Keeping children safe online has grown a lot more complicated since the turn of the century, when the basic instruction of “don’t give out your name or address online” was enough to keep most youths on the up and up.
Saturday marked International Data Privacy Day, and in light of the heightened awareness surrounding the security of our digital data, The Jerusalem Post spoke with several leading experts in the field of cybersecurity in order to find out more about how to keep children safe in the modern digital age.
Q: Just how vulnerable are our children to privacy breaches?
Kobi Nissan, CPO and co-founder of Mine: “Children’s privacy online is a huge concern for parents these days as children increasingly use technology and spend more time online. There are data breaches on a daily basis around the world, and we sign up with different identifiers to almost every service we need to use (from games to social media).”
“With the amount of cybercrime and hacking going on, [children are even more exposed than we are], as they are more susceptible to fraud, phishing and trusting strangers. The stranger with the lollipop in the playground is now someone contacting them on TikTok or playing a video game with them using aliases.”
Laura Dobson, Associate & Data Protection lawyer at DLA Piper UK: “Children are vulnerable from the point that data collection begins. Although awareness over the types of threats faced online has become more prominent - such as cyberbullying, cyber scams, unsuitable content and relationships - providers of online services have not caught up with effective ways of preventing these threats and keeping children safe.”
Q: How much of a child’s vulnerability online is due to their own behavior versus the nature of Internet usage itself?
Shirona Partem, VP of Strategy in Kape Technologies: “Kids can be more tech-savvy than their parents, evading parental controls on their devices or finding other ways to access digital services their friends are also using. But it’s not just this natural curiosity that makes children vulnerable online. It’s been well publicized in recent years that social media algorithms have served harmful content to children with little prompting.”
Dobson: “For the current generation of children, being online is part of everyday life. They have grown up with constant access to the Internet and further connected devices are entering our homes each year. While adults have also undergone a similar increase in technological advances, particularly over the past two decades, the age and pressures on children interacting online makes them very vulnerable.”
“Technology companies have found ways of making money by collecting this personal data and using sophisticated techniques to influence the behavior of users, including children. Social media companies are arguably not doing their best to tell users the extent to which their personal data is being collected and what is being done with it. A lot more could be done to make security controls easier to navigate and more prominent and also to educate users as to their choices regarding personal data and how this is used.”
Q: How has the field changed since the early 2000s? Just how exposed are our young ones?
Dobson: “The amount of personal data generated from Internet users has increased exponentially. The safety controls have not kept up with the pace of developments. This has caused particular harm to vulnerable groups such as children.”
“There are many behaviors organizations can employ which lead to harm for children: targeted adverts can lead to an individual experiencing a skewed or bias view, bad actors can gain access to personal information which may compromise safety such as a child’s address, children can either seek out or inadvertently browse through inappropriate content and many online gaming applications have a gambling and rewards structure which promotes further money and/or time being spent in order to further their “progress.”
Q: What can children and parents do in order to keep themselves safe online?
Dobson: “Ensuring children are given information about the personal data being collected and how it will be used in language a child can both understand and actually engage with is a challenge. If they are unable to understand the risks or engage the security controls available, then they are left vulnerable to threats that may try to manipulate their behavior or use their personal data for other detrimental activities. It is therefore vital that further layers of protection are put in place on their behalf.”
Nissan: “Parents should ensure their children use strong passwords for all their online accounts. They should also talk to their children about the importance of keeping their information private and how to differentiate between things they should or shouldn’t share online. Moreover, parents need to teach their children not to click on links from unknown sources. Finally, parents should keep an eye on their children’s Internet usage and ensure they know how to stay safe online. By taking these steps, parents can help protect their children from cybercrime and ensure their privacy online.”
“The most helpful thing we can suggest is keeping communications on the matter as open as possible. If your kid is at an age where he gets access to the Internet (on a phone or a computer), then they’re old enough to understand such complex and critical matters.”
Partem: “For parents in 2023, the number one tool in your protection arsenal is education together with a strong foundation of trust. It’s education on how they can be a responsible digital citizen, why it’s important to be open and honest about what they see or experience online, and how they can use the Internet safely. But this isn’t always an easy conversation to have, especially in teenage years, so recruit the power of a cool aunt or uncle to help have these conversations too. If your child can be empowered with age-appropriate knowledge about digital risks from multiple sources, they will become more comfortable with having open conversations about it and better equipped to deal with situations that arise.”
Q: How do Israel’s privacy protection laws apply to our kids?
Adv. Elen Yosef, partner at Weksler Bregman Law firm and Privacy and Data Protection Law, Cyber, Computer and Information Technology expert: “In Israel, the Protection of Privacy Law and its regulations do not specifically address children’s right to privacy. In general, although the Privacy Laws do not specifically address this matter, the main legal basis for processing personal data under Israeli law is consent. With respect to minors, according to the Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law, any legal act of a minor is subject to obtaining the consent of the minor’s legal guardian, without which the action will be canceled.”
“Because children are less aware of the risks and consequences of privacy matters including the processing and sharing of their personal data, the Israeli Privacy Laws should adopt specific recognition and protection regarding children’s right to privacy including requirement for the online processing of children’s personal data.”