A new survey shows that around 80% of parents are concerned about their children’s online safety, and around 50% of them experience great anxiety about their kids’ online activity.
Hungarian parents know that the internet is the latest frontier in business, collaboration and communication, but they also know that criminals are using it to exploit their obsessions. If until a few years ago, parents worried if their children were happy and healthy, nowadays they are facing a new problem, they have to understand the extent to which their kids’ use of the internet is affecting their safety and privacy.
It may sound surprising but studies show that 3-years children are actively using the internet, and their parents are the ones who introduced them to a mobile device to distract their attention. If an infant is given a phone, they will definitely adopt an online solution like Tinder, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter earlier than Millennials did it.
A survey examined how informed parents are about cyber criminality and found out that more than 30% of them have poor education on the subject. However, even if most of them have no idea the threat cyber-attacks pose, they are confident they can stop them.
But for parents to be able to guard themselves and their children, the Hungarian Government has created the Digital Child Protection Strategy, a program that has the goal to educate children and make them more aware of the dangers they expose themselves through online communication. This strategy supports a productive and conscious use of the Internet, but it also focuses on developing measures and regulations that can protect children. The Digital Child Protection Strategy lists the main skills parents and children have to acquire in order to guard themselves against the danger internet use poses. Some of these skills are the ability to identify harmful content and behaviour, technological skills, awareness of the opportunities the internet is offering, but also of the threats excessive use can bring.
The program lists some of the most dangerous threats children are exposed to when they browse the internet.
They can be the victim of manipulation and deception, through the texts shared by the media.
They can also be exposed to encoded speech or hate speech, some of them being the target of this type of discourse while others being instigated to take part in this type of activities.
Social media often presents outsiders as criminals, based on their race and religion.
Alongside these threats, internet use can also lead to addiction, children can easily develop a passion for online games and non-stop use of social media.
The mediatisation of the perfect body is also a common threat for children. They are exposed to the culture of the body and can develop problems like sexual identity, the role of men and women in society, body dimorphism, and mental health conditions.
Extensive use of the internet can make children the target of sexual abusers, paedophiles, bullies and stalkers.
Alongside the Digital Child Protection Strategy, in Hungary, parents can also receive support from the Hungarian Internet Centre in guarding their children. This centre was created with the purpose to support people to use the internet and modern technologies in a positive and safe way.
They have created an Awareness Centre where families can take part in courses that help them safely browse the internet.
At the centre, people can learn how to protect their personal data, how to prevent cyberbullying, how to keep their passwords secret, and how to protect their digital footprints. They provide interactive lessons for children and they use small exercises and videos to help them identify the threats they face when they are using the Internet, and to teach them how to react in certain situations. The centre also supports the Hungarian parents and teachers in their fight to eliminate online threats.
They have also established a Helpline to allow the children who are victims of harmful content, or who have are facing sexting, grooming or cyberbullying to seek for help. This Helpline is open not only to children, but also to parents and teachers who want to find how they can prevent and solve internet safety issues. The Helpline is part of the Safer Internet Plus Project, and it’s supported by the European Commission. Its purpose is to remove harmful content and to protect children from being abused when using the internet.
The Hungarian Police have also enlisted a little robot that teaches schoolchildren how to stay safe when they are browsing the Internet.
As a parent, you should do your best to keep your children away from both online and offline threats. Here are some guidelines on how you can protect them.
You should regularly check your children’s phones and if you notice some unknown numbers in their contact list, you should run them through a reverse phone lookup program to find out more about the person who is contacting them. It’s easy to find out information about a phone number, you only type it in the search box and you disclose all the details you need about the person who owns it.
You should block all inappropriate web pages your children could access. As you already know not all websites are children friendly, so you should install parental control software on the devices they are using.
You should teach them to stand up to online bullies. Often, children are registering on gaming websites, and they expose themselves to cyberbullies. Some of the users play online games only to taunt and harass other people and you should monitor what games your children are playing, and whom they are talking to. You should teach them to stop any contact with the persons who are disturbing them, and if they do not do it, you should delete their accounts. It may sound like a drastic measure but it will protect them.