When I was young, having fun involved kicking a ball around the park, building a den at the bottom of the garden or playing hide and seek with friends. Today it's an entirely different landscape thanks to the endless opportunities for fun offered by online gaming, social networks and apps.
But as younger generations become more IT literate and parents increasingly turn to internet connected devices as a means of entertaining their children, the battle to protect them is getting fierce. Ask yourself, how aware you are of the potential threats you face when you roam online? Moderate at best may be the answer. So imagine the confusion facing a child.
We decided to carry out a simple piece of research into this issue ahead of Safer Internet Day - an annual event which aims to highlight the rights and responsibilities of young people online and educate them on the need to discover the digital world safely.
Kaspersky Lab examined YouTube's 'suggested' videos which sit visibly alongside clips or episodes of popular children's television programmes such as Peppa Pig, Rastamouse and Dora the Explorer. The results from the popular video sharing site were alarming at best. We found that, on average, children are just three clicks away from inappropriate or adult content.
Music videos featuring violence, guns and nudity, clips of post watershed television programmes and car crash compilations are just some examples of the inappropriate content just a few clicks away.
The results clearly highlight the potential risks such sites pose if parental controls are not activated or children are left unattended while browsing.
With technology being such an everyday commodity, kids are becoming more and more tech savvy about the internet and exploring its contents. Video content sites such as YouTube are deliberately intuitive which makes its content easily accessible, but does not always display content suitable for children's eyes.
It's very worrying to see just how simple it is for children to access videos of an adult nature. More needs to be done to educate and promote safer, more responsible behaviour for young people, but adults have a responsible role to play too.
My tips for protecting your family online are:
1. Supervision - This may seem obvious, but supervise your child's internet use. Encourage them to visit and stay on websites you're familiar with. If you have any concerns you can look at their browsing history. Be sure to know about any password protected sites they may be accessing and ask them to share their login details with you.
2. Be open - Encourage your child to be open about what they are doing online and who they are socialising with. Promote a culture of safety within the home and talk about the possible dangers which exist.
3. Protect your family - Use parental control on sites you don't want your child looking at as part of your online security product - it's an easy way to avoid disaster.
Children make extensive use of internet resources for homework and play. Search engines, social networks and email are all potential sources of threat. The possibility of linking to pornographic websites is real, and may negatively affect a child's psyche. There is also the threat of linking to phishing websites as well as adult content spam which can also expose the computer to the risk of malware infection.
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