Children around the world, like all of us, had an unusual time in 2020. Instead of adventuring in the great outdoors, they were making do with what they had – exploring the far reaches of the internet. But what exactly were they doing and how can parents protect them?

Where did kids spend most of their time during lockdown?

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A new study from Kaspersky Safe Kids shows that during the winter of this pandemic, despite restrictions, kids entertained themselves online, with YouTube (21 percent) and gaming (15 percent) being the most popular activities. The top topic on YouTube? Video games. Kids went mad for them. 37 percent searched for video game clips, including channels of game streamers who play different games and channels for specific games like Minecraft.

Another new trend was TikTok, which has exploded to 800 million monthly active users in more than 150 countries.

It’s official – more of our kids’ lives are being lived online. Agreed, the web and its many applications are great for keeping children entertained, but how do you protect them from threats?

“Get home before the dark.” “Look left and right before crossing the street.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” Classic parental lines from the pre-internet era. But it’s easy to forget that what’s inside the home may be just as dangerous as outside it in today’s connected world.

The internet and mobiles bring us entertainment, education, and excitement – but also cyberthreats, like strangers wanting to befriend your child online. The study shows although 84 percent of parents are worried about their children’s online safety, on average, they only spend a total of 46 minutes talking to them about online security throughout their entire childhood. So how can you keep your children safe online? #TimeToTalkOffline

Educate yourself

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Before you can talk confidently about web safety with your kids, you first need to know more than how to throw a sheep on Facebook or avoid using ‘reply all’ on an office email joke thread. Educate yourself now about topics like fake news, cyberbullying or online grooming. Teach yourself how to keep your data safe online and then show your children how to do it. Let them know that what goes on the web stays on the web, even if it gets deleted from their profiles. And the most important part: make them talk to you the moment they sense something could be wrong – whether someone has taken their videos, or a stranger is asking them to share private photos.

Learn more about your children’s interests

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Without being pushy or overbearing, try talking to your child about what they search for and what they enjoy. That way, you can keep a closer eye on those particular sites. Need a hand? Kaspersky Safe Kids can provide you with regular reports about how they spend their time online. The app analyzes your children’s search activity and manages screen time without encroaching on their personal space.

Act as a role model

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No matter what we tell our kids, we have to lead by example: if you’re a smoker, no matter how often you tell your children that smoking is bad for them, they are twice as likely to begin smoking. We can all talk a lot; in the end, our kids will copy our behavior and not just what we preach. Be careful of how you use the Internet, don’t take your mobile with you when going to the toilet, and if your kids allow you to befriend them on social media (lucky you,) don’t judge them when they post jokes or complain about their homework – because they are well aware of how to keep you from seeing their posts, without you knowing – but teach them well and make them understand the consequences.

Trust goes both ways

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You can’t expect your kids to trust you if you check their browser history every time they use the computer (and they probably know how to delete it anyway 😉 Otherwise they’ll start getting sneaky and hide things from you. If your child thinks they’re doing something wrong and might get in trouble if you find out, then when they are in real trouble, let’s say a stranger online tells them to “brush your hair and take your picture,” then they may not talk to you.

Read more about how kids coped with COVID-hit winter holidays on SecureList.