05 Apr

Navigating Your Kid Safely through the Internet

We are living in a time where our perception of the world is censored by both ill-minded private and governmental bodies for whatever manipulative propagandas. As a parent, you now have an additional task to protect the privacy of your kids online, besides keeping them away from the potentially dangerous and devious part of the internet that tries to misinform your kid on purpose. The following points are written from a perspective of a guideline to help you ensure that your kid is safe on the post-2016 Internet.

In this age of the web, even after countless classified leaks and evidence of mass manipulation by misinformation and trolling, it’s pretty hard to convince even the well-educated and matured minds to detox themselves and step-down from such services. Right now, at this epoch, where data is the new gold, it is vital for one to protect their identity and information from strangers and data mining evil spiders.

A war-torn digital field

There’s the misinformation part on one side, daring to contaminate innocent minds, so easily. And there’s the data mining mob on the other side, trying to leverage the technology and the black hat loopholes in SEO to manipulate the public view.

In the midst of all these chaos, there are those naive little stars who just wander the internet, as innocent as a newborn, just to learn and quench their thirst for knowledge and amusements from goofy cartoons and video games.

But with the above mentioned perilous distractions and bad influences in the way, no matter how informed a kid is, he or she will mostly end up on social media or other services that aren’t intended to their age group.

The internet is one addictive place, and it’s definitely not a place for kids, who innocently type ‘please show me mum’s Wi-Fi password’ into the web search, to be alone. Here are some reasons why every kid (even the one’s in their teens) with an internet access should have an educated supervision.

Misinformation and pseudoscience

Both a five-year-old kid and a fifteen-year-old has the same quick access, all the time, to their favourite cartoons, TV shows, video games, as well as to the steps to create a simple EMP bomb. That’s how open the internet is, and it is fairly neutral and transparent for the greater good. But the evilest thing on the web that’s abundant is the plethora of misinformed pseudoscience articles and videos that shouldn’t exist at all. You all know how that influenced the people in the west to elect a misogynistic, climate change denying, anti-science fellow as their president.

Now back to kids! For most of the kids who use the internet as a medium to explore and learn, they bias their understandings and decisions from the very first piece of information they are offered. This more or less leads to a variant of a long-term anchoring or primacy effect in them. When this type of anchoring happens around a piece of information that is horribly misinformed, it will have an adverse effect on his/her comprehension and decisions based on that particular topic for a significantly long time.

If you are still wondering how bad these fake and asinine contents had affected the populace, do a simple web search and explore how determinant the flat earth society is. It is hard to digress the fact that there are communities who still believe that the earth is flat and go on preaching that theory to the rest of the world, blinding themselves from the facts.

So there’s only one way to protect your kid from all this nonsense. Sit with them and through the course of time, monitor their internet activity, teach them to differentiate between good content and bad content, and explain to them what is a neutral point of view and a biased perspective looks like. Educating them about all this is in your hand, as for the little stars and teens, it is in their nature to be naive.

Fake news

It’s a familiar scene in the Indian population where a viral story or crude and trivial memes are ‘forwarded’ to friends, family and even business contacts without any reference or source validating the story. This is found largely among the people who uses an application called WhatsApp, which allowed them to inherit this tradition from the early Indian SMS era.

To this day, most parents, even the well-educated one hadn’t stopped for a minute to verify or validate the story behind pointless ‘viral’ stuff that gets shared every minute. They forget that they are making themselves an example for their kids, who by nature is prone to inherit most of their temperament by observing their parents.

To protect your kids’ mind from the fake news and other fake content-mongers, as a parent you need to lay down a line and help them distinguish facts from misconceptions. If you are unable to do that, you should be willing to educate yourself from the informed community like us. We’d be more than happy to help you out.

Digital security and privacy

Though most of the internet services clearly put out a blaring notice that their services are not meant to certain age groups, in reality, your kid will possibly end up on Facebook and other similar services with or without your permission. It’s a most likely scenario as such modes of communications are attractive in nature, especially for the curious-minded.

Though we all take such services for granted, these free services are operating and sustaining themselves based on the stream of revenue they generate by sorting and servicing your data that you voluntarily put out to the whole world to see.

While you can choose what to be shared publicly, your kid may not have the mind to assess the repercussions of sharing his or her personal thoughts to the world. It is well and good when this is done under an adult’s supervision, but it can end devastating when you later find yourself or your kid’s picture sharing a different name on several social networks.

The scary part is when you find out that some black hat on the internet has cracked your ten-year-old’s social account or email password and had managed to gain access to his or her device. By the time you learn this, he’d have stolen all the vital data he needed.

To avert this type of data theft and security breaches, a parent mustbe educated enough to teach what two-factor-authentication is, how easy it is to steal information on the web, and how simple it is when you have access to the device.

Teaching a kid about digital privacy and security protocols at the early age will not only make him safe but also will help him be a better person as he grows. Educate them the value of privacy. Talk with them about cyberbullying and how to report bullies anonymously. And if such things are still daunting at first, seek help from educators and experts like us to help you inform them about digital threats and teach them the fundamentals of computer security.

As mentioned earlier, a constant supervision in your kid’s internet activity—that is without any intervention in his or her freedom—is the only way to prevent them from all sorts of threats out there. Educate yourself today and ensure your child’s safety on the internet.

To ensure and help your safety and privacy online, the tools listed at privacytools.io are recommended. There are also privacy-focused communities at Reddit like /r/privacy and /r/netsec, where you can find great discussions and new information on digital privacy and security.

Tell us more about how you deal with your children’s time on the internet in the comments below.

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About Karthikeyan KC

Engineer, Gamer, Author, Entrepreneur, Creator of the science encyclopedia - swyde.com. I love explaining physics and space stuff to kids!