The internet is a wonderful place to learn and search for information, connect with friends, be entertained, and create opportunities for ourselves and others.
Yet, the virtual world is also a dangerous place.
It is filled with online threats, e.g. cyberbullying, scams/fraud, identity theft, viruses/malware, harmful/illicit content, digital piracy, sexual predators, fake news, etc.
However, we should not avoid this amazing resource out of fear of what might happen.
Instead, we should teach our kids (and ourselves) the importance of cyber-security and protecting our privacy/data.
Cyber-security is important as many things are now done online.
However, due to convenience, we may neglect our data/privacy security, and this can cost us financially, psychologically, and even physically.
Here are some useful tips to teach your kids and keep them safe online:
Stay updated with the latest news and alerts on internet safety.
Install antivirus software on your computers and smartphones and update them with the latest security patches regularly.
As your kids start to use the internet, discuss what is proper online behaviour.
Highlight that the online world mirrors the real world and remind them: “If you wouldn’t do it face to face, don’t do it online.”
Many employers and university admissions offices do look at social media profiles when researching applicants to get a truer picture of that person.
It is therefore wise to showcase one’s personality and character fairly through the use of social media.
Know what social media sites your kids are using and connect with them on those sites.
They should be able to share comfortably with both their friends and you. This allows you to monitor their activities.
So they should avoid posting revealing or embarrassing pictures, and always remember to be respectful and responsible when posting comments.
Remind them that what goes online might still be found even after deleting it.
If your kids are bullied online, encourage them to ask for help from yourself, older siblings or teachers.
They do not need to handle the situation alone.
Teach them not to share contents that are “hot”, controversial or viral as they may be fake news.
They should always verify the information first.
Under the Anti-Fake News Act, “knowingly” creating and spreading “fake news” is a crime in Malaysia.
Help your kids create sensible passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, of at least eight characters in length.
Never use a real name, user name, birth date or mobile number.
Ideally, they should use different passwords for each email, social media or other online accounts they have.
Teach them not to put sensitive or personally identifiable information online or give it to strangers.
Anyone can claim to be someone else online, so they should not trust easily.
They should also avoid posting regular locations (school, after-school activities, etc) or tagging their current location, as this gives child predators ready access to their location.
Better yet, turn off their location services.
Demonstrate to them how to use antivirus software or detect suspicious phishing websites, which may steal account passwords or other confidential information (e.g. by offering free stuff or with a clone website). ‘
Teach them that generally, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
As nothing is private when using public WiFi, anyone using it is vulnerable to cybercriminals viewing or stealing your information.
Teach your children that it is safer to perform sensitive transactions (e.g. online banking) on secured networks using your mobile data service.
Only install applications (apps) from trustworthy sources, and read user reviews and ratings before downloading.
“Free” apps may only be free for a limited time and will start charging after the trial period.
As parents, you have the right to impose limits on your kids’ online access.
You may install parental control apps to filter online content, set rules and time schedules on device usage, and block pornography and other unsuitable content.
To be safe online, equip your kid with internet literacy to face the world.
After all, we may not be there to guide them all the time.
By teaching them these guidelines, you can increase the safety and benefit of having the world at their fingertips.
Alexius Cheang is a behavioural psychologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email email@example.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.