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#SafeParents: Digital Parenting

By: Sanjeev Nair | Corporate Communications Manager at Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia

My parents never had it easy with me when I was growing up, being the youngest and the most mischievous child. When I got caught for my misdeeds, there was always punishment which involved a cane followed by a lot of tears, and a couple of “sorry, I won’t do it anymore” apologies.

There were no CCTV cameras, computers with internet connection (it was unheard of!) or even smartphones. All I had was a micro-genius game console (one step up from the ATARi console) to play with and keep me entertained when it rained outside.

Despite not having any surveillance around to catch me in the act of mischief, somehow my parents knew I was guilty of it (I’m guessing it was my brother snitching on me!), call it parental intuition.

Rise of the Digital Parents
Looking back, I realized that my parents never had a manual for raising a child. All they probably had were how to raise a child advices from family and friends. (Thankfully my elder brother was the guinea pig in that exercise!)

As I embark on this journey of becoming a parent in the digital age, I have equipped myself with what every soon to be parent has these days: an e-book about dealing with a pregnant wife, a baby proofing guide for your home, nanny cams to keep an eye on the wife, walkie talkies for in-home communication, bookmarks of emergency delivery procedures, including YouTube step by step videos from professional EMTs on the mobile phone and even one touch emergency keychains within reach. I still do not know how my parents survived without all these, let alone without a mobile phone!

What makes me different from the majority of soon to be parents is that I work for a cybersecurity firm and I’m extremely paranoid with online safety. I’ve even gone to the extent of lining up how little Trinity or Neo (my wife doesn’t know I’ve picked out the name already and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t approve of it, but she won’t know till it’s too late!) would be kept safe from the dangerous world of the internet up until they’re adults. Let me share with you my observations:

The Paranoid Digital Daddy
The Big Bellied Momma period – During this period, if you’re like me setting up nanny cams to keep an eye on the wife, you definitely need to secure it. Who knows who else could be spying on her! So the first thing I did was connect it to a secure home network and change the password and username for the camera.

The stork arrives – Most new parents would be so overwhelmed with receiving their bundle of joy that they start posting up pictures of their new-born on social media and even send the pictures via instant messaging apps. If the privacy settings on the social platforms are not set to private, these pictures are available to everyone to see. There have been cases where parents found their baby’s pictures were used on baby or child trafficking sites. So be careful what you share and with whom.

The toddler years – your smartphone looks like a toy to a baby. Imagine seeing your smartphone being flung across the room or hammered on the ground to pieces by the little one. Also, studies have shown that the smartphone is a highly contaminated device! (1) So, keep the smartphone away from your baby!

The whiz kid – most parents reward their well-behaved kids (3 years onwards) by letting them play games on their smartphones or tablets. As digital natives, modern kids are quick learners, they know that to level up on a game, they need a certain skill or potion which requires in-app purchase.

Children are tech-savvy but not wise when it comes to money. So instead of asking their parents for help, they will more likely just click the purchase button to continue playing the game. Then once the clueless parents get their credit card statements, only then they will know that there are some questionable purchases from games which they do not recall purchasing.

To avoid such instances, do not link any credit card to your Google Playstore or app-store. Also, enable “always prompt for purchase” if available.

The great pretender – this would be the age when your kids are given computer productivity time to research subjects for their homework or even do their homework online. Kids, as we know them, are prone to sneaking fun time during homework time. They tend to wander to other sites or even play games while no one is looking. They’re even smart enough to switch back to homework-mode once a parent walks in.

Most parents don’t know this, but using a security suite like Kaspersky Lab’s Internet Security, they can use parental control to block access to certain websites, apps and even restrict usage of computers and smart devices during study time.

The cyber teen phase – with a great number of friends, comes increased usage of social media. It’s at this age where you’d notice your kids who now has his/her own smartphone becomes quiet, constantly looking down at the screen and giggling ever so often. Also, it’s in this age when they’d add friends even if they do not know the person, share their emotions online, share pictures publicly and even engage in chats with complete strangers.

As parents, teaching proper online etiquette as well as ethics is a must. Our kids must know that what happens today will forever remain online and their actions can affect their reputation. To aid them with guidance, parents must supervise and be aware of their child’s online behaviour.

Kaspersky Safe Kids allows parents to monitor their kids’ social media feed, chats and even SMS messages. The idea is not to spy on them but rather monitor and allow room for conversation to take place between the parent and the child. Children will always need supervision and parents will always need to be aware of who or what influences their child.

The Tween King/Queen phase – at this point, kids will think they know more than adults – be warned of annoying times! We’ve heard so many cases of teen (or even adult) sexting gone wrong when the images shared are leaked or used in blackmail. Children at this age are easiest to exploit because they’re emotionally vulnerable.

Once again, parents need to remind their kids that whatever happens online, stays online. They should be taught not to share such private or intimate details with anyone.

My control or teachings over my kids will probably end here, as once they’ve passed their tweens, they’re considered adults and should be able to decide what’s best for them by themselves.

As for me, I’d probably be researching ways on how to be a digital grandparent when the time comes. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a virtual nanny or a robot nanny. It’s a long way to go, but thinking about this as a soon to be parent, I think I’m rather paranoid for a good reason.