Today’s guest is John Stengel, founder of the JSCM Group, a cyber security business helping companies set up firewalls and to protect their computers and employees from outsiders. His company was one of the first to do website blocking. His company does testing assessments for churches and schools. They evaluate the likelihood of something going wrong with these organizations computers. The original goal was to prevent employees from abusing company equipment, but it morphed into preventing harmful materials from being accessed on company computers, such as identities being stolen and pornography.
“Inappropriate material has become readily accessible to children now as schools and parents have armed them with technology such as laptops, I-Pads, and smartphones.”
John gives an example of how “guardrails” protect us in our internet usage. He states that if he were to go on a walk with someone, he is not likely to pick up a rock and through it through someone’s window, because he is with someone. Because the internet is open in nature, there is no one monitoring your usage. The “fear factor” is gone. Risk avoidance is not taking place.
There are plenty of people out there to accept you, to support you giving you negative encouragement. Chat rooms can be like a form of peer pressure. We do things on the computer that we would never do anywhere else. Children and teens are already prone to making bad decisions. Pairing them with this technology encourages risky behaviors that are seemingly “consequence free”. Where thirty years ago a child would have to steal a pornographic magazine and deal with the consequences of being caught, a child today can look at pornography online without being caught.
Google will present you with any image you want to see, and has made it difficult for those policing the internet to do anything about it.
The internet always offers someone out there that seems willing and understanding, leading you to bad decisions, whether its someone who takes your side when your marriage is struggling, or someone who will chat or message with a child who feels bad about himself.
The Dark Web
The dark web is an illegal underground marketplace. Sex trafficking, child pornography, drug purchases, etc. occur on these sites. Children are easily recruited. There are certain tools that are used with computers to give someone access to the dark web. Children pass around these tools at school.
When your identity is stolen, it is sold on the dark web.
The “Silk Road” is the Amazon of the dark web. It is where children buy drugs, and can get recruited into sex trafficking. The “secretiveness” is very appealing to children who are going through confusing periods in their lives.
Risks for Elementary VS. High School
The American Pediatric Association states that there are risks with putting children on devices too soon, yet schools are putting them in the hands of children anyway. They affect brain development. They are missing human interaction. They are rewiring their brains in a way that can prevent developing important fine motor skills. John believes that it is okay to give elementary-aged children devices with limited usage.
Middle schoolers risk growing up too fast with devices. Sexting is becoming prominent amongst teens. Children more likely to overshare information, communicate with adults unknowingly, and more likely to have sex at a younger age. Teens are misled with apps that you can put pictures on that disappear after ten seconds, but unfortunately, someone can take a screenshot and use that picture however they please, leading to more child pornography. Everything you put out there is forever out there.
John warns that apps are meant for accessibility and that if someone says “you can’t do this” or “do that”, they are wrong.
He also warns about how employers and schools are looking into people’s profiles and can find unflattering information, if that person has overshared online.
Children are giving away their identities. Fake websites are luring kids through the allure of coupons and scholarships. Regardless of a company’s reputation or legitimacy, people’s identities can be stolen by security breaches.
Kids and parents need to be sparing about giving away your name and email address. Databases can be hacked.
Advice to Parents
- Know what apps are on your kids phones. John says that with his own children they are required to check with him prior to purchasing an app. He goes onto his own device and researches the app prior to giving them permission to purchase the app. He does not allow computers in their rooms. He states he cannot stop what happens on the bus, but his monitoring at home hopefully influences their decisions when not at home
- Don’t allow children to “chat” with others playing online games. John mentions Minecraft and how it is an opportunity for the wrong people to be in contact with children. This is the new form of “stranger danger”. John warns that if parents are “checked out”, their children will pay the consequences. You wouldn’t allow your child to walk up to strangers in the mall, why would you allow it at home?
- Video games, internet, email, chat, and apps are all concerns. Don’t make them grow up too fast. Don’t be afraid to push back if others are trying to force your kids to get devices or phones.
- Do educate your children. Help them understand why you are blocking and having restrictions. Let them know that you as parents even have restricted use. Let them know the risks. Our society’s view of computer technology can change, but it has to start with the parents. They must educate their children about the risks involved with device usage.
Resources: www.opendns.org (website offering free “Family Shield” that parents can use on their computers to block adult content)
Visit the JSCM Group website for more information: jscmgroup.com