Help children stay safe online

Junior data scientist at Kaspersky Lab, Vladislav Tushkanov, explains what children in Cape Town mainly use the internet for.

As technology becomes more powerful, so too should the steps taken to protect children, says a global cyber security firm.

Kaspersky Lab has embarked on a roadshow to educate children and parents about how to stay safe online, and the first one was held at The International School of Cape Town in Claremont, on Thursday August 3.

Junior data scientist Vladislav Tushkanov said 53% of children in Cape Town used the internet to communicate on networks such as WhatsApp and Facebook, while 23% were searching information on alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Children searching for porn was a major concern for parents, but only 1% of Cape Town’s children appear to be doing so, according to Kaspersky.

However, children were still vulnerable to adult content that popped up without their consent, said Mr Tushkanov.

Children are also sharing sensitive information online such as the location of their school, their activities and where their parents work.

Mr Tushkanov said 33% shared their parents’ earnings and 32% shared their home address.

“Children also share pictures of their body and these pictures can be leaked on Facebook, which is the result of what happens if kids are not aware enough.

“Keeping kids safe in this new digital playground is one of the biggest issues we face today. Cyber bullying and crime online is on the rise. This is why we need to educate children, informed children will act accordingly.”

While many parents are worried about their children engaging with inappropriate content online, they do not know how to protect them.

The first step, said Mr Tushkanov, was for parents to speak to their children about online safety and teach basic precautions.

Parents should befriend their children on social media networks and ensure the friends they have online are the same ones they have in real life.

Warning signs of online victimisation might include sudden changes in mood for no apparent reason; a sharp increase or decrease in “friends” on the social networks; abusive images and messages on the child’s page; and being on social media at irregular hours, such as during the middle of the night.

The company advises installing parental-control software on all devices to monitor and block content.

The Kaspersky Safe Kids app allows parents to understand what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices.

It’s free, but additional features come at a cost.