One in 10 children no older than 15 is interested in accessing pornographic content, recent Bitdefender data reveals. This may not come as a surprise, since pornography has basically been around since forever. But, thanks to the Internet, it has increased sharply in accessibility and hyper-interactivity.
Children are closely supervised by parents or the staff at their schools but, when they turn on their computers or pick up smartphones or tablets, they can bypass any digital restrictions.
In fact, children are encouraged to surf the web and use mobile apps from a very young age. We’re seeing toddlers trading toy cars and Barbies for tablets and mobile devices. In fact, 7 per cent of kids under the age of 4 are playing with their tablets and watching their favorite TV programs before they go to bed, a study reveals.
And Barbie isn’t what she used to be either. Mattel is testing a smart A.I-wired Barbie that talks to children, while showing off a new figure – her thighs have been thickened slightly to fit a rechargeable battery in each one, while a mini-USB charging port was tucked into her small back. A microphone, hidden in her necklace, records conversations and questions from kids who interact with her. The data is transmitted to computer servers and converted into text. The line of text that best fits the scenario is chosen and delivered back to the listener in just seconds. But what if it could memorize more than “Hello, Barbie!”?
With so many temptations, let’s talk about the online threats your underage children or friends face when browsing the web without supervision.
As with any other sites, porn sites are at risk from malware attacks. Lured by the massive number of monthly visitors (over 800 million), cyber-attackers recently poisoned two of the Internet’s largest pornography websites, PornHub and YouPorn, with malicious advertising. Not long ago, another popular adult site, xHamster, was seen serving ransomware. The malware directed users to a fraudulent page once it had determined they were running Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and had identified the device’s security settings.
So, besides the physiological consequences of this type of content, adult sites are also filled with serious security hazards.
Cyberbullying and sexting
Hateful text messages, death threats, extortion and harassment via Facebook, Twitter or email have had dreadful consequences on children’s lives. So knowing who they talk to is very important. But are parents really aware of what their children do online? Sadly, studies show that only 10 per cent of parents have knowledge of their teens being targets of cyberbullying.
Spying mobile apps
You’ve probably heard of intrusive mobile apps, and even have some installed on your mobile device. Many apps ask for a lot of permissions to support ad networks that gather as much information as they can to target you with the right message. So they end up sniffing location, accessing photos, reading text messages contact lists and so on.
Accidental in-app purchases
If you allow your toddler to play with your tablet or smartphone without supervision, you might accidentally be charged hundreds of dollars for software you don’t need. Knowing that kids love games, Google has introduced password protection on newer versions of Android tablets to prevent outrageous credit-card bills coming from accidental in-app purchases. A similar AppLock feature can also be found in mobile security apps, such as Bitdefender Mobile Security.
Luckily, kids are not alone, as more major players are improving their services to protect them. YouTube, for instance, has updated its Kids App, which curates video content to provide better parental control.
Hoping to have sparked some curiosity on this matter, I’ll finish off with some useful tips for 21st century parents in need:
- Keep ad-blockers on to make sure kids don’t click on malicious ads.
- When choosing a security solution for your home computer, make sure it is equipped with parental control technologies to see what your kids are doing online.
- Keep security software updated to fend off spam, malware, spyware and others.
- Most importantly, help children learn about security hazards, how to recognize phishing attacks and become good online citizens. Teach them about the implications of posting private information about themselves and about the persistence of this data on the Internet.
What do you think is the best way to keep children protected from online threats?