Advice Column, Lifestyle, Tech

Parenting in the social media era – how to manage your online accounts to ensure your children’s safety

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  • Category Advice Column, Lifestyle, Tech

Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager, Kaspersky Lab Africa

Social platforms give many families the freedom to communicate with their loved ones, whenever and wherever they want – it is convenient and no doubt saves lots of time. Further to this, social media sites also give parents the opportunity to share their memories and moments with family and close friends – and often this includes posting pictures of children, as they grow and achieve great milestones in life. However, does this freedom and convenience come at a cost?

While internet and social media safety are often topical discussion points for many parents today, the reality is that keeping kids safe is not just about making sure their social activity is monitored closely and protected. Parents also need to understand that what they post online about their children can also put their children at risk. As such, parents must also take security measures, on their own social media accounts – especially those who use sites to share pictures and precious family memories.

But, do parents know where to start?

In 2016*, a Kaspersky Lab security expert uncovered a malware attack that tricked approximately 10 000 Facebook users around the world. Essentially their devices were infected with a virus after receiving a message from a ‘friend’ claiming to have mentioned them on Facebook. The compromised devices were then used to hijack Facebook accounts, and spread the infection through the victim’s own Facebook friends and to enable other malicious activity. Now, imagine if this ‘other malicious activity’ was stealing pictures of kids and selling them for a profit? How would this make parents feel?

The reality is that this kind of cybercriminal activity can happen. However, to safeguard any online social media accounts, parents can follow the following key tips:

Refrain from making social media profiles public – if parents have their social media accounts set on public view, anyone can access these profile pages and view (and take) the content and images from these pages. A public view invites everyone with an Internet connection to look through pictures on the page. Having an account set on a public view is very reckless. Rather, profiles should always be set on a privacy view – that only offers access to people the profile user is connected to (i.e.: friends). Privacy can also be changed on a post by post level, and as such, parents should make use of these added settings and take extra care when it comes to posts about their kids.

Avoid sharing pictures of other people’s kids’ – this is often a ‘pet peeve’ for many people – especially those who are very particular (and rightly so) about having pictures of their kids posted online. As a parent, be aware that not all parents are fans of posting images to social media, and so avoid posting pictures of your kids, with other kids on the image – such as group school photos or party photos.

Don’t create a social media profile for children – given the convenience social media offers, there are instances when parents create a whole new profile, just for their child, for the purpose of sharing pictures and updates about their child’s life journey. While this can be a nice thing to do to keep family and friends updated, it can also be very risky – as remember this profile is online and therefore can be at risk of cybercriminal activity.

Bath time should be private – while kids do tend to do the cutest things while in the bathtub, this time is something that should be kept private, to protect children.

Invest in a good Internet Security solution for your devices – over and above following these practical steps, parents should also ensure that the devices they use to view social media, and upload images to social media sites, are well protected with a good internet security solution.

While the internet and social media platforms provide many benefits today, social media safety, for families and children, rely on parents being aware of the security risks that are present. In understanding these risks, parents are then able to take the necessary steps to ensure the protection of their children at all times, while still using social media platforms, safely, in their personal capacity.


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