If it wasn’t for my daughter Zuzia I would probably not be able to write this post, thank you honey you mean the world to me!
Ah those kids. Right… As parents we do whatever it takes to protect them, but there comes a time where our protection is simply not enough. Our kids at some point, join the world of grown-ups. Today even quicker than we want to. When we were kids things were a little different, we were simply not allowed at the grown-ups table.
If I well remember my first encounters with the internet were somewhere close to 1997-98, can’t really recall as these were strange times for me. Do you remember when your kid first encountered the cyber world? My daughter was quite young, in fact she was something around 5 minutes old when her daddy posted a picture of her on facebook. When was the first time your kid was given an electronic device with access to the internet? Frankly I can’t remember. You probably don’t as well. Were we wrong to give a tablet or a smartphone to our children at such young age? We all make mistakes. If you were a little conscious, you were probably choosing the films on youtube, but after a while the kids got the hang of switching the movies themselves and before you realised it, you had an hour of free time. Let me guess, you did not setup a different account for your child, you probably didn’t use the restricted mode as well. So, your children were able to watch whatever you were watching. Before you knew they were looking at your web browser, accessing apps on your phone without you even knowing it. We all were there.
The problem with children, oh wait it’s not the children that are the problem, it’s the parents. Don’t get me wrong, who was there to teach us? My parents were almost 50 when internet became widely available, so I don’t think they were capable. Heck we probably knew more about the internet than they did. They did teach us about the manners by the table, the did teach us to wash our hands before we eat, and many other things, but the internet we had to learn it by ourselves. So, can we really expect from ourselves to be the wise ones and teach our kids about cyber when at age ten they are more fluent? And just how is all of that related to cybersecurity? Very much and here is why.
Today when I was preparing to write the post, I asked my daughter what are her biggest fears when being on the web. The first one she did not even hesitate was:
33% of youth globally experience call it whatever you want, hate speech, cyberbullying, violence. Hate is a very big problem not only among kids but in the adolescent world as well, but kids are much more fragile and are influenced much easier. People who experience cyber bullying are 4 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Will I be exaggerating if I would say that social media is the leading cause of depression among kids? Probably not. Facebook was created in 2003 – yes 20 years ago (little known fact it was first called Facemash). Do you know what was Zuckerberg’s intention when he created Facemash? As he said “it was a prank website I launched in college, in my dorm room…” The website was used to upload pictures of women so that people could decide which one was better… Today Facebook is much more than that. It’s the biggest social experiment. Kids on social media are just a test subject to test the new methods how to sell more clicks. Social media is also a stress relieve platform. When I asked my daughter if she wants to have an account on facebook or Instagram, that’s what she answered “No, unless I can make that account private and allow only people I want on my account”. Would you expect that from a 10-year-old?
We all know what glitch means, and it is the exact same in the cyber world. The symptoms are easy you enter a website which causes your phone or computer to act weirdly. Now for an average user it’s a common “there must something with the website or the network connection must be bad”. For us it’s simply a malicious code embedded in the webpage. Such glitches might seem as nothing special, however it's best to close a glitchy webpage - that's what Zuzia said.
Kids of course have a different perception of who a Hacker is, however we are talking about the same kind of people. An example of a hacker according to my daughter is a person who gains access to Roblox account to steal money from players. I have not made that up, she even gave a real-life example of her friend who was a victim, her account was hacked, and she lost all of her stashed Roblox. Frankly I don’t see a difference between the hackers they teach about in the corporate cybersecurity trainings and the one kids have to face in their cyber world. You can clearly see the effect is exactly the same, it’s probably the age of the cyber villain that’s different. Does she know what is MFA? Nope – but she already knows that a strong password is a thing to keep those bad guys away from her online accounts.
4. Inappropriate websites / content
First content rating systems for movies were introduced in 1968. At the end of November 2022 there were nearly2 billion websites on the internet. Can you guess which ones were suited for your kids to watch? Neither do I, but I recon most of them are not suitable for children under 16. You probably wouldn’t go for a classic slasher movie with a 10 year old, yet they have their own device with access to all the content in the world. Personally I try not to do any content filtering for Zuzia, however there are some times that I can hear exactly what she’s watching on youtube, and it’s simply unbearable – for me. It’s quite normal for her. Of course I don’t want her to see more than she needs to, but where would we be as humanity if it wasn’t for curiosity. She even emphasised that if she opens a movie “by mistake” that is inappropriate for her, she switches to something else.
“Challenge Accepted…” who doesn’t know this phrase. Unfortunately, cyber challenges are not so entertaining. My daughter was 8 when she first encountered Squid Game challenge in her school. That game she did not want to play. If we were still in the VHS or even DVD era, she probably wouldn’t know what Squid Game was. You probably heard of the ice bucket challenge, right? But have you heard about NyQuil Chicken challenge, the Milk Crate Challenge or the Blackout Challenge. Yup, TikTok is full of these, and these might look funny, but I bet it wasn’t for some who actually attempted the challenge.
These are the top 5 fears Zuzia has. As you can see cyber world is a dangerous place for cyber kids. Now if you look at th
e definition of security its “the state of being free from danger or threat”. Cyber kids need cybersecurity too. Zuzia didn’t hesitate to say that sometimes she feels secure but sometimes she doesn’t, especially when her friends say some mean stuff when they play games or she posts something on Likee. If you remember your school days, you also probably said something mean to some of your colleagues. I know I did, of course I’m not proud of it, but just like Thanos it’s “inevitable”.
I asked Zuzia one more question – did anyone teach her how to be cybersecure? Surprisingly she said yes – and it wasn’t me. She said that in her school, during her computer science class they had some cyber awareness trainings, also she mentioned that her friend told her how to setup privacy on an app they use to create their content.
After reading all this you might think what's the big deal then. Well it is a big deal, just as we, the parents, are responsible for how our children behave in the real world we are responsible for what they do in the cyber world, and it's not what they see, but how they act. It's up to us parents to understand that there is no boundary between the cyber and the real world. Just because your kid is quietly sitting in their room with their noses stuck to their phones doesn't mean their doing "nothing". Sometimes I would rather hear the noise in my daughter's room rather than silence.
As parents we want our children to be protected from all the harm in the world, but sometimes it’s hard to protect them from the world we simply don’t understand. I think it would be good we stop pretending we know better than our kids, and learn about the world they live in. To do that I have a simple exercise for you. Get your head out of your phone, and simply talk to your kid, I’m pretty sure you’ll learn something new about the cyber world and your cyber kids.