What is Online Privacy?
Children today spend more time socialising online. Parents now have to pay attention to their online friendships as well as their friends in real life.
How do online predators work?
Online predators hide behind the anonymity enjoyed in cyber space and seek to entice their targets to meet up face-to-face in order to exploit them for their own sexual gratification.
The online predator would often begin by befriending the child so as to gain his or her trust. He would typically pretend to be a younger person and would sometimes create a fake profile on social media platforms in order to carry out the deception.
Are our children easy prey?
Based on the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report 2015 1:
- Almost half (41%) of the survey respondents report feeling furious after becoming a victim of online crime and 81% say they would feel devastated if their personal financial information was compromised.
- More than 1/3 of those sharing passwords in the U.S. have shared the password to their banking account.
- Of the generations that spend the most time online, Millennials (after Gen X) are the most likely to act recklessly. While they work, conduct business and socialize online, 44 percent of U.S. Millennials have been victims of online crime in the last year.
The unfortunate truth is that many children and youths make it easy for the predators by broadcasting their information online. This includes sharing personal identification such as name, age, gender, photos and information about their whereabouts and contact details such as their home address, school, mobile number and email address.
There is also the emergence of location-based services on mobile applications or social networks that broadcast the users’ current physical location. Another form of risky behaviour by our children is the use of web cameras with people whom they do not know in real life.
What does the law say?
In Singapore, 376E of the Penal Code protects children from sex predators by making it an offence for an adult or individual above the age of 21 to meet a minor, either male or female, under 16 years of age, with the intention of committing a sexual offence.
If the person had met or communicated with the minor on two or more previous occasions (whether within or outside Singapore), the penalty for this offence is a jail term of 3 years, or fine or both. This law, which also covers communications via the internet, allows the police to intervene at an earlier stage.
Although this law acts as deterrence to potential offenders, the key responsibility still lies with the parent to educate and take steps to reduce the risk of your child falling victim to an online predator.
Tips for parents
Families should ensure that house rules are being set and adhered and they should include guidelines on:
- online friends
- time limits
- safe websites
- online purchases
Besides setting parental controls, families should also have a safe site browser tool and ensure that their children understand how this works and why it is important.
Parents should also explain how accidental clicks and spam can lead to unpleasant surprises and inappropriate sites.
Having software and virus protection installed on computers can help protect against accidental inappropriate behaviour and threats which might lead to leak of personal information.
Below are some useful tips for parents:
- Get to know the technology so that you have a basic understanding of how it works.
- Familiarise yourself with the different social media platforms used by your children. Monitor their activities by joining their circle of Facebook friends. Or you can keep tabs on them through their friends or older siblings.
- Explain to your children that:
- They should keep their personal information private
- They should change privacy settings in social media platforms to ‘private’
- Seek permission from trusted adults (parents/teachers) before sharing their personal information online
- Only accept Friends’ requests from friends they already know in real life (e.g. school mates/neighbours)
- Place your children’s computer in a common area so that their internet activities can be monitored.
- Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report 2015