The internet has changed.
It’s become a hotbed for fake content whose sole aim is to mislead.
Adults can fall for such traps in seconds. Imagine the effect on younger minds … meaning parents now have a duty to help children understand the risks that lurk on the world wide web — as while schools take the lead in teaching students how to use computers, no-one is taking responsibility for showing kids how to navigate the murky online world.
And the better a child is at using a computer, the deeper she can delve into digital space — with every click improving Facebook or Instagram’s ability to serve her supposedly relevant, but often surreptitious, content.
Here are six conversations you can have today to:
- Help your child identify bias in content
- Teach them to spot when content is fake
- Encourage them to think independently of the digital crowd
Ready? Let’s get to it.
6 ways to help kids browse better
Digital literacy is key in the modern world, but so is understanding the modern world. Invest the time to get your kids up to speed with the ways of the web in 2020 — often, all it takes is a quick chat.
1. Chat about images
Kids are watching upwards of 10 billion videos a day on Snapchat.
Eight billion on Facebook, 5 billion on YouTube; then, there are the 25 million photos uploaded to Instagram every day, waiting for children to scroll.
Digital destinations are rife with imagery. This makes it increasingly important to teach children to interpret the images they see, so they learn not always to take the visual medium at face value.
Deep fakes are now a real-world threat. Malicious memes are easy ways to manipulate opinion with false information overlaid on well-known faces. But there are ways to help your child to spot deep fakes: details such as stray hairs, people who don’t blink, or a lack of eye movement is a big giveaway.
Chat to children about the risks of faked imagery: seeing should not always be believing.
2. Chat about Google
Search engines are experts at bringing up ‘relevant’ content.
However, there’s no guarantee that relevant content is real content. Help your child ask questions about what she finds online, and talk to her about what she reads. Once she realizes that Google isn’t necessarily a source of truth, she can:
- Start to judge the credibility of every link
- Learn truthful content is backed up by credible sources
- Realize some pieces are nothing more than an opinion
….while she will soon see that much of the web is just a source of humor — so, it’s OK not to believe everything that Google says.
3. Chat about privacy
Excitement online can lead kids astray.
They’ll click an email link without a second thought. Drop their personal information into the hands of an unruly crowd. And expose sensitive information without a second thought (think about all those card details you’ve saved in your browser for auto-fill!).
It’s hard for children to grip that the internet isn’t secure. However, if you help them see others may be watching what they’re doing, the importance of creating strong passwords, and the fact hiding personal information on Facebook or Instagram is a good thing…
You can help them stay safe. More importantly, you can reduce the risk of a phishing scam sending fake messages their way.
4. Chat about people
The web is a crowded place.
But it’s a crowd without a face, making it hard for children to grasp that the content comes from real people: people with opinions; with controversial points of view — and sometimes, with ulterior motives.
If you talk about the people behind the web, you can help your child learn to interpret opinions, build empathy for different viewpoints, and even reduce the chance they might respond negatively to what they read online.
Equally, once your child sees there’s a person behind every word, she can take a more critical eye to what she reads.
5. Chat about attribution
When you click a link on Google, content arrives as if for free.
So it’s easy for kids to assume it’s free to use, free to share, and free to copy as much as they like.
However, assuming it’s OK to share without giving the author credit (or ‘attributing’ the source) risks devaluing the creation as well as spreading fake news. On the other hand, if you talk about content attribution: you teach your child about the value of art, of writing, of photos.
And you encourage them to find the person behind the piece so that they can avoid sharing content from an unreliable source.
6. Chat about new technology
Technology never stands still. Neither do the cyberthreats that go with it.
Every day, we see tools emerge that both adults and children love to play with: whether it’s a social network, an AI-powered photo-sharing app, or a way to ‘make money’ with digital currency — so, never assume technology is beyond your child’s ability.
Instead, track the trends and chat with your kid about what’s new.
It’s not only a learning opportunity for you; it’s a way to show your children why things like deep fakes exist: as everyone should understand that AI can manipulate vlogs, podcasts, and images for just about any purpose.
As a parent, your role is clear.
When it comes to raising kids in the digital age, the parent’s role is clear.
Encourage your child to exercise the right values by talking about discipline, communication, and responsibility for one’s actions — and know that your efforts will have a positive influence on their behavior.
Just remember: educating children about online risks is never easy.
But the investment will pay off for a lifetime.
Deep fakes are just one emerging cyber-threat in 2020. Keep your business secure, give Mid-Coast Tech a call on 207-223-7594.