ONLINE EDUCATION
With schools closed, learning continues through mass communication and internet-based resources. GettyImages

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) says October is the ideal time for parents to turn their attention to making the home a cyber-safe stronghold. This month, countries across the world including South Africa are marking Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

The fact that more of us are working from home during the current pandemic is, in fact, an opportunity in that we now have more time to work on making our homes cyber safe for children. That’s according to ISPA chair André van der Walt who says homes can become literal safe havens amidst a sea of current challenges.

“Many adults have learnt during the COVID-19 crisis, for example, not to share information online that doesn’t come from official sources and not to make donations to unregistered charities. Attention should now be turned during Cybersecurity Awareness Month to helping children feel secure in the new normal,” he says.

As the Industry Representative Body of the majority of South Africa’s small, medium and large Internet and access providers, ISPA actively works to explore and maintain links with relevant industry associations and other organisations worldwide with Europol being one such example.

Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious forms of organised crime. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations to help counter the threat posed by large-scale criminal networks.

Europol is also the source of much of the information provided below aimed at making homes cyber safe, secure and fit for children in the age of the Coronavirus:

Talk to your child about cyber safety and listen to their online experiences. Explain to them the importance of being just as safe online as offline.

Always check the security and privacy settings of any smart toys that may be connected to the Internet. It helps to check with reliable industry monitors, such as the Mozilla Foundation’s *Privacy Not Included buyers guide, for known privacy and security issues in products you already own or might be considering purchasing.

Regularly review the permissions of app your children may access and delete those you don’t use or which seem somewhat over the top for the app’s intended purpose.

Remember to secure electronic devices that should not be accessed by children with PINs, passwords or biometrics. Don’t underestimate your children’s ability to guess your PIN.

Review the privacy settings of all your household’s social media accounts. Remember that age restrictions on social media exist for sound reasons, and avoid giving younger children unfettered access to social media.

Ensure you have anti-virus and anti-malware software on all devices connected to the Internet. Consider using Internet security & privacy “set-up-and-forget” solutions such as Quad9’s DNS service to enhance your protection.

In addition to the above, parents will no doubt find South Africa’s recently launched cyber safety awareness toolkit useful as they strive to keep their children safe online. The available resources include posters, workbooks, videos and games, all translated into six languages. This is a joint project of the British High Commission, the Department of Communications & Digital Technologies, the Department of Basic Education and UNISA.

If you are engaging in any sort of online safety awareness projects with your customers – or even if you are just planning to talk to your kids about cyber safety – these resources are well worth investigating.

“There is no doubt that working from home can be incredibly challenging for parents. However, at the same time, being home more often means more of an opportunity to play that all-important role as guardians that parents are first and foremost meant to be.” concludes Mr van der Walt.

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