Do you know what your child is doing online? Key tips for cyber hygiene

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Don't open suspicious links or attachments. (iStock)
Don't open suspicious links or attachments. (iStock)

From cyberbullying to malicious content, the internet is filled with potential threats, especially for younger family members who often spend hours online. 

Renee Tarun, mother of two and Deputy CISO at cybersecurity company Fortinet, believes that teaching children cyber hygiene skills is key to internet safety. 

"First, talk to kids about your expectations for them online," Tarun says, adding that this should include boundaries and rules around time spent online, acceptable websites and software programs, tasks and activities. 

Parents should consider "age-appropriateness, knowledge, and maturity" when setting these rules. 

Also read: 'Easily influenced by what they see': We asked local experts if Instagram Kids is a good idea

'Make sure you have a sense of who they're communicating with'

Tarun says that placing computers in the living room, kitchen, or other open spaces in the home might also help with keeping an eye on your child's online activities. 

"It's important that you know what your child is doing on the computer, including which websites they're visiting. If they're using email, instant message, or chat rooms, make sure you have a sense of who they're communicating with and that your child actually knows the people they're talking to". 

Ensuring that privacy settings on social media sites are set appropriately is another safety measure to maintain, Tarun advises. This will ensure your child is not accessible to strangers online. 

"These settings may not always be set up properly by default," she warns. 

Restrict or allow

Parental controls are another resource parents can use for safety. 

"Many internet service providers offer parental controls, sometimes for free... restricting access to websites and communication features, such as email, chat, and instant messaging by age, content, time limits, and other categories for students. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) to see if any of these services are available. In addition, you may be able to set some parental controls within your web browsers. Some browsers allow you to restrict or allow only certain websites to be viewed on your computer, and you can protect these settings with a password". 

However, your primary defence is encouraging your child to be open with you about what they see online. 

"Have the conversation with your kids that if they see something on a website, in an email, or in a chat room that doesn't seem right or makes them uncomfortable, that they can come to you with their questions and concerns". 

Here are Tarun's top tips to share with your child: 

Protecting personal information

First, it's really important to keep your personal information safe. Never share your name, address, phone numbers, where you go to school, passwords, or any pictures without your parent's or guardian's permission. Once the information's out on the internet, it can be really hard to remove it, and anybody can see it. Keep in mind; you may not really know who you're communicating with online. You may think you're just talking to another kid, but in reality, it could actually be an adult who is posing to be a kid. So you should never meet up in person with someone you've met online.

Be cautious of what websites you are using

Be careful when visiting various websites. Some may try to get you to these sites by offering free games, music, and other free stuff. But sometimes, these sites have malware. They can look to steal your information from your device or even turn on your camera without your knowledge!

Don't open suspicious links or attachments

Similarly, don't open suspicious links or unexpected email attachments because they too can contain malware and other malicious content. 

Keep devices updated

Make sure you keep your devices up to date with the latest software and security patches and follow good security practices, such as using strong passwords that are hard to guess.

Lastly, don't post or respond to hurtful posts online

It's important that we all be good neighbours online. And if you do see something that makes you upset or uncomfortable, then talk to your parents or other trusted adult.


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