Ask a parent of an underage child if they are concerned about their child being exposed to inappropriate Internet content, and most parents will, predictably, say yes. Then ask if they use some type of parental control software to protect their kids online, and the majority of parents will say no. Surprised? I was.
In our global survey of 15 countries, 78% of parents reported being concerned about their kids being exposed to content like porn, violence, racism and drugs online. But only 40% said they actually use software tools that ensure safe Internet use on computers their children use.
As the parent of a toddler, I don’t yet have to worry about such questions, but if my kid were school-age, I certainly would. Software with Internet filters and time controls is an easy way to make sure kids aren’t getting into trouble online. So why the disconnect?
Looking for answers
To get a better understanding of the thinking behind the statistics, I thought I’d ask some parents about their use or nonuse of parental control software. Living in Finland, the country with the lowest number of parents who use parental controls on computers their kids use (only 24%) and being from the US, with the highest number (59%), it made for some interesting conversations. I asked mainly Finns and Americans, but people from a few other countries as well.
What I found was that yes, parents do care about their kids accessing inappropriate content. But approaches for dealing with it range widely. I would loosely categorize my interview subjects into three camps.
First camp: Parental controls a must
One mother of an eight-year-old said she plans to use parental controls on her son’s new laptop, and doesn’t allow Internet access on his mobile phone. A mother of four children under ten uses an Internet filter in addition to accompanying her kids while they’re online. And another mom said in addition to using parental control software, she drove her teenage daughters (now grown) crazy with frequent lectures about the dangers of the Internet.
Second camp: Parental control, but not with software
One parent pointed out that parental control software isn’t the only way to protect kids online. For example, placing the computer in a high-traffic area of the home is a good way to make sure kids aren’t getting into trouble. Similarly, a parent of a five-year-old said she doesn’t use parental control software, but her child isn’t allowed to access the Internet without a parent by his side.
Third camp: The liberal approach
Some parents took a more liberal approach. A father of teenagers said he no longer uses parental controls, instead relying on a trust relationship with his children. A mother of a 14-year-old forgoes parental controls also, since her son doesn’t seem to show interest yet in anything aside from a few online games.
A common thread between these parents was that even if they restrict access at home, their kids could still access bad content away from home. And that restricting access might make forbidden fruit all the more tempting. One father stressed that he is always available to talk to his children should they see something distressing online.
Which approach is best?
Parents’ answer to that question depends on, among other factors, cultural attitudes and the age of their children. My personal conclusion? When it’s time I need to think about it, I’ll err on the stricter side by restricting access time, monitoring usage and just to be extra-safe, use some form of content filter for my child.
To me, there’s way too much bad stuff out there that’s way too easily accessible. A lot of it’s not fit for anyone, let alone kids – case in point, Facebook’s recent controversy over videos of extreme violence. Even if you trust your kids, they may stumble onto harmful content without meaning to. Or they may let curiosity get the best of them and see things their young minds just shouldn’t have to think about.
Communication is key
But even the strictest parental controls aren’t enough. In talking to different parents, whatever their stance, the theme that kept recurring for me was communication. Open, realistic age-appropriate communication between parent and child. About what kind of websites are and aren’t okay. About what kind of behavior online is and is not okay.
So even when the child is away from home, he or she will have a basis for making the best choices. And if a child does happen to see something harmful, you can hopefully find out about it and discuss it.
Plus, not every risky thing your kids do online can be caught by parental control software. The lecturing mom who aggravated her daughters? They are now grateful for the talks because they haven’t made the embarrassing mistakes their friends have made, posting compromising selfies and the like.
Family protection for computers and mobile devices
So talk to your kids. And if you’re looking for parental control software, allow me to recommend F-Secure Internet Security.
F-Secure Internet Security allows parents to filter out websites based on what sort of content they want to protect their kids from:
And it lets parents set browsing time limits:
F-Secure Internet Security also protects computers from viruses and other digital threats and safeguards while banking and shopping.
