It’s not like you just walked into the kitchen one morning and your kid was sucking on a binky and editing Wikipedia, right? But somehow it is pretty close to that. For years there’s been an ongoing conversation on internet usage in families’ lives, and in 2020, the pandemic made us come face-to-face with that elephant in the room, the internet. It’s not like you just walked into the kitchen one morning and your kid was sucking on a binky and editing Wikipedia, right? But somehow it is pretty close to that. For years there’s been an ongoing conversation on internet usage in families’ lives, and in 2020, the pandemic made us come face-to-face with that elephant in the room, the internet.
In Mozilla they conducted the Mozilla Report: Toddlers, Tablets and Tech Talk with YouGov to get an understanding of how families use the internet in the United States, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. In November, we shared a preview with top insights from the report which included:
1. Many parents believe their kids have no idea how to protect themselves online. About one in three parents in France and Germany don’t think their child “has any idea on how to protect themselves or their information online.” In the U.S., Canada and the U.K., about a quarter of parents feel the same way.
2. U.S. parents spend the most time online compared to parents in other countries, and so do their children. Survey takers in the U.S. reported an average of seven hours of daily internet use via web browsers, mobile apps and other means. Asked how many hours their children spend online on a typical day, U.S. parents said an average of four hours. That’s compared to two hours of internet use among children in France, where parents reported spending about five hours online everyday. No matter where a child grows up, they spend more time online a day as they get older.
So with this insights I guess it is a good time to take steps to safeguard your child against all threats while remaining mindful of the likeliest dangers, including:
- Catfishing, or being tricked by someone using a false identity
- Sexual exploitation
- Hacked or stolen information, like credit card numbers or passwords
- Compromised security settings or viruses
- Automatic charges in games and other apps
- Violent pornography
With social media networks relying heavily on advertising for revenue, data collection, sharing and usage are vital to the success and growth of these billion-dollar services. Data including personal identifiable information (PII), behavioral data, preferential data, usage data and other types of activities gets assessed, analyzed and used to not only retain and attract users, but also keep users engaged longer in an effort to monetize their activities through hyper-targeted ads.
This is the biggest issue, in my opinion, teens are not only in risk in the present by bullys and cyber criminals; the risk of data retention, data oversharing and comprehensive data management for the future is there. So is a good idea to start paying attention to this.
Teens online behavior can be tracked and analyzed by schools, universities and future employees and nothing can be deleted when you’re not in control of the data. Let’s say your daughter deletes her social media account entirely; but still her user data can still live on in the form of tags, posts and mentions. Some platforms allow users to delete their accounts and scrub the data, however that data might have already been repurposed and shared across the open web.
Privacy controls become a critical issue as more of these apps rely on data to appeal to advertisers. But as more apps become connected via dominant social networks, in part for convenience, data transfer occurs readily and often invisibly between social platforms.
As an older generation we stand a lot to lose financially, medically and reputationally if our data should be compromised and wind up in the hands of malicious cyber actors. Such warnings may not resonate in the same way with young people who are not worried about retirement accounts or extensive medical records. But this is part of how the future looks like, so creating resources and educational conversations around digital identity hygiene, privacy, cyber threats and how to protect yourself online is a focus.
Still if you talk to a teenager, they often find ways around firewalls and blockers. Still emotional intelligence and a PRVCY strategy are important as they are always cyber threats that can become more relevant at certain times. For example, fake news and ideology manipulation may increase in a divided political climate. And teenagers in the process of value formation and identity development may have higher susceptibility to harmful messages, sometimes without fully understanding the racism or hate behind them.
So in the end the exposition of internet comes in two ways:
The data one is sharing
The information one is consuming
We are becoming ever more dependent on technology, and children aren’t exempt. Letting children and teens roam the anonymous digital world can trigger just as much nervousness and fear as letting them walk out the door alone. Accept that your teens will test their limits, as this is part of growing up. But when you offer trust, treat them with respect, and engage in frequent, open communication, you can make sure they’re stepping across the lines of childhood in healthy ways, not dangerous ones.
Your teen may resist rules around technology use, especially for their smartphones, but some limits are important. These limits may vary based on your personal feelings about technology and your household setup. Here are some tips you might consider:
Restricting bedroom phone use, especially at bedtime. Making bedrooms device-free can benefit your teen’s sleep as well as their safety
Encouraging them to avoid using public WiFi networks for banking or making purchases.
Creating periodic check-ins with your child to examine their installed apps and software (without reading their messages, looking at their photos, or sifting through other private content)
Teaching them to recognize suspicious emails or phishing scams.
Limiting data and texting through your service provider. Research suggests this may prevent sexting more effectively than random phone checks
Setting guidelines around the type of content they can post publicly on social media or making sure they only “friend” people they actually know.
Following and friending them on social media to quietly monitor potential threats or harassment.
Having them leave their passwords in a sealed envelope so you can access their device if anything happens.
If your child plays video games online, their device may have a higher risk for compromised security. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the software or console they’re using and make sure recommended safety settings are in place.