Stranger danger in a digital world

We all have a duty to protect children from online threat, says Barracuda Networks’ Chris Ross

We live in a contemporary digital age where most people of all ages, from toddlers to pensioners, have some form of daily access to devices connected to the internet.

Children and young people, especially, are more connected to one another than all previous generations. With instant messaging and social media at their fingertips, they have the power to keep up with the world on a device no bigger than the palm of their hand. However, these sites can also bring problems, from cyberbullying to more serious internet dangers.

Chris Ross

Cyberbullying is one of the top 5 dangers of using the internet. Others include threats from online predators, theft of personal information, inappropriate content, and phishing. So how do we safeguard our children from these threats? Here are a few top tips we should all be encouraging children and young people to do, to help keep even the most dark and dangerous threats out of their reach:

  1. Report any unkind or inappropriate behaviour. Encourage them to unfollow and report any activity of this nature. Although there is no specific law which makes cyberbullying illegal under UK legislation, it can be considered a criminal offence under the Harassment Act, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
  2. Adjust privacy settings to private. One of the first and most important lessons we are taught as children is “don’t talk to strangers”. This remains a rule of thumb when using the internet. Children need to be reminded of the dangers of interacting with people they may not know, and ensure that they aren’t allowing potential online predators to follow them or interact with their content 
  3. Remember the value of personal data. With data now arguably as important a commodity as oil, it’s a major resource.If you have someone’s data you can become that person. Children need to know and understand the value of their data, and take the necessary measures to protect it
  4. Protect children from cyber criminals. We’ve seen a huge spike in spear phishing attacks over the past 12 months, where cyber criminals impersonate a real source to convince recipients to share their personal information. They go to great lengths to make the messages look as realistic as possible. Make sure children know:
    • Not to click on attachments or URLs from unknown sources
    • To treat attachments with care
    • Question anything that looks suspicious
    • Never enter login credentials on a page that was reached via an email link

We all have a duty to protect children from online dangers and, whilst there’s no doubt that the internet can be an extremely useful tool for young people, they need to remain vigilant and take the necessary measures to ensure the experience remains positive for everyone.

 Chris Ross is SVP at IT security specialists, Barracuda Networks

You may also be interested in: Parent Zone and the Vodafone Foundation launch children’s online safety stories


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