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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kid-Centered Cybersecurity

Undoubtedly, this generation belongs to the "Information Age" where our lives whether we like it or not, revolves heavily on the computer and all sorts of activities and transactions is tied with the internet.

One issue that has recently cropped-up concerns this generation’s being perpetually stuck in front of the PC with all its online games, social-networking sites and other activities that take-up heavily most of their time. Obviously parents universally have their concerns.

Broadly speaking, the dangers they face in this information age are:
  1. Exposure, which is in two types: the first is the kids being exposed to unwanted elements like violence, radical or corrupting ideas and adult materials like pornography, violence and unsuitable doctrines. Second, exposure to cyber-stalking by predatory elements (i.e. - pedophiles). Incidences of cyber-bullying have also been prevalent especially in developed countries and can be unrelenting considering you can go online 24/7.
  2. Kids may become unwitting POV’s which may target you. Competitors or hostile elements may try to mine information or try to get to you thru your kids.
Not being my area, an IT specialist could discuss the various “filters” and software applications and measures that would limited these dangers. While it is true that beefing-up your PC system’s defenses are indeed worthwhile, limiting oneself to simply these measures I believe is inadequate for the following reasons:

  • The sad reality is that kids today are FAR more tech-savvy and updated than adults when it comes to PC systems and gadgets. This is the generation of the information age where anything is virtually accessible if you know where to look. Software can be upgraded, or can be hacked and by-passed with other “backdoor” programs. If they themselves are not though, don’t underestimate their intelligence network as well as their army of friends and acquaintances who know how to get around these things.
  • These are still a passive measures, just mere “tools” which distract us from being more fully prepared or even proactive with our kids' upbringing.

With the realization that they’ll always be one step ahead in terms of PC know-how, I took a different tact on the subject. It all boils down to plain, old-fashioned, get-to-know-your-child-better parenting.

  1. Start them young – As with most things (i.e. - saving), early education is best. This is easier before the whiny “Aw, dad gimme a break!” of adolescence later. This is first since it sets the stage for the rest of the steps.
  2. Establish what it is and what it is not – As parents who set the rules and what I’ve advised is that parents should establish that the PC is a machine or instrument, not a play thing. There are other gadgets for that.
  3. Set a schedule – Curfew on late nights and TV? Same is true for the PC. Also, offer alternative activities on certain nights when the family is complete.
  4. Location, location, location – If you deem your child is not yet old or responsible enough to own or use a PC of his/her own, bring the PC to a common area like in the living room. You’ll be able to monitor their activities better.
  5. Get them out there – Does anyone else out there miss the good old days when we all played outside?

These are merely reference steps for parents such as yourselves to establish in your respective homes. A two-pronged technological as well as behavioral approach in this area is best.

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