Inarguably, the Internet has firmly bridged nations, organizations, and people; and ushered in the information revolution. What that means is this generation of GenZers would be the first generation that would never experience a world without mobile phones, computers, or high-speed cyber-connectivity.
Indeed, technology has enabled the rapid pace of information exchange. The ease of accessing information on the Internet has brought about ensuing risks in data privacy and protection. People, companies, and even nations have paid a high price for their safety, security, and privacy online.
Easy access to information on the Web is both a boon and a bane. Information technology can expose unwitting individuals and organizations to cyber threats such as identity theft, banking credentials theft, malware infection, cyberstalking and bullying, and exposure to non-age-appropriate content.
Who looks after our children’s safety in cyberspace?
While adults and professionals may have ample education and experience on the safe use of technology, children, on the other hand, are at greater risk and are more vulnerable to cybercriminals. Most young Internet users learn the rules and safety procedures vicariously or through their cyberfriends. Studies show that most of these young ones gain access to the Internet without proper orientation and minimal supervision from older family members.
How do we then protect children from cybercrimes?
Protecting children online requires parental controls, the correct choice of applications, and installing protective and monitoring software. The most effective way to keep your kids safe in cyberspace is early education and orientation on the Internet, its capabilities as well as risks.
The second most important thing to remember is: Once is not enough. Giving your children a 4-1-1 on the Internet and the threats lurking in it should be an ongoing conversation. Parents and adult family members must never let their guards down when educating children about Internet etiquette.
Set constant reminders, show-and-tell activities, and regular checks on their computers. Some of the best advice shared by parents and guardians are:
- Talk to children regularly about safe browsing.
- Advice them to avoid engaging with strangers online — cybercriminals bait children by pretending to be the same age.
- Teach them to be careful about what stories and photos to post online.
- Keep communication lines open and encourage the children to ask questions and verify what they see on the Internet with their parents and guardians.
Awareness is key
Fact: today, the Internet is easily and prevalently accessible in major and minor cities in the Philippines.
Reality: parents start them (too) young. Eager-beaver parents give their children access to mobile gadgets as early as a year old. The Internet has become a convenient and low-cost entertainment and education source for busy parents trying to keep the toddlers quiet. Those toddlers learn to surf social media, go on group chats, and engage in online games in a few years. Everything seems so fluid and easy on the Internet. At an early age, these children start living mainly in a digital community.
Realization: parents are unwittingly exposing these young minds to many cyber risks and dangers without proper education and guidance. Parents should remember this line in the Spiderman movie: “with great power comes great responsibility.” As we give our children access to the worldwide Web, we also hold a great responsibility of protecting them from online threats, criminality, and risks.
Begin by understanding what your children or teens do online. Finding this out is vital to determining how to protect them from various cyber threats. Once you know why they are on the Internet, you can create a sensible protection plan.
Then, move to solutions and defense mechanisms against cyber threats and vulnerability. For example, install trusted anti-malware and home-use firewall software products, which help minimize exposure to dubious Websites.
Lead by example
Keeping children safe online calls for extra effort and extra steps for parents and guardians. First on the agenda is continuous learning because cybercriminals are becoming more adept and skillful at their game every day.
To address this ongoing concern, Palo Alto Networks launched the first Cyber Safe Kids Philippines last August 13 with the support of the Women in Security Alliance Philippines (WiSAP). The event sought to equip the new generation with resources to stay safe online and become excellent and secure digital citizens.
Hosted by WiSAP Board of Trustee member Portia Alfonso and Bayad CFO Ann Lerma the event was attended by 50 pairs of parents and guardians with their children.
Palo Alto Networks regional sales manager Carmela Guevarra-De Jesus and her daughter talked about online risks for kids and shared tips to ensure safe browsing.
WiSAP Board of Trustee member and data privacy expert Rolando “Rollie” Lansigan () spoke about the fundamentals of the social network and the accompanying responsibilities when going online.
After his talk, Dr. Lansigan led the interesting oath-taking ceremony wherein participating children promised the following: to ask for their guardian’s help when faced with the unusual, confusing, or difficult situation online; and to observe proper Internet behavior and etiquette.
Palo Alto Networks distributed Cyber Safe Kid activity books (online preparedness) to the participants after the program.
Following the success of the first Cyber Safe Kids Philippines, Palo Alto Networks and WiSAP decided to make it a quarterly event that aims to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our children in the digital world. The following Cyber Safe Kids Philippines session will be in December 2021.