“With great power comes greater responsibility”. This saying applies to the impact the Internet has in our lives. In the two decades since the Internet was made public, we now have the ability to stay connected 24/7 and hold conversations instantaneously to people halfway across the world. All of this ‘power’ is held, quite literally, in the palm of our hands with the invention of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.

Weighing the odds

As our children are born into a world where information is easily within reach, we as parents have to make sure that while they enjoy this easy access to information, precautionary measures need to be in place and kids must be encouraged to be accountable for their actions online. For example, pop-ups on websites target anyone and everyone who visits that site, it won’t know or care if the person in front of the screen is an innocent five-year-old and will, nonetheless, bombard users with pictures of scantily dressed people or trick users to click to ‘claim their prize’.<

Unfortunately, not all children are as aware as they should be of the dangers on the Internet and as parents, we need to educate our children about the dangers that lurk online. The Internet is a playing field for cyber criminals and children are not only at risk of infecting their computers with viruses but also from strangers who try to befriend them online. The Norton Online Family Report 2011 found that 35 percent of children in Singapore have had a child or teenager that they don’t know try to add them as a friend on a social networking site.<

Children may think it is safe to chat with a stranger online as it’s behind a computer screen, but this could translate to real-world danger if private information is shared or if kids are lured into meeting with these strangers in person. Nonetheless, social networks are a good way for all of us to keep in touch with friends and family, as long as privacy settings are high and strangers aren’t accepted into the network.

The vast reach of the Internet can be daunting and as parents it’s tempting, not to mention easier, to pose a ban on the use of the Internet. However, we should keep in mind that there are ways to make the Internet a safer place. Aside from having comprehensive security software, like Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, and a parental monitoring tool like Norton Online Family in place to protect our online activities, having regular, open conversations with your children and their Internet use is also key to ensuring their safety.

PARENTING TIPS
Keen to know what your kids are up to online? Here’s a list to get you started:
• Do you really know everybody on your friends list?
• Do you ever get messages from strangers? How do you handle them?
• Do you know anyone who’s gone to meet someone offline they’d been talking to online?
• Are people in your group of friends ever mean to each other online or on phones? What do they say? Have they ever been mean to you? Would you tell me if they were?
• Sometimes children take nude or sexy photos and send them to others. Has that ever happened at your school?

By Effendy Ibrahim
Internet Safety Advocate & Director, Consumer Business, Asia, Symantec