| Education

Why do you need to talk to your kids about online threats?

Alžbeta Kovaľová | 16 Feb 2024

The evolution of cyberspace has brought with it an evolution of threats targeting children . Why is it so important to talk about them?

The internet has been around since the early 90s, and understandably the threats that both kids and adults face have changed massively. Back then kids' safety was mostly about keeping kids away from sexually explicit content and most of the awareness was focused on parental controls rather than conversation and building healthy habits.

In the past 30 years, there has been a lot of change, both on and offline. There is much more you can do online, more apps, websites, people, and most importantly, a younger demographic. The issue of pornography is still very present, but the paradigm has shifted from a child viewing such content to, through the use of deepfakes, being in it themselves. Not to say that children having access to explicit content isn't an issue, but simply demonstrating that privacy, security, and well-being have taken the front seat.

Another persistent and alarming issue is the threat of grooming and online predators. With children engaging in conversations with strangers on social media platforms, as well as dedicated messaging and video-chatting sites, the risk of a child encountering an online predator has risen significantly. The ease of accessibility to these platforms poses a challenge, making it that much more important for parents and educators to stay vigilant and educate children about the potential dangers they may face.

Read more about what to do if your child is contacted by an online predator.

A fairly newer, but widespread threat is cyberbullying. While bullying in general, has been a concern in the physical world already, its digital counterpart has emerged, posing an even bigger issue. It extends the pain from a classroom to their home environment, haunting them pretty much 24/7 without an opportunity to escape. Cyberbullying creates a virtual space with harmful behaviors and intimidation, often with severe consequences for a child's mental health and well-being. The anonymity provided by the online world, allows the attacker to stay hidden and continue bullying the victim for longer, without the fear of being caught.

Deepfake technology has introduced a new dimension to the concern of explicit content. Rather than just worrying about children stumbling upon inappropriate content, the issue has shifted to kids being manipulated into compromising content without them even knowing. It is very easy, with the new readily available technology, to stick a child's face onto a different body and claim that it is truly them. The kid may then be manipulated into creating such content themselves, feel shame, and even be blackmailed by the attacker. This highlights the need for awareness and education on the responsible use of digital media and the importance of an open relationship with kids. So, they aren´t afraid to come to their parents at the first sight of trouble, without the fear of being judged.

However, parents and educators are not the only ones who should be taking an interest in such matters. It comes to lawmakers and stakeholders of companies, to put legislation in place that would prevent such practices from occurring. There needs to be more regulation as to who, how, and when can use the internet and more specifically how and what for.

It is also up to us, the adults, to educate ourselves on the dangers and how to deal with them so that we can lead our children and create a safer internet for them. Restriction is no longer a viable option when it comes to online safety, but there is a growing need for open conversations with children about the potential risks they may encounter online. Building digital literacy and instilling in them the importance of responsible internet use are essential components of this proactive strategy.

It is crucial to incorporate discussions about specific threats such as grooming, cyberbullying, and the implications of deepfake technology into conversations with children. Awareness campaigns within schools and communities can further reinforce the importance of online safety. 

Apart from awareness, a security solution that you can trust and does the thinking for you, is a must these days. Your best defense tactic is using a reputable security solution, such as ESET Home Security with its 24/7 real-time protection. One of the functionalities, available in all tiers, is Network Inspector, testing your home router for vulnerabilities, such as weak passwords or out-of-date firmware. It provides a list of connected devices, making it easier for you to spot malicious activity on your home network.

Try ESET Home Security now

The evolution of online threats shows the need for a comprehensive and adaptable approach for parents and educators. Staying informed about the specific challenges and actively engaging in open conversation with your children, will contribute to a safer online environment. By combining education, vigilance, and advocacy, we can work towards mitigating the risks associated with the ever-changing landscape of the digital world.


About the author

Alžbeta Kovaľová /
Security writer

Alžbeta has worked at ESET for two years...

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