So, what about Online Safety?
To best understand the cyberbullying risks a child or teen can be exposed to with the Internet, parents need to understand the electronic, virtual environment and all that comes with it. Otherwise, children can easily take risks without a parent even having an idea how potentially problematic an online relationship or exposure to the wrong information can be to a growing mind.
Most parents understand today that the Internet involves a collection of websites that can be connected through links, which are lines of code triggered by a mouse click, allowing a computer to go to a specific website destination. Each link goes to another website, and pages are constantly linked for greater awareness.
Search engines allow readers with a computer and browser software to make sense of this interconnected jungle by linking to specific pages that match a given search query typed into the search engine field.
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However, other aspects of the Internet can be just as risky, and parents need to understand the difference and how these resources work.
Online Safety: Social Media
As a general term, social media is a title given to a collection of Internet resources that range from Twitter to networking systems to Facebook to Yelp’s vendor commenting system on businesses. The unique aspect that makes all of these different resources similar is that they each contain an element that allows users to connect and communicate freely, ergo the “social” aspect of the resource.
For children, social media opens them immediately to an exponential audience of both other children and adults. Further, the resources have the potential to allow bullies to reach out and affect victims electronically and even anonymously, causing tremendous mental harm to a child being made fun of.
As a result, parents have to get up to speed quickly with what their children are doing on the Internet and social media sites to maintain a level of cyber safety, even when it makes kids upset or frustrated with the monitoring.
Online Safety: Viruses and Trojans
Another risk that kids and teens can expose themselves to without realizing it involves computer viruses and Trojans. The two categories of electronic harm are uniquely different, even though they tend to get lumped together in products and advice resources.
Viruses involve a program intentionally written to invade a computer through a data connection, either via a portable storage device or a network connection, and then cause some harm or action. Some viruses cause normal computer programs to malfunction, making a computer glitch or completely fail.
Other viruses are designed to capture information and send the data back to a predetermined address. Whichever the case, viruses are programs that work independently in an automated fashion, being triggered by specific computer events such as downloading an infected file or playing a digital movie file.
Trojans work very differently from viruses. Trojan files are programs, but they usually have a very specific design intended to enter a computer and then make it accessible by a remote user. Who can use Trojans to establish a backdoor entry into a computer system, override existing security systems, or control the computer and use it as a pawn within a larger network of activity?
One of the most famous effects of a Trojan involves using multiple computers to take down a targeted website without the computers’ users knowing the above is happening. Trojans can invade a computer through email files, downloaded files, clicking on a trap in a website and other means.
The user voluntarily commits some act that allows the Trojan file to be transferred in most cases. They are also extremely hard to remove, burying themselves into a computer registry and requiring an entire reinstallation of the operating software at times.
Firewall Software and hardware also provide a defence, specifically to intentional intrusion through a network as well as to Trojan files. A firewall prevents unauthorized access to a computer, either coming in or going out of a protected system.
Instead of focusing on definitions, firewalls tend to focus on entry points, screening data for similarities to acceptable traffic versus unknown traffic. Where traffic is flagged, the entry is barred unless the user makes an exception. Firewalls come in two forms: software or hardware. Hardware involves using a specially-designed router that all network cabling must go through.
Access is denied through the router unless the data use special permission codes. Software firewalls are far more prevalent for consumers, performing in the same fashion but installed on a computer instead. A decent firewall program will provide a good defence against most known Trojan files and intentional access. Still, it can be circumvented if a child or teen lets access occur by changing the software controls.
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There is no automated defence for social media. Instead, parents need to decide when their children are old enough to use the Internet without constant monitoring, and then parents need to train their kids to know when something is risky and should be avoided.
This is not a perfect approach, but most kids understand their parents are trying to protect them, even if it is annoying. In some cases, having kids delay their exposure to social media as long as possible might be the better path overall, both for their peace of mind and to avoid harmful distractions on the PC.
Parents don’t get a break from protecting their kids, and the Internet is a very real, prevalent environment that kids will naturally adapt to quickly. Those moms and dads who think it will all just take care of themselves are often proven wrong.
Kids can easily find themselves in a virtual environment well beyond their years. Plus, their natural curiosity can allow problems like viruses and trojans into a computer very quickly. So parents need to educate themselves as much as their kids learn about the Internet to stay up to speed.
Spread the word on the need for online safety and how online safety must be essential for everyone.