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Keeping Children Safe Online

| May 18, 2011 at 05:55 pm

National Cyber Alert System
Cyber Security Tip ST05-002

Keeping Children Safe Online

Children present unique security risks when they use a computer—not only do you have to keep them safe, you have to protect the data on your computer. By taking some simple steps, you can dramatically reduce the threats.

 

What unique risks are associated with children?

When a child is using your computer, normal safeguards and security practices may not be sufficient. Children present additional challenges because of their natural characteristics: innocence, curiosity, desire for independence, and fear of punishment. You need to consider these characteristics when determining how to protect your data and the child.

You may think that because the child is only playing a game, or researching a term paper, or typing a homework assignment, he or she can’t cause any harm. But what if, when saving her paper, the child deletes a necessary program file? Or what if she unintentionally visits a malicious web page that infects your computer with a virus? These are just two possible scenarios. Mistakes happen, but the child may not realize what she’s done or may not tell you what happened because she’s afraid of getting punished.

Online predators present another significant threat, particularly to children. Because the nature of the internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick other users (see Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for some examples). Adults often fall victim to these ploys, and children, who are usually much more open and trusting, are even easier targets. Another growing problem is cyberbullying. These threats are even greater if a child has access to email or instant messaging programs, visits chat rooms, and/or uses social networking sites.

What can you do? (more…)