What are the challenges that come with parenting in a connected world?

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Part one of a Q&A with the ESET team on keeping children safe online

Over the past several decades, technology has become embedded in our daily lives. As a result, children born today will grow up in a world that is in some ways unrecognizable from the one their parents grew up in. Today’s parents may well have had a television and a computer in their house when they were younger, but their children will grow up surrounded by integrated technologies in an increasingly hyperconnected world.

Raising kids today can be quite different than the upbringing parents themselves received, and it can be hard for parents to know how to keep their kids safe online. Many people have not received a formal education in how to use technology securely and safely, and even those who have may not know how to pass this on to their kids in a digestible and engaging way.

In part one of a Q&A with the team at ESET, in order to understand some of the difficulties facing parents today, we asked them about their experiences with cybersecurity and parenting:

When did you start teaching your kids about cybersecurity?
Branislav, Product Manager, father of 10-year-old daughter: “At the age of 5, due to my role at ESET, I started early with the first lessons.”

Zuzana, Global Marketing, mother of 12- and 3-year-old sons: “Immediately after my kids started to use devices. Look at how many adults are not able to resist online attractions — so how can we expect kids to know by themselves?”

Edo, Global Consumer Sales, father of 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son: “At the age of 5 — from the moment they were able to use devices, for example playing videos, using apps.”

James, Global PR, father of 11- and 9-year-old daughters: “At the age of 5 or 6 — I had already begun working in IT and wanted to delay their interaction with the internet.”

What difficulties have you experienced with your kids and their phones/their cybersecurity?
Branislav: “Small children do not have any knowledge about privacy and have no reason to keep anything private because they do not hold any private data, or even know how the internet works. The main change came when my daughter got her own smartphone, when she was 9. This was the first time she could expose private data, such as messages and images, to the internet. I therefore explained to her the risks that can come with private information being leaked to the internet and told her how and why to use passwords and fingerprints to unlock her smartphone.”

Zuzana: “I don’t know if I have enough space here to list all of them! Spending too much time on devices, using apps that are not age appropriate, browsing, online content, gaming, misusing grandma’s credit card, trusting strangers online, cyberbullying…”

Edo: “Many times when my kids have been browsing YouTube or other apps they have been recommended related content such as apps, links or videos that might not be appropriate for a young audience. In general, social networks are unregulated, so my children’s contacts on social networks might also share inappropriate content.”

James: “With phones, things stayed pretty easy until the age of 9 or 10, when out-of-school activities meant that our older child needed to navigate the streets around school independently. Of course, most kids already had phones, but we weren’t going to allow our child a smartphone, so we found an old Nokia with three or four preloaded games in it. Now, two years on, our older child has a smartphone, but no data plan. The idea had been to wait longer, but during the height of the coronavirus lockdown, she needed to connect with teachers, other kids, and even our wider family more easily via encrypted messaging. So, in the end she got a smartphone, but the rule we set is that she is only allowed to connect at home and is not allowed additional communications apps. I review what games/apps are on the phone once a month.”

To find out what parents, teachers and authorities can do to help keep children safe, check out part two of our Q&A here. An understanding of kids’ habits; frank conversations about how to stay safe online; and trusted antivirus software, such as ESET Mobile Security, on your child’s mobile phone can reduce the risks they are exposed to.