children using laptop above

While the Internet is a routine part of life today, it doesn’t mean the younger generation is naturally aware of the dangers out there.

For those who grew up without the Internet, its vastness and complexity can cause great uncertainty about online security. In fact, a recent study conducted by Norton noted 86 percent of Canadian respondents worry about becoming a victim of online crime.1 Another aspect many adults are concerned about is trying to educate the younger generation about Internet safety when, for the most part, youth have never experienced a world without online connectivity.

A learning process

Personally understanding security measures can go a long way in protecting the entire family.

  • Phishing – In 2013, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received over 16,000 complaints of fraud related to email and website scams.2 Cyber criminals use this strategy to gain access to personal information, via emails with links or requests for information such as account numbers, password confirmations, or addresses. Individuals should never open links or emails from unknown senders; reputable businesses will not solicit account or personal information via email.
  • Passwords – A Microsoft Research study found the average person has 6.5 web passwords and 25 online accounts that require passwords.3 While easy to remember, names, birthdays, or other family information should be avoided, along with standard dictionary words; passwords shouldn’t be stored on a computer or mobile phone; and, each account should have a different password.
  • Proactive online actions – Keeping security software updated is an important practice, as well as clearing browser history regularly, and being vigilant about closely tracking online accounts for any unusual activity.

Individuals, families, and businesses looking for more detailed safety practices should consider consulting the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe program.

grandmother granddaughter pointing laptop

Building awareness in the younger generation

Among Canadian youth, 94 percent have a Facebook account, 87 percent have a cell phone by Grade 10, and seven out of 10 websites visited are social media.4 While the Internet is a routine part of life today, it doesn’t mean the younger generation is naturally aware of the dangers out there. And although parental control software is a commonly used measure, it is reactive and by no means replaces the value of proactive education and media literacy in building a strong shared awareness within the family.

Among the resources, advocacy organizations, and authorities that focus on Internet safety for kids, the emphasis across the board is open dialogue and communication within the household. It’s important to regularly discuss what children like and don’t like online and what they are learning in online environments as a way to keep conversation ongoing and build a comfort level for asking questions and approaching adults with problems. Parents should also reciprocate, sharing how they use the Internet for work and socially, to further engage in relevant, meaningful exchanges.

A 2014 study by McAfee Canada found just over half of youth polled said their parents have had a conversation with them about online safety; 25 percent said their parents do not monitor their online behaviour.5 Having the family computer in a common area, as well as rules against laptops and mobile devices being used privately, is one of the most effective strategies to promote an open forum, ensure activities are consistently monitored, and curb secrecy. This also presents opportunities to navigate the Internet together, promoting active learning from both parent and child perspectives.

Another key aspect in promoting online safety is remembering that while the Internet isn’t a physical space, most real-world parenting rules still apply. The same lessons of not talking to unfamiliar people, wanting to know who their friends are, and telling an adult if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable are just as valuable in the online world. And a specific one to highly stress is the sharing of personal information. Everything posted online is public to some degree, and youth often make decisions in the moment without considering long-term consequences. The goal is to help them develop a consciousness of purpose versus risk when sharing photos, messages, and profile details.

Overall awareness extends beyond the home as well, so finding out what community and regional initiatives exist can be very helpful. Good starting points are to contact the local school board, police department, and youth advocacy centre to get more information about sessions and campaigns that may be offered.

children laughing laptop

The bullying shift into cyberspace

National study results from Telus Wise, in partnership with MediaSmarts and PREVNet, showed 42 percent of youth between 12 and 18 have been cyberbullied and 60 percent have witnessed others being cyberbullied. A further eye-opener is that 43 percent said they don’t believe talking to parents or teachers will change anything.6

While each province and territory has legislation and policies that address bullying, Canada lacks a national anti-bullying campaign. As parents, educators, professionals, and role models, this should be a call to action to arm ourselves with the best resources, tools, and information to keep our kids safe.

