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8 September, 2019 11:03:29 AM


Parental role for ensuring cybersecurity

Social networking – which includes interactions through gaming, as well as texting and social media – brings with it exciting opportunities and unique risks
Mohammed Abul Kalam, PhD
Parental role for ensuring cybersecurity

Parents should have conversations with children from a young age about cybersecurity if they're to develop the skills needed to be safe online.Many teenagers use mobile phones and social media almost constantly. And children are gaining access to these devices and platforms at increasingly younger ages.
This is a challenge for parents who need to keep up with their children’s use, the evolution of devices, and how this changes how they have to parent.Studies show parents feel anxious and lack sufficient knowledge about their children’s use of devices.

And whether we’re talking about making arguments for school or just in life, there are three things present in all good arguments.
1. Reasonability: Reasonability is about connecting reasons and evidence to your opinions. This serves two purposes.The first is for our own clarity of thought, so we understand how concepts and events relate to each other (or realize when they don’t).The second is so others can assess our reasons. We need to respect the person we’re arguing with and that means giving them the opportunity to agree or disagree with our reasoning. Without this, we’re tricking people into agreeing with us.
2. Charity: Charity is one of the most overlooked aspects of debating, which is ironic considering many prominent philosophers saw it as the highest of virtues. In the context of argumentation, charity means looking past the text of what someone is saying to see the heart of their issue.

3. Fallibility: It’s a struggle for anyone – child or adult – to admit they don’t know the answer. But the willingness to be wrong is crucial to learning. We improve our ability to find solutions when we recognize that we might be wrong or limited to our point of view. They’re worried about their children being exposed to sexual images and messages online. They’re anxious their children could provide personal information to a stranger or, worse, develop a relationship with a stranger online whom they might meet in person.

When parents try to restrict their children’s online interactions, children usually find a way around it. Instead, parents should have conversations with children from a young age about cybersecurity. This will help them develop the skills they need to be safe online. What are children exposed to?Social networking – which includes interactions through gaming, as well as texting and social media – brings with it exciting opportunities and unique risks.  Online gaming presents unique dangers because user-generated games (where content is developed by gamers on platforms) are not regulated. This means children can be exposed to inappropriate sexualized and violent content. Children are vulnerable when they interact with other users on social media, in chat rooms and within gaming. This could involve grooming by a sexual predator either to meet in person or send sexually explicit images.

How do children deal with online situations?Research has been mixed on how young people manage cybersecurity risks. One study found that children who are at least 11 years old seem to have some awareness of the consequences of online interactions. They use safety measures including removing comments, tags, and images and blocking and deleting content when interacting online. They also rarely use photos of themselves and disable their geolocations to protect their identities. But children also engage in risky behaviors such as sharing passwords and contacting strangers. Some findings indicated the more teens use social media sites, the more they tend to disclose personal information.Several studies found children think parental restrictions are intrusive and invade their privacy. This includes teens feeling disrespected and even stalked by their parents, which leads to a loss of trust. What can parents do?Restricting children’s online use is unhelpful. Parents should talk to their children about healthy and age-appropriate online interactions.This includes avoiding disclosing personal information (real name, date of birth, phone number, address, school, or pictures that reveal such information). Parents should provide guidance and explain the consequences of online dangers to their children in a way that does not instill fear but explains their concern.

Parents should talk to their children about online risk and safety behaviors from a young age, as soon as they start using online games and engaging on social media sites, to help them build a stronger foundation for their transition to adolescence.  It’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their children from harm, no matter where that threat of harm comes from. But what if the threat is a hoax?We’ve seen recently a rollercoaster of panic from parents trying to protect their kids from a supposed online threat known as the Momo challenge that has for months been debunked as a hoax.

Yet the panic from parents continued, as did reports in the media and even warnings from celebrities – all of which could have been avoided if parents had done a few simple checks before raising the alarm.So how can you as a parent protect your children (and yourself) from falling for these hoaxes if you don’t even know whether something is not a genuine threat in the first place?Before I give some help and advice on that, let’s look at this latest hoax: the Momo challenge.

The Momo challenge: Momo is a ghoulish character who is said to use social media and other online tools to encourage youngsters to complete dangerous tasks involving self-harm.But the whole Momo challenge is a manufactured myth.The creepy image was copied from a sculpture by Japanese specialeffects company Link Factory. Its use in the hoax was condemned by its original artist several months ago.Even this revelation did not stop the spread – of both the hoax and the warnings about it – continuing for several months afterward.The Momo challenge is just the latest in a series of manufactured online hoaxes designed to generate paranoia among adults. Other online hoaxes: We’ve had the “blue whale challenge”, allegedly linked to numerous teen deaths around the world. The trend later turned out to be a fake.We were told the deadly Tidepod challenge was encouraging kids to be filmed while eating poisonous laundry detergent pods (they weren’t).There was also a challenge that linked kids choking to death to snorting condoms for more YouTube likes (no death has been reported). These hoaxes are carefully designed to grab your attention and incite shock and panic, so you share the information with everyone you know. The designers of the hoax callously tap directly into parents’ Achilles heel: their fears regarding their children’s safety. Posting the hoax online fits the designer’s aim perfectly because it can travel far and wide online very quickly. This is, of course, a win from the perpetrators’ perspective, whose very aim is to go viral! The more attention they get, the more profit or fame.

What parents should do to help protect your kids from such hoaxes: Hoaxes that threaten your kids one day, and turn out to be fake the next are mentally and emotionally exhausting for kids and adults. Parents can feel an increasing lack of control.But this doesn’t need to be the case. There are tools and tricks you can apply to help you spot a hoax.

1. Investigate: see if it’s real: Information about any so-called challenge is often shared on social media, where fake news and misleading information is rife.If you are concerned about a hoax it’s important to investigate, by using a reputable news website or a reliable fact-checking site. Both are good fact-checking resources that give readers evidence-based analysis.Even a simple web search of the name of any supposed threat can help you. Add the words “hoax” or “scam” to your search queries and you will very quickly see if there is any real evidence to support the claims of harm you may be hearing about.

2. Help your child investigate authenticity: Use the opportunity to educate your child about these online challenges. When you hear about one, go online with your child and investigate.This is the perfect opening to help your child understand fake content online. Explain why someone would want to start a hoax to scare people (for example, to achieve fame).

3. Explore alternatives for viewing: You may be concerned about your child using online video streaming services such as YouTube or Facebook, where they could be exposed to any hoax video. As an alternative, look for other ways for your children to view their favored content.

4. Avoid causing unnecessary alarm: It’s important to be careful about sharing news articles that perpetuate a hoax or myth with other adults.Before sharing potentially wrong information, do some internet research of your own to check out the accuracy of any threat.

5. Be a critical, alert consumer: We live our lives on the internet, and there is a mass of misleading online information designed to manipulate our thinking. It’s important to read and stay up to date about how the online world operates and to be critical of what you view and read online. Ask yourself some basic questions such as: (1) who is going to benefit from this online post/article? (2) what is the underlying purpose of it? (3) is the author/creator trying to sway my thinking, and why?

6. What if you think a threat is genuine?Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms have options to report anything you think maybe a serious threat. If you’re still worried, ask the police for help.The online space is always changing. Keeping you and your kids safe online involves being aware of emerging and new safety issues and committing to a bit of research before you panic.

Teenagers who have frequent conversations with their parents have a greater awareness of online risks.Children deserve to play online games and participate in social media but still be protected from harm. Internet technology does have many advantages, including connecting people through social networking, education, and recreation. With caution and open communication, the risks can be managed together.

When children are supported and can discuss safety strategies with their parents, they’re more likely to reach out when something happens that makes them feel unsure or uncomfortable about certain online interactions.

The writer is Former Head, Department of Medical Sociology, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR),  

Dhaka, Bangladesh


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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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