Shaping the Next Generation of Cyber Citizens
Just like adults, younger Web users face a number of security challenges every time they go online. And just like adults, the more knowledge children and teens have, the better prepared they will be to handle an online threat, whether it is in the form of an online predator, or a malicious software download.
As PCs and the Internet become ordinary, daily tools for families and children of all ages, user education is an important aspect of developing safe and smart Internet users.
Children and teens are increasingly using the Internet, whether it is for education related research, gaming, or to socialize with friends. Almost 60 percent of children three and older use the Internet, according to a State of the Internet Security report by Webroot Software.
It is not difficult for parents to underestimate the tech know-how of their younger children, trivializing the importance of safe surfing habits. But the popularity and usability of sites that target the youth market, like the wildly popular Webkinz virtual toys and websites like Nickjr.com that are aimed at pre-schoolers, means that parents have to be alert to the fact that younger children are using the Internet.
What most parents do not know about their kids online safety may have nothing to do with accidentally stumbling on a porn site; it is MySpace and YouTube and P2P file sharing, also known as downloading free music, screensavers, and smiley faces for your e-mail and a host of other free goodies, that entice novice computer users into clicking banner ads and pop-ups.
Another danger zone opens when parents allow their children - particularly the tween set - to act as administrators on the family computer. Personal information like passwords, credit card information, family finances and other sensitive stored material is in jeopardy of being sent to spyware attackers.
In homes where children under 18 used the Internet, there was a 28 percent greater incidence rate of spyware infections in the preceding 6 months, according to the State of Internet Security report.
"More than half of all affected files come from P2P file-sharing sites," says Janie "Calamity Jane" Whitty, a Lavasoft malware removal and prevention expert. "Kids click on anything, unaware they are opening the doors to potentially disastrous infections, including the family computer."
How can you minimize the risk of online threats and prepare younger Internet users for wise Web use? Follow these guidelines:
By the end of 2008, there will be more than one billion personal computers in use worldwide. Forrester Research Inc. predicts that the number of PCs in use will more than double by 2015. It took 27 years to reach the billion-PC mark, but it will take only five years to reach the next billion, due to advanced technology, lower prices, and emerging technology-aware populations.
Source: Forrester's "Worldwide PC Adoption Forecast to 2015"
Term of the Month
An End User License Agreement, or EULA, is a software license agreement that indicates the terms for an end user to utilize certain software. That fine-print legal jargon that makes you want to check the box next to, "Yes, I have read and accept these terms," without fully reading the text, is an official agreement between you and a software vendor.
It is important to read all EULAs and privacy statements carefully before installing new software. If the EULA is hard to find or difficult to understand, reconsider installing the software. You should never install software without knowing exactly what it is. By not fully reading the EULA, you may agree to questionable activities by the software vendor, and even to installing spyware and adware on your computer. The Zlob/Smitfraud Trojan (fake codecs most notably) actually DOES include proper disclosure of what will be downloaded to your PC. Take the time to read EULAs carefully!
WiredSafety.org is the world's largest online safety, education and help group. Adults can visit the site for information on safely navigating the World Wide Web, and there are also specialty directories designed for kids. While it originally formed to help and protect Internet users of all ages, Wiredsafety.org's work has become increasingly dedicated to children, tweens, and teens.