From a young age, children today are curious about accessing the Internet. In fact, more often than not, we find that they have a better understanding and know more about our devices around the household than we do. And we as parents, often take advantage of free WiFi and pop on a YouTube video in a coffee shop to entertain them.
As they grow, children become very savvy about how to use technology and this includes finding their way online wherever they are, public WiFi included. If you are a parent of an older child, I am sure you will agree that they are constantly on their phone, PC or tablet (if they have these devices), chatting to friends online, playing games or researching information for a school project.
While these devices are great and allow our kids to connect to a host of new and interesting information, there are of course a number of potential dangers that your child could face while they are using these devices to connect online. Accessing WiFi – be it at home or in a public space where public WiFi is available – might seem ‘easy or safe’ enough. However, without the right online protection this small act could mean that your child becomes vulnerable to cybercriminals – especially if they are accessing public WiFi that is open and not protected.
Why? Well, open WiFi generally does not have the necessary security in place, which means that cybercriminals can hack into your child’s computer or mobile phone, over this open connection and can gain access to a plethora of information/images and data about your child and yourself. In fact more often than not, cyber criminals use a public WiFi space as a ‘easy’ opportunity to steal confidential information from devices – information like passwords, pictures from social media or even their instant messages may be shared.
While being connected is part of our daily lives, as parents, we must remember that any WiFi access point is a window to the Internet for any device attached to it.
It’s not only PCs or tablets that we have to worry about – your child can connect to public WiFi via their mobile devices, which if compromised, can inadvertently lead them to dangerous content sites; invite them to download infected files (where they think it’s a new game upgrade) or even enter data on a phishing page. The possibilities for exposure are endless.
“However, it is not all doom and gloom,” says Riaan Badenhorst, Managing Director, Kaspersky Lab Africa. “There are a few tips that can be followed to educate children about being savvy online, especially while using public WiFi.”
* Use 3G cards to access the Internet. If you are at an airport or at a coffee shop and your child wants to connect to the public WiFi, rather give them your 3G Internet card to use, which, already has the necessary protection in place. Alternatively, if you do want to use the WiFi in public venues, make sure that the WiFi network is password protected.
* Enforce Virtual Private Networks (VPN) on your child’s mobile phone. VPNs provide a secure connection over the Internet between your child and websites they connect to. This means it encrypts the data exchanged across that connection. This can assist with protecting your child’s online activities while they are connected to the Internet as well as the content they can have access to – keeping them safe from cybercriminals.
* Try, whenever possible, to avoid letting your child connect to public WiFi –rather ask your child not to use the public WiFi and encourage them to play games offline.
* Implement a reliable security solution on all the devices that your children make use of, to ensure proper protection exists against all emerging threats. Parents should also consider solutions that incorporate a parental control feature, to allow you to set website access restrictions – ensuring that your children are not exposed to potentially harmful content.
* Education – teach your kids about WiFi and the differences between open access, public and private WiFi. The more your child is aware of these differences, the more they will understand if they can, and should, connect when they are out with friends.
As public WiFi is readily available, it is essential that as a parent you take the time to note these realities and spend time educating your children on the potential dangers that come with connecting to open WiFi. Don’t let yourself, or your children, fall prey to cybercrime.