Building a safer internet for children is important to ensure children can use the wealth of information available on the internet without the fear of falling prey to online threats. As children spend more time online, it becomes a collective responsibility of parents, teachers, schools, governments, and businesses to help create a safer internet for children.

The coronavirus-induced lockdowns have exposed a greater number of children to the digital world. These include online classes, social media, online gaming, and digital avenues of entertainment. But, the internet is also home to nasty content in equal proportion. To make matters worse, the online world is infested with cybercriminals who lure innocent children into sharing private information, sexual abuse, and a host of other criminal activities. Greater digital exposure, therefore, makes children more vulnerable to cyber risks. Therefore, there is a pressing need to create a safer internet for children.

Time children spend online is increasing

According to UNICEF, over 175,000 new children go online every day—that’s one new child every half second. And, the amount of time children spend online is rising. An estimate suggests that COVID19 has resulted in a 50% increase in screen time for children. Whether it is schooling through online collaboration tools, educational and vocational webinars, co-curricular activities, and even competitions, everything is now taking place digitally.

In the absence of outdoor activities, children are turning to digital means for recreation. The most common avenues for entertainment are videos and online games. Children are spending more time on social media platforms to communicate with friends and share their views. They are reading eBooks to keep themselves engaged. All of these activities have only translated into a significantly increased time spent online and a higher risk of cyber exposure.

Online threats are real and growing

The threats that children face in the online world are real. Fraudsters are using all available avenues to exploit the innocence of children. These include online bullying, sexual abuse, exposure to inappropriate content, social engineering, malware, ransomware and malicious links. These threats can have serious consequences and can even scar the personalities of the affected children for the rest of their lives.

A digital-native generation that is aware of online scams

Children, today, are aware of the scams and criminal activity plaguing the internet. However, they don’t really know how to deal with impostors. To learn what children know about fraud, Arkose Labs commissioned a study entitled ‘How to Get Kids Cyber-Savvy and Make a Safer Internet For All’. We spoke to more than 80 children, aged 6-16 years, and located across North America, Asia, and Europe.

The study reveals some interesting insights into popular online activities and knowledge of online fraud among children. It reveals that the generation today is digitally native. More than 54% of children spending four hours or more every day online. 20% spend between two and three hours a day, 6% spend one to two hours, while only 2% spend less than an hour. COVID19 clearly has a role in increasing the time spent online. 95% of children reported spending even more time there due to virtual classes and other activities.

As per the study, the most popular online activities that children spend their time on include classes for school (96%), watching videos (89%), video conferencing (75%), surfing the web (71%), gaming (67%), and social media (46%).

When it comes to awareness about scams and online frauds, children know that sharing information related to payments (94%) or social security numbers (93%) is dangerous. Children clearly know that online fraud involves stealing personal details for financial fraud and impersonation. Surprisingly, 7% of the children polled were aware they had been hacked. A majority (81%) denied having been hacked, whereas 12% were not too sure. Additionally, most children wouldn’t be able to recognize that they have been hacked.

You can find more statistics and insights from the Arkose Labs study here.

Parental counsel can help create a safer internet for children

There is no doubt that parents can play a key role in building a safer internet for children and protecting them from potential dangers. Involvement with children and their online activities helps parents learn about the websites and apps their children access. Therefore, they can counsel their children on how to navigate the digital world safely.

Parents must emphasize that children should not purchase anything online without their presence. They must discourage children from clicking random links or opening suspicious emails and teach them about the telltale signals. All of this counseling and awareness can help children be mindful of the potential dangers in the online world and prepare them to navigate safely in the digital world. In fact, according, to a SuperAwesome survey of parents, 96% said they would like to see more parental controls in the games and services their kids use.

That said, parental control has dipped. This is because parents themselves are obliged to attend to their professional commitments while working from home. As a result, children are mostly left on their own, which can increase their vulnerability to online risks.

Role businesses can play

UNICEF believes that businesses can play a massive role in protecting children in the digital world and help make a safer internet for children. The world body has collaborated with the International Telecommunication Union to develop the Child Online Safety Assessment (COSA) tool. This tool aims to help companies ensure children have a safe experience while using the internet. 

Businesses, too, are coming forward to shoulder their responsibility. From creating tools to awareness campaigns, there’s a lot of ways businesses are helping make a safer internet for children. As a responsible netizen, Arkose Labs plays a vital role in these efforts. We work with many popular digital platforms to keep children safe from fraud and abuse. Our fraud and abuse prevention solution detects and stops automated new account creation. This is often the starting point for spam and phishing messages. Our long-term approach to fighting fraud makes the attack attempts so expensive that cybercriminals lose all financial incentives and abandon the attack.

Safer internet for children is a collective responsibility

Children today belong to a digitally native generation that is spending a considerable amount of time in online activities. This means their risk of exposure to cyber threats is also increasing. What children go through in the online world can have lasting effects on their personalities. It is, therefore, necessary for everyone—parents, teachers, schools, society, governments, and businesses—to come together and make a safer internet for children.

Arkose Labs reaffirms its support to all the activities that aim to make the digital world safer for our children. 

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