Online Child Safety

By Henry Bagdasarian

A personal experience recently prompted me to think about online child safety and propose a couple of mandatory Internet security solutions.

As children grow into their teenage years, we can see how much more time they spend on the Internet while attempting to hide some of their activities from their parents and guardians with the use of passwords and other means. Below is my personal story that although not uncommon, can make us think harder about the Internet risks that children face each day. This story illustrates only one type of online child safety issue and there are so many other situations than can place children at risk.

During a busy work day, my 14 year old daughter calls me on my cell and and asks me to pay a guy $200 to fix her laptop because the guy said that her laptop is infected with malware. So I asked her which guy to which she replied I’m on the phone with him and he is also inside my computer. Apparently, she had received a virus warning message on her laptop with a phone number to call which she had obeyed. Then, she granted this guy remote access to her laptop to browse and fix the problem while he was on the phone with her.

Obviously, she did not have the judgment and experience to assess the following in her situation:

  • Was the virus message a real threat or a fake message to prompt her to take an action such as buy an anti-virus tool?
  • What damages can the stranger cause while having full access to her laptop? and,
  • How does she know that the stranger will not commit credit card fraud once the number is shared?

I told her to hang up the phone and turn off the computer but she resisted and argued for a few minutes at first, then after I explained what had happened and what could still happen, she agreed.

Ultimately, since there was no content on the laptop, I decided to reset the laptop and its operating system to the original factory settings to make sure it was free of viruses and potential spyware. Also, a new trick which is used for extortion is ransomware which is a computer time bomb which if not turned off by the hacker, it can cause serious damage to the computer and its content. The trick is that the hacker demands a ransom before the malware is disabled.

These are just some of the online child safety risks that Internet use can introduce if the user is not well educated. A mandatory Internet security training for children and other "poorly educated" individuals, a term often used by Donald Trump, may be warranted before they use the Internet to protect themselves. 

For example, if you don't have an anti-virus software installed on your computer, or if you have an anti-virus software installed, but the threat message doesn't seem to mention your software by name, is completely anonymous, or promotes another brand, you most likely would question the authenticity of the virus threat message. These inconsistencies are often small observations that an experienced person would use to assess the criticality of a situation and the next best steps to take to remediate the issue. 

Most kids and their parents don’t do a good job preparing for the Internet use, therefore, a mandatory age limit and/or training may be the best option before devices are sold and Internet services are enabled. Training will provide the much needed awareness of the Internet security risks before kids are exposed to them, and, a minimum age limit will ensure kids have the minimum necessary logic and ability to assess and deal with dangerous situations.

This proposal will require our various government agencies as well as cell phone makers and Internet service providers to come together and implement the necessary laws and solutions for educating kids and ensuring online child safety.

Visit our identity theft blog to find and read other articles about online child safety.

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