There’s also protection for kids’ mobile devices. F-Secure Mobile Security, in addition to protecting from digital threats and in case of loss or theft, offers parental controls, with the added feature of shielding kids from inappropriate apps.
And for under one euro per year, parents can install F-Secure Child Safe to iPads and iPhones. Child Safe is a browser that keeps kids safe from harmful content when browsing the web.
What about you – do you use parental control software? If not, how do you make sure your kids are safe online? Let us know in the comments!
Girl with laptop image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Parents with kids image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Collision is coming to a close today, and what a week it’s been. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen was there earlier in the week, and gave a compelling talk on the evolution of cyber crime. He also gave a quick post-talk interview, so check out this Quickfire article to learn who Mikko thinks deserves a slap in the face. F-Secure also ran a basic Wi-Fi experiment at Collision*, similar to ones conducted in 2014 and 2015. While the experiment conducted at Collision had a smaller scope than our previous investigations, it does prove that people are still pretty promiscuous when it comes to connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots without the proper protection, such as a VPN. In the first two days of Collision, we observed nearly one hundred people connecting to a phony Wi-Fi hotspot. And none of them were encrypting their traffic. Connecting to a phony Wi-Fi hotspot can open the door to all kinds of problems. Hackers have been known to use similar setups to help them “sniff” people’s Internet traffic, allowing them to do things like read personal messages, log the websites people visit, and even steal passwords and other sensitive information. So if you make a habit of using public Wi-Fi hotspots – whether you’re at a tech conference, an airport, a café, or a hotel – you should give Freedome a try to keep you and your private data safe and secure. [Image by Erin Pettigrew | Flickr]
Finland is home to the freest news media in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. It's fitting, then, that the annual UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference will be held in Helsinki this year, May 2-4. Freedom of information is a topic that's close to our heart. We were fighting for digital freedom before it was cool - yes, before Edward Snowden. A free press is foundational to a free and open society. A free press keeps leaders and authorities accountable, informs the citizenry about what's happening in their society, and gives a voice to those who wouldn't otherwise have one. Journalists shed light on issues the powers that be would much rather be left in the dark. They ask the tough questions. They tell stories that need to be told. In a nutshell, they provide all of us with the info we need to make the best decisions about our lives, our communities, our societies and our governments, as the American Press Institute puts it. That's a pretty important purpose. But it can also be a dangerous one. Journalists working on controversial stories are often subject to intimidation and harassment, and sometimes imprisonment. Sometimes doing their job means risking their lives. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 1189 journalists have been killed worldwide in work-related situations since 1992, when they began counting. 786 of those were murdered. Freedom of the press and digital technology are inextricably intertwined. Journalists' tools and means of communication are digital - so to protect themselves, their stories and their sources, they also need digital tools that enable them to work in privacy. Encrypted email and messaging apps. Secure, private file storage. A password manager to protect their accounts. A VPN to hide their Internet traffic and to access the content they need while they're on assignment abroad. F-Secure at World Press Freedom Day It's because press freedom and technology are so intertwined that it's our honor to participate in this year's World Press Freedom Day conference. Here's how we'll be participating in the program: Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure, will keynote about protecting your rights. Tuesday May 3, 14:00 to 15:45 Erka Koivunen, our Cyber Security Advisor, will participate in a pop-up panel debate on digital security and freedom of speech in practice. Tuesday May 3, 15:45 – 16:15 Sean Sullivan, our Security Advisor, will be on hand to answer journalists' questions about opsec tools and tips. One of our lab researchers, Daavid, will be inspecting visitors' mobile devices for malware. We'll feature our VPN, Freedome. Check out our Twitter feed on May 3 for livestream of Mikko's and Erka's stage time. Banner photo: Getty Images
