In conjunction with Safer Internet Month, Google Malaysia hosted Safer with Google, a roundtable themed around online safety, to equip parents with practical tips and tools to keep their young ones safe online.
On the panel was Google’s Online Safety Education Lead, Lucian Teo and CyberSecurity Malaysia’s Senior Vice President of the Outreach and Capacity Building Division, Lt Col (Rtd) Musta a bin Ahmad. The session was moderated by Nadia Khan, Communications Manager of Consumer Products at Google Malaysia.
A recent survey conducted by Google’s Trust Research team all over Asia-Pacific revealed that parents with children a ending school online were more concerned about online safety than ones whose children a ended school in-person. In Malaysia, 72% of parents surveyed with children a ending school online expressed this same concern, as home-based teaching and learning moved online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“One of the insights that surfaced from the study is that about a third of parents have never spoken to their children about online safety issues. This is something I feel we, as parents, should be more on the ball about. We think that maybe teachers should do it or someone else should do it, but this is a conversation every parent should be having with their children because a lot of kids use the internet at home,” shared Lucian.
Lucian further shared that 38% of Malaysian parents listed these issues as their top concerns: the safety of their child’s information encompassing issues such as scams and account hacking; their children receiving unwanted attention from strangers; and children viewing inappropriate content online.
On insights that came as a surprise to him, Lucian said that 36% of Malaysian parents expressed that their children had encountered scams in the last year – that’s more than a third of children encountering online scams in the past year. This ranges from having their accounts hijacked, having someone cheat them of something or having someone coerce them into giving up information like credit card information. Another was on oversharing, with 52% of parents surveyed thinking their children overshare online.
“There are three key ways for parents to address these issues. First, protect their digital identities by helping them create strong passwords and stick to platforms that have a reputation for user safety. Second, know who they talk to. Social isolation is a difficult challenge of Covid-19 and our children connect with their friends online through messaging apps or while playing games online. It’s important to be aware of who they talk to online.
“And third, offer age-appropriate content. We learned that 62% of Malaysian parents surveyed use family safety features to help guard their children from content that may not be suitable for their age – like turning on SafeSearch on Google, using Family Link and parental controls on YouTube Kids,” said Lucian.
Lt Col Mustaffa weighed in with some of the biggest cybersecurity threats faced by Malaysian children while also sharing initiatives that CyberSecurity Malaysia has in place to help parents in this digital parenting age.
“One problem we’re seeing among adolescents and older children is the use of the internet unsupervised, leading to their participation in online discussions and forums which are inappropriate for their age. This gets them into discussions on companionship, relationships, and those which are sexual in nature, which has even led to physical molestation as they share private information or arrange for face-to-face encounters that risk their safety and the safety of their family members,” Lt Col. Musta a shares.
“Another risk is that the pandemic has increased the average screen time for children. We used to see an average of 5 – 8 hours a day but now those numbers go up to as much as 12 hours a day. An extreme dependence on their device can lead to antisocial behavior and children start to suffer in real life interactions,” he adds.
To help mitigate some of these risks, CyberSecurity Malaysia rolled out the CyberSAFE initiative which highlights technological and social issues faced by Malaysians, sharing best practices and guidelines on using the internet safely and positively. They also run CyberSAFE Awareness Talks (CSAT) covering relevant special topics.
Additionally, Lt Col Mustaffa shared how parents can encourage children to hone their judgement for what could be online threats. Some of these include educating their children on the various online threats and setting a good example themselves as a responsible internet user.
The session rounded off with tips and advice from both panelists for parents who want to help their children with media literacy.
Lucian pointed out the availability of Google’s Be Internet Awesome program that parents can introduce to their children to help them learn how to communicate responsibly and verify online sources. One of the useful resources accessible via the program site is an interactive game called Interland so children can learn about online safety in a fun way.
Lt Col Mustaffa shared that beyond media literacy, parents should also look into promoting digital fluency in their children. This is achieved through educating children to not only be aware of internet safety, but also to play a role in creating meaningful and positive digital space when interacting online.
Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally and typically on a day in February, but Google Malaysia is devoting the entire month towards promoting a safer internet for all. For online safety tips for everyone, check out Google Malaysia’s official Twitter page throughout the month. Parents with adolescent children can also dip into resources from Google and ASEAN Foundation’s ASEAN Online Safety Academy designed to deliver safe and positive online experiences for youth across the region.
Visit CyberSecurity Malaysia’s official page for helpful statistics and easy to understand infographics on the latest threats and cybersecurity issues affecting Malaysians.
To watch a replay of the full Safer with Google livestream on YouTube, click here.