Children are spending a lot of time online, leading to an increase in screen time. This is a cause of concern not only for their physical and mental health but has also increased their vulnerability to various cyber threats.
According to UNICEF more than 175,000 new children go online everyday—that’s one new child every half second. Whether it is virtual classes, educational and vocational webinars, co-curricular activities, projects, competitions, and even social interaction, everything has gone digital. This has led to a significant increase in the amount of time children spend online.
Increased screen time can make children vulnerable to cyber threats
At Arkose Labs, we recently conducted a study ‘Navigating Internet Security When Screen Time Becomes Full Time‘ which revealed that on an average children are spending more than four hours online every day. The most common activities being classes for school, watching videos, video conferencing, surfing the web, gaming, and social media.
The problem is exacerbated as outdoor activities are still restricted, which means children continue to rely on digital channels for almost all their daily activities. This increased online presence makes them more susceptible to online threats such as cyberbullying, sexual abuse, inappropriate content, social engineering, malware, ransomware, malicious links, and addiction. These threats hold the potential to harm the mental well-being of the affected children, long-term.
Digital savvy, but not necessarily able to identify threats
The younger generation today is digital native, thanks to the availability of internet access at an early age compared to their parents. Most kids are accessing the internet at an average age of 5 years, whereas their parents, on, average, were 17 years when they first accessed the internet. This means children are more accustomed to and comfortable using digital channels as compared to their parents. But does that mean they are also more aware of cyber threats?
The short answer is ‘No’. Familiarity with the internet and the ability to surf seamlessly doesn’t necessarily mean they are aware of the threats they may face in the online world. 65% of the youngsters, Arkose Labs polled for the study, said they had never felt unsafe online. It is highly likely that this false sense of security may have prevented them from recognizing such incidents if and when they happened.
The good news, however, is that there is a growing awareness about internet safety among them. Nearly 33% of parents believed that the time spent online has taught their kids the importance of cybersecurity. Children are also becoming aware of scams and online frauds and they know they are not supposed to share payment-related information or social security numbers with anyone on the internet as it can be dangerous. They know fraudsters steal personal information and use them for impersonation and financial fraud.
Parental counseling can help make the internet safe for kids
Parents can play an important role in educating their children on the hazards of increased cyber exposure. In addition to discussing the various ways children are being targeted on the internet, they can use parental controls to monitor their kids’ activities on the internet and step in when needed. Parents must discourage their children from clicking random links or opening suspicious emails and explain the reason behind this advice.
That said, parents are themselves caught up in balancing their professional commitments with managing home and kids that they are not able to devote enough time to monitor their kids’ online activities. The majority of parents that Arkose Labs polled (71%) were worried about their kids’ safety online and nearly 66% of parents would like more resources to be available to help protect their children online.