In the following guest piece, Kay Gore explores risks presented to Australian children online, including identity theft and grooming techniques, as well as steps parents can take to protect and inform.
In the modern world, as more children adopt devices and are exposed to the internet at a younger age, the risks presented to them are increasing on a regular basis.
Therefore, it is vital parents know what to look out for, some of the consequences of the digital world, and how to communicate dangers to their children.
ONLINE IDENTITY THEFT
Identity theft is a concern for parents in Australia, as it can make their children’s lives difficult when they reach adulthood.
Their information being used for illegal activities can hurt these children’s records, and even damage their credit scores.
A report from tech magazine CIO said in 2018 that information about Australia’s children is being traded on the dark web, some of it costing as much as $3000.
Criminals reportedly buy information in bulk, and this information commands high prices due to the fact that children have no credit history.
This makes it easier for lawbreakers to use existing details or alter them for their purposes.
Pieces of information are sold on the dark web, an encrypted portion of the internet that — despite its many benefits — is also a place where illegal activity is rife.
DATA AND INFORMATION
Personally-identifiable information about children and teenagers residing in Australia, is being sold by criminals across the internet’s dark underbelly.
Research suggests that 98 per cent of teenagers aged 14 and over in Australia have access to social media sites. When they access these sites, they accept terms and conditions and provide personally-identifiable information.
Parents need to tell their children that certain information should not be shared online to prevent criminals from stealing pertinent details.
This includes their full name, their address, phone numbers, date of birth, email address, the name of their school, and their usernames and passwords.
“While we are researching maybe an executive from a multi-national organisation to demonstrate what is out there [on the dark web], we will see kids’ information being sold,” Connory told CIO Australia.
It is not only identify theft that should come as a concern for parents in Australia.
THE WEB AS A HOST FOR SEXUAL GROOMING
Aside from identity theft, online grooming is also a big problem for Australian authorities.
Also known as sexual grooming, online grooming happens when an adult man or woman utilises the internet to prey on children, decrease their inhibitions, and inspire their curiosity about sex.
The aim, according to the Victoria State Government, is for the adult to meet the child in the future so that they can engage them in sexual activity.
Children are more at risk online as they are more trusting than adults, and their curiosity can put them in danger. The fact that predators let them discuss taboo topics openly also increases their risk of letting them into their lives.
For these reasons, parents are advised to explain the risks of the internet to their children at a young age, as this is the first line of defence.
The risk of meeting sexual predators online is high, as these individuals often target child-populated websites. This includes social media, websites made for children, online chat rooms, and game chats.
There are other contact offences related to online grooming that parents need to be wary of. These include sextortion and the production of child sexual abuse material that can later be distributed and traded online.
LEGISLATION IN AUSTRALIA
Although legislation helps, there are still privacy concerns that stop the authorities from having full access and control over online information.
The government has been very active in fighting online grooming, however, and this can be seen through the legislative amendments it has introduced over the last few years.
Most jurisdictions criminalise the act, and according to the government records, prosecutions have already taken place under these laws.
It is noted, however, that most of those who engaged in criminal activity only spent a few months to a year in jail.
For Australian jurisdictions without anti-grooming laws, predators who operate in this area are subject to commonwealth law.
Identity theft is currently not a federal offence in the country, but it is covered by Australia’s Criminal Code, as well as by other policies under the Financial Transaction Reports Act of 1988.
Children are vulnerable to online crimes, and while there are legislations that protect them, their knowledge about the risks of the internet is still the most important means of protection.
Parents are advised to be vigilant about these risks to help ensure that their children are safe while online, and by extension, while they are offline.
View more published content from Kay here.
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