Is Santa bringing your child (or as we like to call them “younger users”) a smart device or new gaming system for first time this holiday season? Are you aware of the risks?
Most younger users have not developed the good cyber hygiene practices that more experienced users have. Because of that, they may be exposed to potentially serious threats online.
Here are some tips on making sure that we help our kids develop good practices with smart devices, games and apps they’re about to encounter.
There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Whether the device is made for kid or adult usage, if connects to the internet (cellular or Wi-Fi), it likely also connects to a credit card.
All of those “free” gaming apps your child downloads? They’re often bursting at the seams with pop-up ads to get the user to buy something.
Whether it’s the “premium version”, pay-to-win upgrades, or links to other apps, younger users can quickly be tricked into navigating to places they shouldn’t be.
Your credit card is linked to your identity on the Google Play Store and the App Store, and when an in-game link is clicked, it can rack up the purchases very quickly.
Solution: Never allow a child to download a game without parental permission. It’s fairly easy to lock down those permissions in the settings of your app stores.
In fact, anything connected to your credit card should have a second step involved to ensure that you, the parent, are the only person able to make a purchase. This is called “multi-factor authentication.” Always search your settings for “multi-factor authentication” and turn it on.
Look Who’s Talking…to Who
Social media, chatting apps and online games are blooming hubs of communication! Just like with any other form of communication, it can be great to connect and have fun with people and not have to be in the same room.
It should not come as a surprise that some wild and age inappropriate content will spring-up in any of these forums.
Consider this: Would you let your child have a private conversation with a stranger in the back alley of the super market with no parental guidance? Of course not.
Allowing unmitigated and unsupervised conversions online is essentially the same. Without that filter to help younger users understand what is appropriate and what is not, online communication can get wildly out of control.
Solution: Set expectations with younger users about what is appropriate communication online and what is not. What someone says digitally, doesn’t always translate to what they actually meant to say.
It’s always good to reiterate what is OK to say, as well as identifying any “red flags” for possible malicious users and cyberbullies.
Other solutions are to play games offline or have kids play the game where you can SEE and hear them. Also, check to see if communication settings can be turned off for the youngest of users.
Even Too Much of a Good Thing is Bad
Screen-time is great and fun but everything must be had in moderation. Devices and the software they have on them are designed to engage and encourage users to keep playing/using them.
Younger users do not have the sense of “enough” that older users do, and can get so wrapped up in the action they don’t want to stop.
Worse yet, the more time that younger users spend online especially in the later hours, the more likely they are to encounter content and other users that are not age-appropriate.
Solution: Whether it is social media, games, or even just reading, setting expectations and boundaries on “screen time” is a best practice for developing good habits with devices.
Limiting device time for games and social media for 1 to 2 hours a day, and between the hours of 9am and 9pm, are excellent examples of device boundaries. This good-habit also encourages doing other activities that might get missed out on otherwise.
It’s one thing to provide a device for younger users for entertainment and communication purposes, but allowing them to access social media opens up an unprecedented avenue of risks and dangers.
As Forbes points out in a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania, their findings showed how damaging social media is to children, often because they aren’t properly educated on the implications of their actions online.
One of our favorite sayings at Beryllium is:
If you wouldn’t say it out loud at church, or hang it in your living room…it doesn’t need to be online
Besides cyber-bullying issues, improper social media usage can damage the reputation of your family, impact relationships with other parents, and allow access to personal information that can be used maliciously.
There are plenty of benefits to social media, but younger users typically do not have the judgment to understand the consequences to their actions.
Would you give them the keys to your car before they are ready to drive? Hopefully not.
Solution: Don’t allow social media until a certain age (we suggest 13 or older). This includes Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Marco Polo, Twitter, and whatever else becomes popular for sharing in 2019.
When you do allow social media, create an email specific to you and that younger user, allowing you (the adult) to control the password. Turn on email notification and monitor things like posts, direct messages, “forgot password” resets, and privacy settings.
Don’t give the password for that email to your younger user, as that allows to you control what they can/cannot do to the account. That way, you have access to suspend or shutdown that account at any time.
To see our FOX 9 (KMSP-TV) feature on this topic, click the link below!
FOX9: Cyber Security experts warn of security risks when gifting devices to young children this holiday season
Be Aware. Keep it Safe. Have Fun.
Video games, smartphones, computers and even movies are all wonders of our modern society and can make our holidays very cheerful. As with anything else, there are dangers associated with their use.
We cannot protect our most treasured electronics consumers from every danger out there, but we can help them to be prepared, be aware, and make good choices when using their new favorite devices.
Beryllium InfoSec Collaborative wants your holidays to be a Winter Wonderland, not a digital nightmare. If you have questions about best practices for usage, cyber security concerns, or just how to “keep it safe” online, reach out to us. We are here to help.