As I was scrolling across social media this past weekend, I saw a post that caught my eye and made me think. This post was from another mom who was concerned about her children’s well-being when using technology. This mom referenced a specific post that is going around which claims a new trend with kids and teenagers. It’s called the blue shark challenge. This “game” reportedly challenges kids to harm themselves for a certain number of days, in the end resulting in suicide.
As if that isn’t concerning enough as a parent, there claims to be an application that can be downloaded, which once downloaded is said to steal information on the device and cannot be deleted. The good news is, being the curious person I am I searched high and low for this application on app stores across platforms and was unable to find the application that was being described. There is an app called the “blue shark challenge” but just like many, the application just appears to just be a severely underdeveloped game (disclaimer: I did not download the application, because of the level of shadiness and I did not recognize the developer).
But the possibility of there being an app like this out there reminded me that we don’t talk about children’s security in technology enough. Children are just as much of a target as adults online. In an attacker’s mind, they lack two things maturity and education. Children and teens regularly become the target in chat rooms, email attachments, social media, and online gaming. So how do we keep our children safe? Here are a few tips:
1. Regularly talk to your children about being safe.
Children need to be constantly reminded not to click on anything they do not recognize, and more importantly to be aware of the personal information they are sharing and who they are sharing it with. Conduct exercises that will educate children on what is a good link vs what is a bad one, as well as what is a bad email vs what is a good one. Also, remind them to make sure they are logged out of a computer, as well as not leaving their phones unlocked when they are not present as these habits are just as important.
2. Enable parental controls.
Most devices have included parental control settings to protect against new application installs, unauthorized purchases, and device modification without the permission of the adult who will know the password. This will help safeguard children against downloading applications like the one mentioned above.
3. Manage Accounts Based on Who Uses Them
If your children use a computer, create a new account for them to use, but don’t grant that account administrator privileges. Without administrative permission, a user is unable to install applications that modify the system without the permission of an administrator. Therefore, if malware was going to be installed on the computer when signed into this account, the install would not happen unless the administrator credentials were entered.
4. Change the privacy settings on social media accounts.
Honestly, we could probably talk all day with how many settings there are here. One of the big ones here is making sure that profiles are not viewable to the outside world, and that only people that should be able to see those profiles can. Another thing to look out for is location tracking services. The worst I have seen, although I am sure there are others, is Snapchat’s location tracking. If ghost mode is not turned on, you can see the exact location of the user as well as a map to get there. Scary.
Just like adults, children are never 100% safe from cyber-attacks. We as adults need to make sure that we are giving them the education they need to be able to use technology safely. It doesn’t take technical expertise to start these small conversations!