You and your children may love the social chatter, but dangerous enemies are piecing together a cyberweapon to use against you.

With the increase in time spent online due to remote-working and other consequences of social distancing, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky is reminding digirati—especially young parents—about the risks of oversharing personal information online.

According to the firm, social media is the top activity for online users in Southeast Asia (SEA) for the first few months of 2020. In that study, 80% of parents in the region were spending a lot of time on different social networking apps.

Stephan Neumeier, Managing Director (Asia Pacific), Kaspersky, understands that the line between parenthood and professional work has been blurred tremendously as homes now serve as an extension of offices and school. “Social media offers a platform for mothers and fathers to take a breather and to find emotional support and advice from their own groups. While these virtual networking platforms can be a useful source of knowledge and assistance for parents who are trying to juggle their tasks, it is essential to remember that ill-minded individuals lurk around here, too.”

Risks in the social domain

Neumeier said it is necessary to be careful about the information we post on our social media accounts as the biggest danger lies in the fact that information shared on social networking sites and other public sources can be analyzed and used by a whole host of complete strangers, including criminals of all stripes.

Everything that the parents or their children publish online can be used against them—whether it is an angry post on a random topic, or an intimate photo, or details of their personal lives. It is therefore important to remember and to teach children: before you click a ‘Publish’ button, take a minute and think.

Think about any adverse consequences that may arise from the post in future. Will this information have a negative effect on your or someone else’s personal life? What will a future employer say if they see it? Is it possible to use this online information, for example, to track you or your child in the real world? Who will be able to see this information?

Here are the recommendations for what you or your children should never post online:

  • Home address or school. Armed with this information, robbers, pedophiles, bullies and other unsavory characters can easily locate you or your child. Children rarely publish their home address on social networking sites, but very often they name the school they attend. Never post such information online or share it through some comments or photos that would clearly tell what school your children attend.
  • Phone number. With children, a phone number is a direct means of contact that peers can use for bullying, and for adults this can include even more sinister things. For criminals this particular piece of online information is among the most valuable data they can get. For example since at least 2016 cybercriminals had collected phone numbers of social network users and used stolen information to re-register for online banking services and gained access to their victims’ accounts.
  • Your current geolocation (‘Check-in’). Information that a family is away from home is a signal for burglars. It also makes it easier to track someone down. Additionally, saying something like ‘our favorite place’ and posting a geotag may endanger you even if you are not in this place at the moment—it shows the bad guys that there is a place where you can easily be found.
  • Intimate/compromising photos and videos. Photos that may seem like a bit of fun to adolescents could get them into trouble if published or leaked on the Internet. For example, numerous sites collect erotic pictures of teenage girls that post such ‘hot’ content. The directors of colleges and universities and potential employers may take a very dim view of compromising photos (e.g., a drunken night out).
  • Compromising photos of others. Do not publish photos of other people that you would not like to see of yourself. Users of all ages should understand this basic rule. If your children understand that it is unacceptable to post compromising photos of themselves from some raucous teenage party, then they should remember that this applies also to everybody else, without exception.
  • Baby photos of your teenage child. Parents very often post information on the Web about their children and the latter do not like it. It is important to remember that pictures of your child that seem very sweet to you could result in bullying in the future. 
  • Photos of expensive gifts. To strangers, this is a demonstration of wealth or luxury. Together with your home address and current geolocation it is a gold mine for thieves searching for victims on the Internet.
  • Information about your personal life. Personal information can always be used against you. For example, it can be used to guess the password for an online account, to devise a scam that you are more likely to fall for, or to get acquainted with your child and gain their confidence. Publishing complaints or very personal information about your loved ones is particularly harmful as it may damage your relationship.
  • Critical statements on sensitive topics. Of course, both you and your children are allowed to have your own opinions. However, when it comes to contentious issues such as religion, politics, sexual orientation, etc., it is better not to share your opinions on the Internet. This may cause a conflict that can shift from the virtual to the real world, or spoil your reputation in the eyes of a potential educational institution or an employer.

Social media house rules for parents

Kaspersky researches feel the above information (and anything else that is vulnerable to similar risks) should be communicated to children repeatedly and vigilantly. Explain that posting on a social networking site is like speaking in public—you should not write anything on the Internet that would be considered dangerous or unethical to ‘shout’ about in the street or in a classroom.

Explain that all the sensitive information can be shared only via messengers and only with people you know in real life and not online. Register on the same social networking sites as your children and add them as friends so you can see their posts and stop any excessive openness quickly.

If your child is still small—remember that his or her first social networking account must be created together with parents. In this case you can explain all the rules and set up all the security measures having your child’s full buy-in and unwavering compliance.

Finally, make use of parental control apps that can be parents’ extra set of eyes and ears to protect children from inappropriate content. The apps can alert grownup about any changes to social network profiles and friend lists, as well as any potentially-dangerous posts.