Child Online Safety Based On Lessons from Hansel & Gretel

Those who have heard or seen a version of the icon Hansel and Gretel vividly remember the breadcrumbs, the witch, and the children escaping using their wits. This story has some parallels to today’s online presence and the dangers of modern day children face.

The Old Witch

She was an evil woman who captured the children and tried to eat them. The online world is filled with cyber witches.

Not too long ago I heard a story from a coworker. She shared how a good friend was hacked because of the doings of a youngster with a grudge. The friend’s son had a confrontation with a neighbor’s son. The parents were responsible and notified the neighbor's parents about their son’s misconduct. That child was disciplined and developed a grudge.

The neighbor child had encountered the dark web and was building relationships. The grudge grew so fierce he decides to exploit his new connections to a cyber attack the family who had him disciplined.

Long story short: the neighbor child had his new enemies hacked and they had to contact the FBI. I suspect this neighbor child is now on an FBI watchlist and this child is being further corrupted and being “eaten” by the dark web.

How could have the parents prevented their son from encountering the dark web? Or have detected the child was in contact with the dark web?

Hansel and Gretel purposefully left breadcrumbs to make it home. Our online presence leaves “breadcrumbs” that parents can use to find their children’s tracks. Parents can periodically review web browser history, files accessed, and instant message histories (and some home routers also keep a log of online traffic if enabled).

When I became an adult my mom admitted she looked at my “breadcrumbs.” She would inspect my backpack, drawers, and reading material on a periodic basis. She and her neighbor friend learned this technique in a parenting class.

My mom’s neighbor friend, who also was my friend’s mom, one day found an interesting “breadcrumb.” She found a drawing of my friend killing people with a knife. When the mom approached him, she learned he idolized his cousin who was a gangster. My friend was fortunate as his mom caught him early before his thoughts became actions.

It may seem like an invasion of privacy but I argue it is a parent’s responsibility to intervene in a child’s life to raise that child to be an upstanding person.

Children Being Abandoned in the Forest

In the story, the parents willfully abandoned their children in the forest because the parents were concerned about their own survival. I believe parents will not do this with their children in modern times. Yet, when it comes to the online world parents do this unknowingly.

Some parents introduce digital devices to their children as early as toddlers. Children nowadays are hyper-connected. A concern is whether they are being taught about proper cyber hygiene and cyber threats. Failure to teach children how to navigate the online world is essentially dumping them in an online “forest” for them to fend for themselves.

Parents can teach children how to protect themselves online. They can limit functionality on the device and turn on parental controls. They can remind children to treat the online world as a big stranger. Parents should also learn how to protect themselves from online threats.

Resources

I compiled a list of guides to get you started. Please let me know if you know of any other resources to include here for everyone’s benefit. Thanks!

Disable private browsing mode in Microsoft Edge

Disable Private Browsing in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox

How to Disable Incognito Mode in Chrome for Mac OSX

Disable incognito mode in ChromeOS (ChromeBook)

How to Prevent Deleting Download History in Windows 10

Use parental controls on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

Set up parental controls on Google Play

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Miguel

About the Author

Miguel is a Principal Security Engineer and is the author of the " Serverless Security " book. He has worked on multiple serverless projects as a developer and security engineer, contributed to open-source serverless projects, and worked on large military systems in various engineering roles.


Originally published on Medium.com

Image by Gretchen Ellen-Powers on Dribbble

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