Written by Mark Johnson on Thursday May 10, 2012
I recently delivered a presentation in Stockholm to corporate staff on the risks arising from poor social media use. During the Q&A I was asked about guidance for parents and teachers in relation to child online activities. The audience, drawn from a leading Swedish high-tech firm, told me that an estimated 50% of Swedish three-year-olds are regular Internet users with their own online identity in some shape or form. I found this statistic alarming.
While the relevance of child online safety to corporate security might not be immediately apparent to everyone, it has long been my contention that security at work begins in the home. Now, with the increasingly widespread use of mobile devices and the decreasing age of Internet and social media users, I suggest that my suspicions might well have been accurate.
Returning home from my trip, I took a second look at my own situation; four children, two still quite young, with a seven year old using a laptop daily in the house – the same laptop that I occasionally take on business trips when I want to travel light. And on those occasions I often leave my iPad behind for my daughter to use as an alternative!
I run a small business, but it struck me that many corporate or governmental firms must unknowingly be experiencing the same crossover of personal and business use on portable devices. How do they ensure that all users (including child users) adhere to policy and are aware of the risks? When home WiFi networks are used, how do organisations vet the security of these access methods to ensure that high-tech eavesdropping (e.g. the infamous ‘man-in-the-middle attack’) is not taking place? And how can parents, teachers and employers ensure that children are not disclosing a parent’s sensitive travel itineraries via Facebook, Twitter or other sites? My list of concerns began to grow.
Certainly, organisations need policies and practices to handle these new risks and some already have them. But after talking to teachers and others in education, and even to a senior Peer with an oversight role in policing, I concluded that practical and simple advice regarding child users was less easily available that I would have hoped, and that this gap constitutes a real risk to all organisations.
The result was a free PDF titled the A to Z of Safe Children Online, which you can download from our website (http://www.trmg.biz/the-a-to-z-guides/) without a need to register. It’s free to use or share as you wish. This is just a first step in addressing an important challenge, but if we don’t start by instilling good online habits in young children, we face decades of online insecurity and risk.
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