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Research has shown that over 80% of children (aged 12-15) may have been subjected to harmful experiences online, which has led to heightened searches for ‘cyber safety’ (20.5K) and ‘cyber security’ (451.9K), according to Google trend data.
Child game platforms such as Roblox have amassed over 47 million daily active users globally and are moving towards metaverse technology. With increasing concern over child safety in the metaverse and social media usage, experts at OnBuy Smart Watches spoke exclusively to cyber security expert James Bore, who has been in the industry for more than 10 years and has provided professional advice for keeping children safe online.
To accompany James’s advice, in-house experts at OnBuy Smart Watches also manually trawled through internet safety threads across major parenting forums, such as Mumsnet , Netmums, and MadeforMums, to compile a uniquely collated list of cyber security threats and top tips directly from parents as to how they can protect their children online.
Expert Comments from Chartered Security Expert, James Bore:
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1. Open Dialogue
Ensuring that children are aware and encouraged to talk about anything that they’re unsure about. This means creating a safe space where your child won’t feel judged or worried about being told off for anything that happens. It is far too often that when people do prey on children online, they use the idea that adults in the child’s life will be angry at them, and that things are their fault. The difference it can make when they can have clear, honest communications with parents or guardians is huge, and is arguably the biggest step towards online safety.
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2. Explanation of safety and censorship tools.
Allowing your child (particularly older children) to understand why certain rules are in place and what they do. Children are inventive, and most parental control tools can be worked around by any child with a sense of curiosity and a desire to push boundaries.
Other key questions and conversations for parents to ask and discuss include:
- What social media applications do they use, if any? Do they have any games with social media functions or chat?
- Make sure they understand privacy settings, and go through them with them.
- Make sure they understand that people lie, and they should not meet anyone they only know online.
- Do they understand about online harassment and bullying, how to recognise if they’re targeting someone, or being targeted, and what to do about it?
- Do they play any games which allow in-game purchases, and do you have control over their ability to spend
OnBuy Smart Watches scraped online parenting forums to reveal 5 key ways parents can protect their children online easily:
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1. Explicit websites
Search engines for kids and filtering programmes can be effective in allowing parents to control what sites children can see. Netmums recommends Net Nanny – which monitors online content, limits screen time and filters sites to protect your children. OnBuy Smart Watches discovered that parents also recommended the following search engines for kids – Aj Kids and Kids Search, whilst users on Mumsnet suggest censoring thread titles on the forum (keep Mumsnet forum names PG) so that children are not exposed to explicit words if they happen to look over at the computer screen.
2. Inappropriate instructional websites
Netmums refers to ‘inappropriate instructional websites’ as sites that promote step-by-step instructions for inappropriate topics such as concealing anorexia or taking drugs. These can be accessed through other genuinely useful instructional sites, and so run the risk of being taken seriously by children.
OnBuy Smart Watches found advice on all of the reviewed parenting forums pointing towards blocking inappropriate websites, or downloading software that prevents pop-ups and inappropriate instructional sites from popping up.
(Images by John Schnobrich)
3. Chat room safety
Mumsnet users suggest bans on ‘Whatsapp’ and social media platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter are all rated 13+) for younger children. However, parents are aware that there may be other chat room apps so suggest daily monitoring of your child’s phone. Regular checks can ensure that your children are staying safe on chat rooms and that nothing goes unmissed.
Other users on the forum also suggest locking or removing the device overnight, so that your child gets adequate sleep and isn’t exposed to unsolicited and unmonitored messages when unaccompanied.
According to the Anti-Bullying Alliance – one in five schoolchildren in the UK has been a victim of some form of online abuse.
Netmums highlight the importance of open communication with your child, in a bid to quickly identify when bullying might be taking place. Parents also suggest teaching your kids techniques for dealing with cyberbullies, such as muting chats and reporting bullies on social media. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying from their peers, Mumsnet advises getting their school involved. This will escalate the situation and send a clear message to the bullies that their behaviour is unacceptable. It will also make your child feel more supported and safer in the school environment.
(image by John Schnobrich)
Mumsnet users advise to send any incidents of online phishing to: email@example.com as soon as it’s spotted. Other advice includes either ignoring phishing emails/messages or changing your settings so that mail from that scam address goes straight to the deleted folder.