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
Espionage – it’s not just for James Bond type spies anymore. Cyber espionage is becoming an increasingly important part of global affairs, and a threat that companies and organizations handling large amounts of sensitive data are now faced with. Institutions like these are tempting targets because of the data they work with, and so attacks designed to steal data or manipulate them can give attackers significant advantages in various social, political and industrial theaters. F-Secure Labs’ latest malware analysis focuses on CozyDuke – an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) toolkit that uses combinations of tactics and malware to compromise and steal information from its targets. The analysis links it to other APTs responsible for a number of high-profile acts of espionage, including attacks against NATO and a number of European government agencies. CozyDuke utilizes much of the same infrastructure as the platforms used in these attacks, effectively linking these different campaigns to the same technology. “All of these threats are related to one another and share resources, but they’re built a little bit differently to make them more effective against particular targets”, says F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan. “The interesting thing about CozyDuke is that it’s being used against a more diverse range of targets. Many of its targets are still Western governments and institutions, but we’re also seeing it being used against targets based in Asia, which is a notable observation to make”. CozyDuke and its associates are believed to originate from Russia**. The attackers establish a beachhead in an organization by tricking employees into doing something such as clicking a link in an e-mail that distracts users with a decoy file (like a PDF or a video), allowing CozyDuke to infect systems without being noticed. Attackers can then perform a variety of tasks by using different payloads compatible with CozyDuke, and this can let them gather passwords and other sensitive information, remotely execute commands, or intercept confidential communications. Just because threats like CozyDuke target organizations rather than individual citizens doesn’t mean that they don’t put regular people at risk. Government organizations, for example, handle large amounts of data about regular people. Attackers can use CozyDuke and other types of malware to steal data from these organizations, and then use what they learn about people for future attacks, or even sell it to cyber criminals. The white paper, penned by F-Secure Threat Intelligence Analyst Artturi Lehtiö, is free and available for download from F-Secure’s website. [ Image by Andrew Becraft | Flickr ]
How important is it to ask the right question? Our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan thinks it's so important that it can either help or hurt your cause. Most anyone who has debated the issues of government surveillance and online tracking by corporations has likely faced someone who dismisses concerns with "I don't have anything to hide." This is apparently a very popular sentiment. 83 percent of respondents in the United Kingdom answered "No" to the question "Do you have anything to hide?" in a new F-Secure survey. "You might as well be asking people – are you a dishonest person?" Sean wrote in our latest Threat Report (like goes to PDF). "The question is emotionally charged and so of course people react to it in a defensive manner – I think it is perfectly natural that 83% of people said no." Sean suggested another question that reframes the debate: "Would you want to share everything about your life with everyone everywhere, all the time, forever?" Think about just your Google Search history. Seriously, take a look at it -- here's how you can see it (and delete it). "And my prediction was proven correct – 89% of respondents did not want to be exhibitionists," he wrote. Both questions, he notes, at the core ask, "Do you think privacy is important?" One does it in a way that's accusatory. The other in a way that's explanatory. Sean suggests that we all have things in our past we'd rather forget and asking the right question can get people to see that quite quickly. There's reason to pessimistic about privacy given that there has been substantial change in U.S. government policy since the Snowden revelations began. But even that may change soon with bipartisan revisions to the the law that began legalized mass surveillance. This imperfect attempt to limit the NSA's bulk collection is a promising start of a major shift away from methods that have done more to stifle digital freedom than to achieve the unachievable goal of creating a world without threats, if it's indeed just a start. Maybe we're starting to ask the right questions. [Image by Ashleigh Nushawg | Flickr]
Malware is an omniscient threat – it’s present even when people don’t realize it. Understanding the threat is a key component of protecting yourself and your devices, and nothing drives that point home like cold hard facts and comprehensive research. F-Secure just released its latest Threat Report, which provides important insights into contemporary digital threats. The report details the various changes and trends in the digital threat landscape using data collected during the 2nd half of 2014. The threat report is full of important information, and it’s worth checking out to get some ideas about what attackers are cooking up. Trends like social media malware, exploits, and ransomware are detailed in the report. But there’s tons of important information people should be aware of, and so we put together an infographic to give you a quick overview of the report. The report provides lots more information about the threats, incidents, and trends that were prominent in the latter half of 2014. There's also some insightful words penned by F-Secure security researchers to give you a little context about why you need to arm yourself with knowledge to defend yourself against digital threats. You can download the full threat report for free from F-Secure’s website.