Are kids cyber savvy?

David Mole, Kaspersky Lab, says that just because children are tech savvy, doesn’t mean they know how to avoid cyber bullying

Do you think most teachers are aware of and can recognise cyber bullying threats?

Yes, absolutely. Cyber bullying and online safety is high on school agendas and teachers are well trained in awareness and recognition of cyber bullying. Schools have e-safety policies that are updated regularly.

How can schools ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training?

School leadership teams should prioritise online safety, especially in the current climate where technology supports learning across the curriculum. I believe staff already receive regular and updated training to ensure that they are kept up to date in their knowledge, awareness and ability to recognise cyber-bullying. For example, I believe that supply teachers aren’t allowed to teach computing as it would be too dangerous if they weren’t as diligent.

Would you say that most children are now aware of potential online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?

Recent Kaspersky Lab research found that 77% of UK children are actively using the internet by the age of 10 and nearly half (43%) believe they are more ‘internet-savvy’ than their parents by the age of 13. However, the biggest concern is that whilst they may be technology savvy, this does not always mean that they are cyber savvy and they still need advice and guidance from parents and teachers about how to stay safe online.

There are many things that teachers and parents should be doing from effective communication to ensure that there is a consistent level of awareness of the dangers to more practical steps that can be applied in the home.

1. Educate them about the potential dangers.

2. Encourage them to talk about their online experience and, in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Protecting children from cyberbullies is especially challenging with smartphones as they can be targeted in so many ways, especially out of view of their parents or a teacher. Deal with cyberbullying as you would in real life by encouraging children to be open and talk to a trusted adult if they experience any threatening or inappropriate messages. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are making children uncomfortable.

3. Set clear ground-rules in the home about what they can and can’t do online and explain why they have been put in place. These should be reviewed as the child gets older.

4. Use parental control software to establish the framework for what’s acceptable – how much time (and when) they can spend online, what content should be blocked, what types of activity should be blocked (chat rooms, forums, etc.). Parental control filters can be configured for different computer profiles, allowing them to customise the filters for different children.

5. Don’t forget to make use of settings provided by the ISP, device manufacturer and mobile phone network provider, e.g. most phones allow you to prevent in-app purchases, so you can avoid them running up hefty bills when they play games.

6. Protect all computers using Internet security software.

7. Don’t forget their smartphone – these are sophisticated computers, not just phones. Most smartphones come with parental controls and security software providers may offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, senders of nuisance SMS messages, etc.

8. Make use of the great advice on the Internet – including CEOP’s thinkuknow websites

School leadership teams should prioritise online safety, especially in the current climate where technology supports learning across the curriculum

How can we get children more involved in anti-bullying campaigns online and offline?

Schools should include pupils in the design and implementation of their e-safety policy. This could be done through a pupil council where pupil voice is gained/shared. Organisations such as Kaspersky Lab should actively seek to work with schools and include them during relevant campaigns. Informing and involving parents in campaigns would also reach an even wider audience and would help facilitate the reinforcement of cyber bullying and online safety message at home.

Can parents now also recognise the potential dangers? How can we educate and support parents with online safety?

The good news is that schools today are playing an active role in educating young people about dangers online with 70% of the young people we surveyed saying that their school helps them to use the internet safely. However parents whose children don’t openly discuss their activity risk being left behind when their children are online – and not being present when their children most need their help.

There are some signs parents can look for to assess whether their children are getting involved in dangerous activities online – here are some questions to consider:

1. Are your children hesitant to talk in-depth about what they do online?

2. Is your child spending an abnormal amount of time online, and has it affected their sleeping habits?

3. Have they become more socially isolated in the real world?

Of course, some of the signs above can be perceived as just normal teenage behaviours, so they shouldn’t be taken in isolation. Ultimately it is vital for parents, to be aware of the kind of risks and threats that are out there in order to protect this new generation of tech savvy teens. 

The main steps to take are to:

Communicate and educate Talk to your children about the potential dangers. This should begin as soon as a child starts using Internet-connected devices. Let them know that the same stranger danger rules apply in the online world, just as we encourage them to develop this awareness in the real world. Make it clear that what’s morally right and wrong applies just as much to the online world.

Take control Use parental control software to establish the framework for what’s acceptable – how much time (and when) they can spend online, what content should be blocked, what types of activity should be blocked (chat rooms, forums, etc.). Parental control filters can normally be configured for different computer profiles, allowing you to customise the filters for different children.

Give guidance Explain what to do if they know someone who is not using the internet safely. This is especially important as our research indicated that only 18% of teens would tell a parent or teacher if they knew someone was involved in unsafe online activities.

Can teachers and parents realistically keep up with tech-savvy children, and therefore, protect them from cyberbullying threats?

Despite many UK children claiming to be more ‘internet-savvy’ than their parents, 60% still look to them for guidance on how to keep safe online. Parents themselves are often struggling to keep up with the risks and dangers, however it’s vitally important to keep the lines of communication open with children when it comes to internet security.

It can be difficult to completely prevent cyberbullying, but there are some simple measures that can be taken to protect children from the issue and its consequences.

For example, reviewing privacy settings in social networks allows adults to help children control who can see posts and write messages. Making full use of parental control settings in software applications and security solutions can provide strong protection and peace of mind. 

But it needs to go further than technology. Parents need to explain how important it is to keep private information private, and not to reveal details such as address, phone number, school, credit card number, and more — online; to think about what they are sharing and with who; and who to turn to for support when they feel bullied or distressed.

Davis Mole is Head of Retail at Kaspersky Lab