Safer Internet Day: How parents make smartphones safe for children

Deepak Gupta February 8, 2022
Updated 2022/02/08 at 11:50 AM

The “Safer Internet Day” action day is intended to sensitize people to dangers and security on the Internet. In many places, particular attention is paid to making the Internet safer for children and young people. And not only on the PC or laptop, but also on the smartphone. There, additional dangers arise from popular social media platforms such as Instagram or messengers such as WhatsApp.

According to a study by the IT security company Kaspersky from the end of 2021, 39 percent of parents surveyed in Europe stated that their children would receive their first digital device at the age of seven or earlier. Seven out of ten European children spend more than two hours a day with this – and a good fifth even more than five hours. This is how parents make the smartphone safer for their children and limit the time spent on the phone.

Limit screen time

With “Family Sharing” on Apple devices like the iPhone, parents share access to services like Apple Music and purchased apps with their kids. Linked devices control them via the “Screen Time” feature. For example, guardians can check how much time children have spent on specific apps.

Parents also set time limits there, for example if the son or daughter should not spend more than an hour a day with social media apps. Once the quota is used up, children and young people are only able to access the applications again the next day – unless their parents agree to the request for an extension.

Parents also put a stop to buying and downloading apps if they want to. The little ones can then send a request to install the respective program. Android users set similar rules for their kids and teens through Google Family Link. They also agree to or reject the download of apps there.

Lead by example

Leading by example is just as important, as the Kaspersky study shows. Children of parents who use their smartphones and other devices while eating spend an average of 39 minutes more in front of the display every day. Almost all respondents wanted to regulate their children’s screen time. However, 61 percent also stated that they themselves do not always follow the rules that they have imposed on their youngsters in an exemplary manner.

In order to be able to prepare their children for possible dangers, mom and dad should also deal with safety themselves. Many users believe that antivirus programs and firewalls adequately protect them from all risks. This is a myth, as one expert explains.

Many believed “that the use of a security solution protects them from all dangers,” says Christian Funk. When asked by the news agency spot on news, the head of the German-speaking research and analysis team at Kaspersky explains: “Although many security solutions have already integrated anti-phishing technologies, for example, when the user enters their data on a phishing website, this information arrives still in the hands of the scammers.”

What is phishing?

According to Funk, fraudsters posing as employees of a service in order to obtain passwords are “very common – this is called ‘phishing’ in technical jargon. The cybercriminals are basically fishing for data”.

“Unfortunately, Germany is once again the world leader in terms of the number of incoming phishing emails. In the vast majority of cases, such emails seem to have been sent in the guise of a bank or an online shop in order to increase their success rate,” explains the IT expert. Users should never click on links and enter their login data there. The expert advises that it is better to visit the official websites of providers or services directly via the browser. Such messages also often make the rounds on WhatsApp – often with reference to alleged competitions.

The account is gone

As part of this year’s Safer Internet Day, Google draws particular attention to the dangers of account hijacking. What is meant by this is the takeover of a user account by criminals who previously gained access using phishing methods, for example. These can then try, among other things, to get further data such as payment information and photos. Identity theft can also result.

In order to protect yourself against this, the most important thing is to use apps, websites and messages consciously and carefully. Users should be particularly careful with foreign senders. That’s the advice of Jeroen Kemperman, Product Manager GSEC at Google. “A healthy basic skepticism” is appropriate, “especially when it comes to opening links, attachments and downloads that were not requested”.

Equally important is the use of passwords that cannot be easily guessed and two-factor authentication. In addition to the password, users identify themselves with a security code. Depending on the service, this is sent, for example, by SMS to a stored cell phone number. The code is usually only valid for a short period of time and only once.

Technical helpers for the smartphone

From a technical point of view, “the same cybersecurity rules apply to smartphones as to conventional computers,” says Funk. Users should “choose their own secure password for each service or app, update software and apps regularly and use the automatic update mechanisms to close any security gaps”. In addition, he advises disabling “download from unknown sources” in the settings “to protect against malware”. Optionally, users could also use a VPN service “to disguise the location of the device and to protect the transmitted information”.

Both Apple, Kaspersky and Google are official supporters of Safer Internet Day. Among other things, Apple is offering free sessions for parents and educators until the end of the week. In these, the company would like to convey appropriate advice and tips.


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