AirBNB. Uber. These are but two examples of disruptive startups that are popping up to challenge big organizations' legacy mindsets and business models. Digitalization has completely shaken the world, and companies have two options: adapt to stay in the game, or be left behind in a cloud of dust. But it's hard to turn a big ship around. That's why F-Secure's Harri Kiljander, Janne Jarvinen and Marko Komssi believe that a great way for companies to accelerate innovation is to bring the startup model in-house. They've collaborated with peers from other organizations in a new ebook, The Cookbook for Successful Internal Startups. The book is a practical guide to establishing and running an internal startup. An internal startup, they say, is a great route to cheaper innovation execution and faster time to market. And the three have experience to draw on: F-Secure has developed its VPN product, Freedome, its password manager, Key, and its smart home security device, Sense, all as internal startups. The book pulls together F-Secure's learnings as well as the learnings of other companies who use the model. I caught up with Harri, Janne and Marko to talk about the internal startup scene. What is your definition of a startup? Harri: A startup is an organization that is established to build a new product or a new service under a significant uncertainty. Trying to do something new that doesn't exist yet, and constrained by a lack of established processes or budgets or resources. Janne: To me, a startup is the means to build something new and disruptive, and build it as fast as possible, with the intention of scaling as quickly as possible. You're not trying to make something that just a few people can do for a living, but you're trying to build up a big business quickly from something new. Marko: A startup is an entity that is searching for a scalable, profitable business model. It differs from a company in that a company has already found its business model. Why do you want to encourage big companies to form internal startups? Harri: Big companies are really good at doing old things. An internal startup is great way to introduce new ways of working and to try developing and launching new and better products and services. Janne: All companies want to explore new areas, but in the established organization it's difficult to start something new. With an internal startup, you don't worry about the existing organizational structures. From a company perspective, because the startup is not embedded into the larger organization, it's easier to handle and it's easier to see whether it's producing results. It also gives employees the chance to be involved in something new. How has the internal startup model been beneficial for F-Secure products Freedome and Key? Harri: One of the key elements has been the rapid development and feedback cycle - the classic cycle of build, measure, learn. Build something, release it, gather feedback from users and markets, and then adjust your product, pricing, channels, etc. The more rapid you can make this cycle, the higher the likelihood of being able to generate success. Janne: We built Freedome and Key much faster as internal startups than we would have done in the traditional way. The global launch took place just nine months after the idea, and that's extremely fast. Marko: Freedome was incubated in strategic unit, not the business unit. It had more freedom as it was able to work independently, without being under any existing business pressure. What is the biggest advantage an internal startup has over an independent startup? Harri: The ability to access the big company resources, including free labor and expertise. In a big company there are a lot of experienced people who yes, may be stuck with old ways of working, but they still have lots of experience and know about doing business. Marko: Access to the company lawyers, marketing competence, PR, company name brand, social media channels with established followings, etc. A startup has to pay for everything or get the competence somehow, whereas a big company has it in house. And vice versa, what is the biggest advantage an independent startup has over an internal startup? Janne: It's not constrained by a company's mindset and objectives, so it has more freedom. However, once an independent startup gets financing, the people writing the checks will start to want some control anyway, so in that sense it's not so different from an internal startup. Marko: The feeling of ownership. The independent startup team really feels that they own the idea. With an internal startup you somehow still feel that you are a company employee first. So ownership is weaker in an internal startup and that has an impact. What do you hope people take away from the startup cookbook? Harri: I hope people get a spark of courage to establish this kind of exercise in their own established organization. If they're not sure how to go about it, they are welcome to contact the writers of the book and we might be able to help them. Even big organizations can do things fast if they follow the recipes or principles we outline in the book. Janne: I hope people in large organizations see that they can explore new areas using this model. Our goal is to really help people learn from other companies' experiences so that they don't have to learn everything on their own. Read The Cookbook for Successful Internal Startups The Cookbook for Successful Internal Startups was created by the industrial organizations and research partners of Digile’s Need 4 Speed program. F-Secure is the driver company of N4S and Janne Järvinen leads the N4S consortium. Harri Kiljander is Director of Privacy Protection, Janne Jarvinen is Director of External R&D Collaboration, and Marko Komssi is Senior Manager, External R&D Collaboration at F-Secure.