While every generation grows up more technologically advanced than the preceding one, the connected world brings with it risks that need to be understood. And, as internet adoption continues to grow in Kenya, Riaan Badenhorst, Managing Director for Kaspersky Lab Africa, provides a few tips for parents to help safeguard their children in the digital world.
Internet usage in Kenya is growing, and with no signs of slowing down, more children are becoming explorers of the connected landscape. Whether it is social media, online gaming, or just instant messaging their friends, they have embraced technology in a way that has become completely integrated to their lives.
“Unfortunately, while internet access brings with it a wealth of benefits, the reality is that predators are out there using more sophisticated ways than ever to exploit children. Parents might think that their children are safer in the virtual world than in the real one, however the reality is that they are just as vulnerable online.”
According to global research conducted by Kaspersky Lab, more than half of children (aged 8 to 16) admitted that they cannot imagine life without their smartphones – with just under half of them taking it to bed at night. Perhaps more concerning is that up to 40 percent of children disclose sensitive information about themselves on social media. This includes the places they visit, their home address, and even their parent’s income.
“For these children, being online is as much of their daily routines as brushing their teeth and eating breakfast. In Kenya, just as in other parts of the world, parents are often not as tech-savvy as their children and have very little idea on how best to monitor their usage and provide guidance to them.”
Not only is the risk of being approached by paedophiles very real but cyber bullying is also on the increase having a devastating impact on their lives. It is also incredibly easy for them to access sexually explicit content and to download pirated materials such as movies and music.
“It is vitally important for parents to talk to their children about the potential dangers they face online just as they would in terms of the risks in the offline world. If a computer is used as the gateway to the online world, it should be in the family room where everyone can experience and share things with one another.”
However, given the prevalence of smartphones, a computer is often no longer the primary access point. Children should therefore be encouraged to talk about their online experiences and what they have encountered in the digital space.
The Kaspersky Lab research has shown that many young people consider the information they find online as trustworthy as that received from their friends. Parents therefore play an important role in providing guidance on what should be trusted information or at least provide guidance on always questioning the content that is found online.
“Parents should also provide clear guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed in the online world. This can include anything from registering on social platforms to engaging in chat rooms. But throughout, they should be available to their children and explain the dangers of the virtual environment.”
The key to all of this, believes Badenhorst, is to combine practical measures with the installation of good parental control software on the mobile devices and computers of children.