Amer Owaida, security writer at ESET explains that now for over a decade, ESET and the San Diego Police Foundation have been working together to help keep children safe from online threats
As one of the United States’ most famous presidents, John F. Kennedy, once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” This is one of the key reasons why we have to protect them and give them the tools they will need to build a better and brighter tomorrow.
And even though decades have passed since then, JFK’s words still ring true. At ESET, we are acutely aware of the need to prepare children for the future, especially a digital one. As years pass, more and more of our activities, including the most mundane of tasks, are done through internet-connected devices and kids spend increasing amounts of time glued to their screens.
For more than a decade now, ESET has been working together with the San Diego Police Foundation (SDPF) to protect children by teaching them proper cybersecurity habits and how to stay safe online, so they can ultimately grow into responsible netizens. These efforts are part of the company’s commitment to supporting worthwhile causes that adhere to its core values of Courage, Integrity, Reliability, and Passion.
ESET’s cooperation with the San Diego Police Foundation kicked off in 2011 with the Calling All Parents: Keep Your Kids Safe Online media campaign that enjoyed great success. We have continued to work together ever since, primarily through the SafetyNet: Smart Cyber Choices program, which was developed with the help of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The program aims to educate children, parents, teachers, and community groups about the importance of cybersecurity and about the risks that kids face online ranging from cyberbullying and scams to online predators lurking in the shadows.
The approach is multifaceted and helps children better understand and evaluate the risks of online communication, including by teaching them how to spot online scams or bullying, how to protect their data by using strong passwords and by not oversharing details from their lives, and reminding them that if something feels wrong they should confide in their parents, teachers or other trusted adults.
Meanwhile, parents have access to resources that explain how the various social media platforms their children can access through their devices work, and what kind of various risks they represent. There are also tips and tricks on how parents can raise their children in the digital age by setting boundaries and having an overview of what their kids are doing online.
As the largest internet safety provider in the San Diego region, SafetyNet has been able to train more than 240,000 students and 9,000 educators on proper cyber-hygiene practices. And while the program was more attuned to meet the needs of middle-school students, ESET’s funding has helped the SDPF to create new learning materials and expand the program to encompass younger children as well.
Since the pandemic has forced most schools to switch to remote learning mode, and children are spending even more time online than usual, it’s now more important than ever that SafetyNet is available to everyone. And that’s why we’re proud to say that with our help the project was able to transition into virtual space, thereby providing everyone with training on how to handle the increase in screen time and the associated risks.
Our mission of helping educate and protect children on the internet goes beyond our cooperation with SafetyNet. Since many of us at ESET are parents, and we know that keeping up with the ever-evolving online world is a challenging task, we decided to collect all the best advice and resources in one place, and that’s Safer Kids Online. Here, both parents and teachers will find guides and articles they’ll need to help children navigate the waters of the digital world in a safe and secure manner.