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How to protect your children on the Internet?

Our advices to protect children from the dangers of the web.

Children connected from an early age

The Internet is part of the daily life of children and teenagers, even the youngest among them.

Every day, worldwide, 170,000 children go online for the first time[1].

In Europe, 73% of children use the Internet before the age of two[2].

What is a child’s digital identity?

A digital identity, regardless of an individual’s age, is a set of information published on the Internet that makes it possible to recognize an individual. For a child, it is the same thing. Thus, it is not necessary to create an account on a social network to have a digital identity. In reality, they leave digital traces on each of the websites where they agree to reveal an element of their personality or their life.

Sometimes, it is the parents themselves who begin the creation of their children’s digital identity. By 2019, 33% of parents had started posting photos of their babies under six months of age on the Internet, on a global scale.

Digital Identity: tips for Parents

Before we look at the good practices to pass on to our children, it is important to look at the good practices that their parents can put in place.

The risks faced by children are quite different from those faced by their parents. At the top of the list is online child sexual abuse and harassment (school and non-school based). Also, posting pictures of children and disclosing accurate information about their tastes or habits can expose them to real dangers.

Some Orange Cyberdefense experts recommend never posting photos of your children facing the camera and/or in swimsuits, and never publishing personal information such as their first or last names.

The use of a webcam cache, antivirus, and parental control software on each of the devices to which the child can have access (and especially the parents’ smartphone) are also among the tips that come up most often among our experts.

Parents: how to make your child aware of the risks associated with the Internet?

Once a child enters adolescence, it is quite difficult to monitor his Internet activities. So, while toddlers and children can be accompanied every time they surf the net, the best thing to do is to educate them as early as possible.

The members of the Safer Internet Centre advocate opening the dialogue early enough, on a positive note. Here are some of the questions they recommend:

  • What do you like to do most on the Internet and why?
  • What could you do if going on the Internet did you more harm than good?
  • What’s the difference between talking to someone in the real world and talking to someone online?
  • What types of content and information do you think can be posted online?
  • What if someone publishes photos of you without your permission?

These questions seem simple enough, but they can be used to adapt to the parents’ speech to their child’s actual uses.

Digital Identity: Tips for Kids

If there were only two rules to impose on children, regardless of their age, they would be the following:

  • always use a nickname ;
  • always use an avatar.

This means making children understand that their digital identity must be different from their real identity. To do this, Orange Cyberdefense experts (who are also parents) have used the following techniques.

For toddlers :

  • explain that behind the machines there are real people, who do not always have the best of intentions. The comparison with Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother (who is a wolf in disguise) works quite well.
  • play the “mystery” game: on the Internet, no one should know who the child is. He must therefore find a nickname and create an avatar. It is also necessary to make them aware of not giving any information to strangers.

For children:

  • Since the Little Red Riding Hood analogy may seem a little outdated for them, another one is possible. It is a question of asking them what they would give as information and photos to a stranger who would talk to them in the street. And, starting from their answer, to make them as aware as possible.

For teenagers:

  • The best thing is to talk to them openly about the risks they face, without infantilizing them. A teenager will probably want to post pictures of himself on the Internet, even if only on social networks. Helping them set up their accounts to be private and advising them not to accept being followed by people they don’t know seems to be a good basis for protection.

At this age, dialogue remains key. Children must have enough confidence in their parents to be able to ask for help without fear of being reprimanded.

Resources

Advice for parents, given by the Safer Internet Centre, can be consulted here.

Notes

[1]Super Awesome, 2018
[2]Business Wire, 2019
[3]Heaven, Born Social, 2019

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