Why Is E-Safety A Sore Subject For Parents?
Tim Burrows: One of the biggest challenges for parents today is an amount of technology that is available to their children. Compound the amount of technology with a lack of understanding and appreciation for basic security by children today, e-safety becomes a big concern.
Many parents themselves don’t know what their children have access to and what they are doing in their online activities and haven’t taken the time to coach and teach their children of the risks that exist online and the importance of safety and security.
But the biggest problem that exists is many parents themselves don’t know the risks in our constant ‘click and share’ environments. Children will copy what they see and when the parents aren’t aware, the children aren’t either.
When Can You Tell Us About Your Experiences?
Tim Burrows: In most cases of unsafe online behavior presented by children the parents had no idea what their kids were up to. Cases involving suicide threats, grooming by potential predators, missing children reports were almost always met with, “I had no idea.” But a simple search of the children’s known online profiles showed all the information required to show there were serious concerns and risky behaviors that should have been easily seen.
In one case that I was involved with a child was being bullied online extensively. This led to him making many posts over the period of about a month that all pointed to depression, isolation and suicide. The posts increased in frequency leading to a post that finally said that the only answer he could see was to kill himself with a final, “Good-bye”.
His friend saw it and reported it to police. We responded and in going through the child’s social media accounts with his parents, it was clearly visible that all the indicators and issues had been building and completely visible.
His parents response, “We had no idea.” But that should never be the response.
Why Should Parents Be Vigilant About Their Kids’ Online Activity?
Tim Burrows: Criminals look for easy opportunity. Children that aren’t taught safe online practices and those that aren’t monitored online are easy opportunities for criminality. Beyond the criminal aspect, at risk behavior can be easily identified for early intervention. Bullying, shaming, ‘cries for help’ are all seen often and the best way to help is to address the issues early and to take the opportunity to talk with your children.
In the worst case scenarios, suicide or abduction, the worst thing for a parent to live through would be find out after the fact that the information was readily available to help and not having done anything because they didn’t know about it.
In today’s world, even with the speed of technology and a lack of understanding, there are great tools available to help parents know and see what is going on in their children’s online experience. Not knowing isn’t an excuse anymore.
Are There Any New E-Safety Trends/Risks Parents Should Know About?
Tim Burrows: One of the most successful tools used for both criminal and data mining use is social engineering. Social engineering in its simplest form is the act of creating a digital profile of a person. Most often it’s used in the marketing industry to target people based on the information they provide online. Criminals have adapted to this by creating that same digital profile but use it to target people for passwords, account access, computer locking, blackmail, etc.
Children offer up a lot of information online publicly that is allowing social engineering to take place from a younger age creating a very rich digital profile. This not only can impact the children, but much of that information can be used to target parents as well. Passwords, account security questions, identification information and more can be easily discovered through publicly shared information without knowing it.
What Initiatives/Programs Do You Know To Protect Kids Online?
Tim Burrows: There are many resources that help to protect children online. From Kids Help Phone organizations, digital monitoring and reporting tools and platform security help resources. Sadly, most of those are only used ‘after-the-fact’ or when a lot of damage has already been done.
The best initiative available is parental vigilance and talking openly with your children about the risks online today. Part of that vigilance is knowing what your children are doing. Tools like mSpy are a great resource for this.
Are There Positive Shifts In Law Regarding Kids ‘E-Safety?
Tim Burrows: One of the most positive things happening today in the world of e-safety is governments recognizing the importance of digital profiles and laws that are being enacted to protect us. Police are becoming better at recognizing and investigating criminal behavior in a preventative nature and private industry is becoming more and more capable of assisting government, police and most important parents become part of the solution and the prevention of risky behaviors.
What Can You Advise To Parents Regarding Those Trends?
Tim Burrows: Parents are the first line of defense in the protection of their children. Preparing children for young adult life and beyond is paramount to protection their children not just IRL (in real life) but also in their digital online life.
Parent have to take the time to talk to their children about the importance of online e-safety which means they also need to understand its importance.
I believe parents need to model the 3M approach to online activity in their children.
MANAGE – at an early age and introduction to an online world, parents need to manage their children’s online experience, the tools they will use and the safety measures needed.
MONITOR – as their children’s experience grows parents can give up some of the control to assist their children to move into the world of self reliance and personal responsibility. This does not mean they walk away from knowing what’s going on. This is where a tool like mSpy is so valuable. It allows a ‘hands-off’ approach while staying completely aware of what is happening. It creates the perfect opportunity to intervene when needed, advise when necessary and teach when required.
MODEL – Parents need to be good online citizens themselves and model the behavior they want their children to portray online.