Safer Internet Day has been a landmark celebration since its launch in 2004 as a project launched by the EU SafeBorders Project and InSafe Network. Ever since then, Safer Internet Day has been celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide in February every year.
This year, however, Safer Internet Day is a little different.
Its cause and fight were magnified by a tiny virus threatening the life and livelihood of everyone around the world. As a result of the global pandemic, more young children and teenagers are online now than ever before, giving shape to new battlegrounds for SID (Safer Internet Day) Committees and supporters in every country in the world.
This year, 2021, the SID celebration took place on the 9th of February with the slogan “Together for a Better Internet”. By widening its net, the organizers aimed to prevent cyberbullying and curb the abuse on social networking platforms, amongst its many other missions. It is hard to deny the fact that there is, now, a bigger need to address and raise awareness about emerging online issues and concerns like identity theft.
The Rising Number of Kids and Teens Online
There isn’t much of a choice now when it comes to providing our children with a computer or mobile device for them to attend online classes. The rising number of kids online may have also seen or experienced something disturbing or upsetting on social media networking sites.
Organizations, cybersecurity firms, schools, corporations, educational institutions, internet service providers, and even online learning management system service providers have upped their games in doing their part to curb the rise in cyber crimes against vulnerable children.
In Malaysia, the youth has risen up to take on the challenge of tackling internet safety issues; one of them being Monsters Among Us.
Some of the fastest and most effective ways to protect ourselves online includes:
- Not to use the same password for all apps/websites
- To change passwords and logins as often as every three months
- To use more complicated passwords that cannot be figured out quickly using publicly-available personal information
Top 6 Dangers of Unmonitored Access to the Internet for Kids
The internet is a vast battleground for one organization or country. That was why in 2009, the Safer Internet Day and a committee was formed to strengthen the bond with other countries outside of the network to synchronize the promotion of its campaigns.
A part of their work involved tackling cyber threats, educating, and raising awareness amongst the public, especially children. Here are some of the most common cyber threats against children.
1 – Cyberbullying
A vast majority of teens admit to having had to deal with cyberbullying while on social media sites.
2 – Cyber Predators
With more children and teenagers having an online presence, the work of a cyber predator has become much easier. We must do everything we can to stop children from being lured into dangerous personal encounters with such groups, organizations, or individuals.
3 – Loss of Personal Identifiable Information (PII)
Even parents are not exempt from using social media to post detailed information, pictures, or PIIs of their home, family members, and children. This includes their personal locations, IDs, home addresses, phone numbers, schedules, or even family vacation plans.
4 – Phishing
This is a harder problem to throw off because it is disguised in such a way that the recipient would have trouble identifying the source…until it is too late. The message, most of the time in the form of an email, could appear to be from your bank, a friend, family member, or even a teacher. This form of threat has also infiltrated private messaging apps like Whatsapp, Telegram, or Facebook messenger where the victim may be caught unawares.
5 – Targeted Scams
By entering a world of social networks that kids populate, cybercriminals will lure children and teens by identifying them and targeting them with the promise of something that is of value to them. Sometimes, all they may want is the password to their STEAM (a gaming platform) account. Other times, they’ll be asking for their parents’ credit card information.
6 – Downloading Malware
Disguised as free stuff or games, children could be downloading malware which either outrightly steals personal information from computers, or contains a botnet that causes sluggish performances. The installed trojan viruses will communicate directly with the assailant(s) behind-the-scenes.
What Parents and Educators Can Do to Protect Children from Cyber Threats
A third of the world population has been exposed to not just the dangers of the Coronavirus Virus transmission, more than 1.5 billion children worldwide are also under movement restrictions, in families facing a loss of income, isolation from friends and family, high levels of stress and anxiety, and, sometimes, abuse.
The Internet Watch Foundation released some worrying stats of late. It said that more than 132,000 webpages showing the sexual abuse of children were removed by their expert analysts. 46% of them involved children under the age of 10 and 1% of them were under the age of 2.
That is why parents and educators should step in to take the lead on tackling the problem. First, by talking to and educating them.
- The connection between the Online and Offline World – Help them understand that becoming friends with and chatting with someone they’ve met in real life is perfectly fine while entertaining ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘over flattering’ messages from strangers on social media and online messaging platforms is not.
- Being positive online – Kids and teens need to understand the fact that whatever’s on the internet will stay on the internet forever. Help them understand that our words, be they positive or negative, will have an effect on others in real life. Posting negative comments online will actually reflect on them and affect another person in real life.
- Refrain from putting everything about their personal lives online – If it is something they will not share with their friends and family, they should refrain from posting the picture, information, status online.
- Speaking up – Children and teenagers are exposed to a whole lot more than they let on. Teach children to speak up if they see something online that scares them, or made them feel upset or uncomfortable.
- Keeping open lines of communication – Whether you’re a parent or educator, it is important to let students and children know that the door is always open. Keep talking with your child(red) or student(s) about what they’re doing online, ask them questions, or join them if it is appropriate.
- Removing apps or devices – This might not be the most popular move but if anything is amiss or suspicious, remove the device from the child, delete the contact or app, and monitor online activities for a while before returning the device.
- Reporting inappropriate or illegal activities – Don’t wait for something untoward to happen to your child(ren) or student(s). Being vigilant is better than facing the regret of not taking action. You can report it to USA.gov, GSMA, in Malaysia, raise a report at MCMC on their portal, or if you’re in Europe, find the right authority to report to here.
- Lead by example – Children learn from adults very quickly, especially their parents or primary caregivers. By setting an online time limit for internet usage or house rules for no devices during meal times or close to bedtime, these rules will slowly become a norm with the younger ones too.
Supporting Organizations Fighting for a Safer Internet for Children and Teenagers
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the situation was starkly aggravated and even Unicef stepped in to ask organizations, leaders, corporations, and governments to raise red flags.
Children’s lack of access to their friends, teachers in school, or social workers in a safe space amplified our problems. The situation is made worse for vulnerable communities like refugees, migrant workers, migrants, and displaced people and children. Given that the power lies in the hands of large corporations like technology companies, international organizations, and telecom providers, there’s much to do to move the needle forward.
We, whether we are parents, teachers, or a part of a committee, should do everything within our power to spread the word to create awareness. It’s great if we have the ability to fund or donate to these organizations, but if our situation does not allow for such liberties, keeping an eye out for our loved ones bears the same weight.
As an online learning platform provider, we care about the safety, privacy, and security of everyone who accesses and uses our site. We hope we can work together to keep each other informed about the latest threats on the internet to keep students and learners safe.
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