it with­out su­per­vi­sion.


Arthur Zwane* of­ten gives his four-year-old daugh­ter his smart­phone to play ed­u­ca­tional games. He once found her watch­ing pornog­ra­phy from a web­site tab he had for­got­ten to close. Bar­bara Ea­ton, the aca­demic de­vel­op­ment ad­viser for the pre-pri­mary schools di­vi­sion at ADvTECH, be­lieves that leav­ing a child un­su­per­vised with a smart­phone that is con­nected to the In­ter­net is ir­re­spon­si­ble, and could cause ir­re­versible harm. “Par­ents should not en­cour­age the use of th­ese de­vices for chil­dren un­der the age of six,” Bar­bara says. She adds that chil­dren that have early ex­po­sure to smart de­vices and the In­ter­net grow up to have eye­sight prob­lems, a short con­cen­tra­tion span, are unimag­i­na­tive and an­ti­so­cial. “I have no­ticed that when par­ents want to keep tod­dlers quiet or en­ter­tained, they give them a smart de­vice,” Bar­bara

says. Even though there are on­line in­ter­ac­tive and ed­u­ca­tional games that can be ben­e­fi­cial to their de­vel­op­ment, al­low­ing them to play should be kept to a bare min­i­mum and prefer­ably avoided, she adds. She be­lieves there should be adult su­per­vi­sion at all times be­cause what chil­dren do on­line needs to be mon­i­tored. “They also need to make sure that in­ter­net-con­nected de­vices are not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, and that the parental con­trol op­tions are ac­ti­vated. In­ter­net safety needs to be dis­cussed with the child as soon as they are granted ac­cess,“she con­cludes.


Teenagers use dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies ev­ery­day, and at this in­quis­i­tive age they be­lieve that the In­ter­net is a place where their ques­tions can be an­swered. Through it, they stay con­nected with friends and fam­ily, get in­volved in vol­un­teer work, share ideas and gain ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional tools. How­ever, the In­ter­net is not a safe space for un­in­formed teenagers be­cause they can fall vic­tim to cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, cy­ber preda­tors and phish­ing scams. Maryanne

Lester, a mother to a teenager, says her son strug­gled in school, but is now a straight-A stu­dent be­cause she bought him a tablet and con­nected it to the

In­ter­net to help with his school­work.

“I was con­cerned about ex­pos­ing him to se­cu­rity threats and in­for­ma­tion that is be­yond his ca­pac­ity to han­dle. So, I in­stalled parental se­cu­rity soft­ware that blocks in­ap­pro­pri­ate web­sites,” Maryanne says. The soft­ware gives her an up­date of all the web­sites he vis­its, and the amount of time spent on the In­ter­net. Vic­tor John­son, a for­mer life skills high school ed­u­ca­tor, said that through his work, he no­ticed that pupils with un­lim­ited and un­mon­i­tored in­ter­net ac­cess strug­gled with self-reg­u­la­tion, peer pres­sure and sex­ting. “Many teenagers that I taught said their par­ents did not talk to them about in­ter­net safety, and that they knew noth­ing about on­line se­cu­rity risks,” Vic­tor says. They en­gage in risky be­hav­iour such as down­load­ing il­le­gal copies of movies and mu­sic, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with strangers. Vic­tor adds that it’s the par­ents’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­form chil­dren about the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing strong pass­words, and not shar­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to avoid iden­tity theft. Their in­ter­net ac­cess must be closely mon­i­tored, and par­ents must in­stal soft­ware that blocks web­sites that chil­dren should not ac­cess. So­cial me­dia plat­forms only al­low chil­dren over 13 years old to open ac­counts, but many use wrong dates of birth. “As a par­ent, if you know that your child is on so­cial me­dia, you need to talk to them about how to use it safely,” Vic­tor ad­vises. A safety mea­sure that you can im­ple­ment is to check pri­vacy set­tings as de­fault se­cu­rity set­tings are of­ten not tight. SAFETY


FOR PAR­ENTS Vic­tor and Bar­bara both agree that par­ents need to know more about the In­ter­net than their chil­dren, and ways of pro­tect­ing them on­line. “It is fright­en­ing that most teenagers now know about parental con­trols and how to un­lock them, as well as other web­site re­stric­tions,” Vic­tor says. There­fore, you must stay ahead by check­ing that the se­cu­rity mea­sures in place are work­ing and mon­i­tored. “Par­ents need to con­tinue talk­ing to their chil­dren about the pros and cons of us­ing the In­ter­net, so that chil­dren can mod­ify their on­line be­hav­iour and se­cu­rity ac­cord­ingly,” Bar­bara says. On­line preda­tors tar­get un­sus­pect­ing chil­dren, and lure them into meet­ing with them, which can lead to kid­nap­ping.


South Africa is proac­tive when it comes to keep­ing chil­dren safe on­line, and there are or­gan­i­sa­tions that have been es­tab­lished to fa­cil­i­tate this. In 2012, UNICEF to­gether with govern­ment, civil so­ci­ety, me­dia com­pa­nies and Google launched a South African ver­sion of the

Google On­line Fam­ily Safety Cen­tre web­site. It guides you on how to help your child nav­i­gate the In­ter­net safely. An­other use­ful web­site is – it gives you a plat­form to re­port cy­ber­crimes.

The South African Po­lice Ser­vice web­site has in­for­ma­tion on cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, in­ter­net safety and sex­ting. An­other im­por­tant web­site is crime­ as it al­lows you to give anony­mous crime tip-offs when you sus­pect crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

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