If you ever get into a conversation about information security with someone who doesn’t work in the sector then it is quite likely that they will assume that you are looking to protect business assets in some way. And, for the most part, they wouldn’t be wrong.
But infosec is far more wide reaching than that and encompasses the protection of other assets too, some of which are far more personable and valuable than mere data.
I am, of course, talking about our kids.
But what about our children?
What are we doing to ensure that they maintain their own privacy on the net? And what are we doing to keep them safe online?
Where kids are concerned their safety on the internet may well go far beyond keeping viruses off their computers and ensuring that they use good, strong passwords. Their sanity, even their very lives, may be at stake.
Now, according to new research by children’s charity the NSPCC, the number of youngsters who have had a negative experience online in the last year is, perhaps, much higher than you would think with almost 1 in 5 saying that they had been victims of cyber bullying.
Claire Lilley, NSPCC: “It’s unbearable to think any young person should feel there is no other option but to end their life because of bullying on social networking sites.”
The report, which comes in the wake of Hannah Smith hanging herself after allegedly receiving abuse on ask.fm, discovered that the bullying largely took the forms of unwanted sexual comments, online stalking and pressure to look a certain way. The NSPCC research also uncovered the fact that a large proportion of the 1,024 children surveyed were using sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook despite being under the minimum age of 13.
So what can we do to protect our kids online?
I personally think that the single best tip here is to ensure that they keep their PC, laptop, etc in the living room where you can keep at least a casual eye on what they are doing. Just knowing that you are close by and taking some interest in what they are doing will prompt kids to either be careful where they go and in what they are doing, or will encourage them to share any issues that they encounter. After all, we all know how important communication is within the security field, right?
However, there will always be times when children do surf the web without supervision. The advent of tablets and smartphones makes it far too easy for them to disappear into bedrooms and other locations where you cannot possibly be expected to know what they are up to at all times. For this reason I think it is useful to know some of the warning signs to look out for to tell whether you kids are being bullied. Many of these will be much the same as real life bullying, i.e. at school –
- Their school grades have dropped
- They suddenly start failing tests that you know they should have passed
- They seem preoccupied or bothered about something
- Their sleep pattern becomes different – either sleeping too long or nowhere near enough
- They become irritable or are quick to anger
- They exhibit signs of insecurity in place of previous confidence – bullying almost always damages one’s self-esteem
- Spending far more (or far less) time online may be an indication that they are either reacting to, or avoiding, some sort of issue
By keeping track of what your children are doing online, and monitoring their behaviour and moods, you should be able to give yourself a chance at least of detecting problems before they lead to tragedy or long-term issues.