Adults in the UK, especially parents, are becoming increasingly savvy about the dangers of the Internet. Cases of grooming in chat rooms and a string of tragic teen suicides linked to online bullying have alerted many to the dangers of the online realm.
Kids are intuitively tech savvy and love to explore the colourful world of the net. Toddlers can operate iPads with ease, while older kids communicate through a plethora of social networks, having consigned lame-ass Facebook to adult circles.
In response to the growing concern, VPN provider Hide My Ass! is launching an appeal to encourage parents to sit down with their children and have "the talk" in order to educate them on the web's hazards.
"It's important that we educate our kids about basic stuff – it doesn't need to be terribly technical – but it's about posting things online that they wouldn't want everyone to see," said Danvers Bailleu, COO, Hide My Ass!
"I think kids are particularly bad, younger kids as well, and I think they get something that's password protected, that sort of app and start sharing it with their friends. They think that that kind of thing is OK somehow. And obviously that can be quite risky."
Hide My Ass! offers a free proxy service to users that encrypts the data that they send over the Internet, providing an anonymous browsing experience. Users can connect to a server in a remote location and masquerade as an Internet surfer from another part of the world. This can be used to avoid censorship and geo-blocks.
It's just as well really, since no matter how many "talks" you have with the kids, they will at some point stray into potentially dangerous waters online. A family VPN would therefore act as a safeguard.
"I don't know about you but I find [it] shocking. The naivety of young people, quite happily sharing their passwords, rather than keeping them confidential," Bailleu continued.
"Then there's the online safety thing. I guess when we were younger it was all about 'don't talk to strangers in the park', and now it's 'be careful who you're talking to online'."
The company's guidelines are as follows:
- Never use a public wi-fi service without using VPN to protect your connection
- Never send strangers private information such as a telephone numbers, home address, passwords etc.
- Always inform a parent or guardian if a someone online invites you to meet them
- Never upload or share an image that you wouldn't want your parents to see. Once you post a photo or video online, it can be seen and downloaded by others, so it no longer belongs just to you
- Remember that not everyone is who they say they are when they are online
- Avoid opening emails from people you don't know