Children have become one of the top users of Internet today, may it be for education, entertainment, or socialization. The pandemic and the ensuing school closures have further increased kids’ screen time, making them more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and inappropriate online content.
In a report by the Department of Justice—Office of Cybercrime based on the data forwarded by the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there was a whopping 209 percent increase in the cyber tip reports for the Philippines in 2020 (1,294,750 cyber tips) compared to 2019 (418,422 cyber tips), coinciding with the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF leads the six-year (2019-2025) SaferKidsPH programme, supported by the Australian Government, to reduce the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the Philippines.
Globally, 33 percent of school-aged children (3 to 17 years old) have Internet access at home, according to UNICEF’s December 2020 report. As with most things, online safety must start from home. The UN child rights agency offers these six tips parents and guardians can do to keep children safe online.
Know the parental controls of social media sites
Many social media platforms can filter sensitive content. Read the community guidelines and FAQs of these platforms and maximize them for the child’s protection. An additional option would be using third-party security software with settings such as blocking of specific words, images, and other multimedia content.
Avail of filtering services from Internet service providers (ISPs)
While it does not exactly protect users from computer viruses or malware, filtering services help block access to Internet sites that have illegal or inappropriate content. Some ISPs have been oriented on child-friendly business practices and are doing measures to ensure children’s safety online.
Put password protection on devices
One of the easiest ways to protect children from malicious online content is by simply setting strong passwords on devices. Parents can password-protect their accounts, smartphones, Wi-Fi routers, and computers so that children would have to ask for their assistance when accessing the Internet.
Put computers in a common area
Parents can better monitor their children’s use of the Internet and computer if they stay and put all of their devices in a common room. This way, children can also seek immediate assistance from their parents if they encounter online content with which they are unfamiliar.
Set strong privacy settings
In order to protect children from being preyed on by cyberbullies or scammers, keep webcams covered when not in use. Check the privacy settings to minimize data collection. Help kids learn to keep personal information private, especially from strangers.
Open the lines of communication
The most important requirement for a parent is to maintain open communication. Not only would they be able to spend time with them online and offline, they could also support their children mediate any concerns while navigating the digital environment. Let them have fun and express themselves.