Kids are starting to use the internet by age 3. By age 12, most have encountered pornography online.
Over half of teens don’t think posting personal info online is unsafe. Over two-thirds regularly receive personal messages online from strangers and say nothing about it to an adult.
If you’ve had talks with your children about basic safety—don’t talk to strangers, don’t touch a hot stove, don’t walk out in traffic—then you need to add one more talk to your list:
And Pete Canavan can help you do it.
Pete has been helping clients and students learn how to protect themselves for over 20 years. He’s worked an IT security consultant, martial arts & self-defense instructor, university public safety officer, and event security professional.
In this week’s YBTV interview, he helps educate us about the dangers facing kids online.
What You’ll Learn
Education cannot start early enough.”
Pete Canavan knows his stuff.
He’s done IT security since 1995. He’s been a martial artist for over 20 years. He’s worked as a public safety officer. He’s run his own business.
And in his opinion, “things have gotten a lot more dangerous for the general public.”
From ransomware to identity theft to phishing attacks, the ways we can be targeted online keep expanding and evolving.
Worse yet, some of the most vulnerable are kids under the age of 18.
Kids are growing up on the internet. It starts when their parents discover that their phone can distract a fussy child and accelerates when classrooms come equipped with laptops and iPads. Nearly half of kids under the age of 8 have their own tablet.
“It is scary that kids are being exposed to the Internet from such an early age,” Pete says.
He sees families where everyone is on their devices “and no one is interacting. And that, to me, is sad because if we didn’t have all this technology we’d be forced to talk to each other and interact and and get closer as a family.”
So the easiest and most obvious way to protect your child online?
Keep them offline as much as possible.
And when you do allow your child to use technology, monitor their use and set clear limits.
One way you can protect them from seeing things they shouldn’t see online by setting your phone to child mode. You can also change the settings in your router so websites that have certain words in them (like the XXX ones) are blocked. This protects all the devices in your house, so you don’t have to worry about a technology-savvy teen getting around security settings.
But the most important thing of all you can do is educate them about the dangers they face.
“If you have children, you try to keep them safe any way possible from the time that they are born,” Pete says. Online safety is no different.
Kids only see the best about technology. It’s a source of fun and entertainment. They don’t understand how chatting with a stranger during an online game or posting a picture of themselves could cause any harm.
That’s where parents and educators need to step in.
“The time to introduce new safety concepts is when the child reaches certain levels of maturity. So by the time they are going to school …. you talk to the kids about how it’s inappropriate if people, for example, are touching them in a certain way, or it’s inappropriate if someone is asking them personal information, like, ‘Where does your mom work? Where does your dad work? What do they do? Do they come home from work right away?’”
Paint a clear picture of the consequences of unsafe online behavior.
Giving away too much personal information, for example, can lead to identity theft, stalking, even robberies and burglaries.
Pete adds, “These things may start online but then they can move offline, and that’s the really scary part.”
It’s an important message for adults, too. Pete is astounded by “how much detailed personal information people put out there about their own lives… Most of them are not thinking about the safety ramifications of what they’re doing.”
When you post information about where you work or where you’re going for drinks or the details of your favorite run, strangers can figure out your schedule. They’ll know where they can find you—and when your house will be unoccupied.
Even your photos can reveal information you’d rather keep private. Many phone cameras automatically embed geo-tags, information that reveals the exact time, date and location the image was taken. Yet even without a geo-tag, an unscrupulous viewer could determine your location from what’s in the background of your picture.
Pete gives the example of a parent picking her child up from a daycare Halloween party. The parent snaps a photo of the kids in their costumes and posts it on social media … never realizing that the name of the daycare is visible in the background.
Given that a sizable number of parents never check their social media privacy settings, that could spell trouble. You think the image is just going out to family and friends. But do you really know how many people are seeing it?
Parents are sharing more and more about their kids online, often without any consideration of the digital footprint they’re creating.
A Nominet poll found that parents share about 200 photos of their child online each year, adding up to nearly 1000 photos by the age of 5.
“As parents, I think we need to take a real hard look at whether or not we want all of this information going out there,” Pete says.
Limiting yourself in terms of what you post online about your kids is one thing…
But can you limit what your teen posts online?
It’s more difficult to manage teen technology use because teenagers often think they know it all. They’re less likely to respect your lectures on online security.
It’s an uphill struggle, because this generation [has] grown up with this technology from the time they’ve been very young. And so to try to limit them and take some of that away is like you’re cutting their arm off.”
But keep on educating them. Use examples so that it drives the point home more powerfully.
They’re not going to believe anything bad could ever happen to them online, Pete says. “But guess what? Every single person that’s ever had something bad happen to them has said the same exact thing: ‘I never thought it would happen to me.’ Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them until it happens.”
Setting limits is key. Parents should set firm limits on screen time and not budge even when a child complains that they’re almost onto the next level or they’ll lose if they stop now.
If your child wishes to make purchases online, use a pre-paid credit card so there are no nasty surprises at the end of the month. Have your child earn the money for their game purchases through doing chores. Take the opportunity to teach responsible money management and budgeting.
And drive home the importance of not talking to strangers—online AND offline.
Critical Safety Tip #1 is, if somebody’s offering to be your friend online and you don’t know them well, don’t accept it. You don’t know who they are. They may just be out there trolling for information, [or] they may look be looking for their next victim.”
Pete’s goal is to help parents and young people gain greater awareness of the dangers that exist online. If you’re aware of what might happen, you’ll be better equipped to respond if something ever does happen to you.
You can get Pete’s free online safety checklist on his website so that you’re better prepared. Don’t wait for something to happen to you.
Jump to Topics of Interest
02:40 The dangers of starting your kids off using technology at a young age
03:29 Ways to keep young children safe: child mode, router settings
05:35 When to introduce online safety concepts to kids
07:46 How online popularity can lead to safety risks
09:37 Setting limits on technology use
10:52 When kids want money to spend online
13:21 Be cautious with the amount of detailed personal information you post online
16:49 Teenagers and technology
19:25 Pete’s work in public safety and IT security
21:01 The Warrior mindset
About Pete Canavan
Pete has been helping clients and students learn how to protect themselves for over 20 years through his work as an IT security consultant, martial arts & self-defense instructor, university public safety officer, and event security professional. He’s written 5 books on self-defense and campus safety. Find out more about Pete.