Top age-specific online safety tips

Age group Recommendations
5 to 7*
  • Always sit with children while they are online, and be part of the activity.
  • Use kid-friendly search engines such as KidRex or Kids Click.
  • Start basic conversations about online privacy; for example, talk to children about why to use a nickname if a site requires a name for content personalization.
  • 8 to 10*
  • Use Internet-filtering tools as a supplement to parental supervision.
  • Opt for a shared family email account rather than a personal one for your child.
  • Preview any websites, games, or apps your child wants to use.
  • Stress the importance of safe and ethical social networking — adding only people they know as friends, not adding apps without permission, not uploading photos without appropriate consent or asking permission.
  • 11 to 13*
  • At a set time in the evening, “park” all devices in the parents’ bedroom, making your child’s room a tech-free space.
  • Explore the privacy settings on social networking sites with your child, and discuss the importance of using them to manage privacy.
  • Provide your child with strategies to respond and act if they experience or witness cyberbullying, and reassure them that they can come to you if anything online is upsetting them.
  • Discuss the importance of telling you if they are ever asked to meet an “online friend” in person.
  • 14 to 17*
  • Continue to ensure your teen’s room is a “tech-free” zone at night.
  • Be aware of and visit the websites your teen likes to spend time on.
  • Encourage your teen to stop and assess before they post, share, or send anything, to help curb emotional and impulsive behaviour and build online ethics and empathy. Part of this includes an awareness that what’s posted online remains there forever, which is especially relevant to convey as teens start to look for jobs and employers can get an idea of their online presence via background checks.
  • Help them come up with strategies for addressing online conflict, and assure that you will help them find a solution if they run into a problem.
  • Build an understanding that it’s important for your teen to check with you before they make any financial transaction online.
  • 18+**
  • Provide only minimal personal information when filling out online registration forms, personal profiles, or subscription services.
  • Secure your computer by activating the firewall and using anti-virus and malware software.
  • Use encryption for your most-sensitive files and store your important data on a separate hard drive or other location.
  • Ensure your home wireless network settings are secure. Don’t conduct any transactions that require passwords, account numbers, or credit card numbers in public Wi-Fi areas.
  • *Sourced from MediaSmarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy.
    **Sourced from the Government of Canada website Get Cyber Safe - Protect Yourself.

    This document has been prepared for use by the RBC Wealth Management member companies, RBC Dominion Securities Inc.*, RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc., RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company (collectively, the “Companies”) and their affiliate, Royal Mutual Funds Inc. (RMFI). *Member – Canada Investor Protection Fund. Each of the Companies, RMFI and Royal Bank of Canada are separate corporate entities which are affiliates. “RBC advisor” refers to Private Bankers who are employees of Royal Bank of Canada and licensed representatives of RMFI, Investment Counsellors who are employees of RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. and the private client division of RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Senior Trust Advisors and Trust Officers who are employees of The Royal Trust Company or Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, or Investment Advisors who are employees of RBC Dominion Securities Inc. In Quebec, financial planning services are provided by RMFI which is licensed as a financial services firm in that province. In the rest of Canada, financial planning services are available through RMFI, Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, The Royal Trust Company, or RBC Dominion Securities Inc. Estate and trust services are provided by Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company. If specific products or services are not offered by one of the Companies, clients may request a referral to another RBC partner. The strategies, advice and technical content in this publication are provided for the general guidance and benefit of our clients, based on information believed to be accurate and complete, but neither the Companies, RMFI, nor Royal Bank of Canada, nor any of its affiliates nor any other person can guarantee accuracy or completeness. This publication is not intended as nor does it constitute tax or legal advice. Readers should consult a qualified legal, tax or other professional advisor when planning to implement a strategy. This will ensure that their individual circumstances have been considered properly and that action is taken on the latest available information. Interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change. This information is not investment advice and should only be used in conjunction with a discussion with your RBC advisor. None of the Companies, RMFI, Royal Bank of Canada nor any of its affiliates nor any other person accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this report or the information contained herein. In certain branch locations, one or more of the Companies may carry on business from premises shared with other Royal Bank of Canada affiliates. Notwithstanding this fact, each of the Companies is a separate business and personal information and confidential information relating to client accounts can only be disclosed to other RBC affiliates if required to service your needs, by law or with your consent. Under the RBC Code of Conduct, RBC Privacy Principles and RBC Conflict of Interest Policy confidential information may not be shared between RBC affiliates without a valid reason.

    ® / TM Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC Wealth Management is a registered trademark of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © 2016 Royal Bank of Canada. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada.