ONLINE Smarts – Tips to protect you and your family?

The online world provides a space for entertainment, social connection, and educational opportunities for all members of the family. The connectivity allows families to keep in touch and widens the opportunity to learn and connect.  

Online usage can be varied including:  

  • The 5-year child playing on their favourite app  
  • The 15-year-old joining Instagram to connect with their friends  
  • Parents sharing snaps of their family holiday to Facebook  

Unfortunately, one downside is that online participation can come at the cost of exposing your personal data to be tracked in a way, which places you at risk of:   

  • Unwanted personal data collection Online platforms access your data (and indirectly your families data, example, when asking after no. of children, hobbies). Sometimes, if this information is not well protected, it can be accessed and exploited by hackers. Storage and use of your personal information can be acquired through simple acts such as clicking on an advertisement which may allow unknown (and sinister) apps to track your online movements.  
  • Cybercrime Online cyber criminals also take advantage of personal information to gain access to personal financial information, exploit children and steal important personal data.  

In a covid era with physical restrictions and more time being spent online, it is firstly important to understand your privacy rights so that your family is safe online. Secondly, it is necessary to be proactive in you and your family’s online safety.  

How does the law protect my online privacy? 

The Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) outlines the principles of collecting and using personal data in Australia. However, with the constant evolving of online landscape, these guidelines are still developing and may not cover specific protection of privacy rights on changing platforms. Multiple consent to various privacy policies on platform can result in utilisation of users private data. 

Cybercriminals look for vulnerabilities in online platforms. Users using an unsecure platform can inadvertently expose themselves to criminal behaviour. For example, online criminals can bypass insecure websites through weak passwords or access private data through hacking of systems.  

Due to the fluidity of online activity and sometimes reactive measures to cyber breaches, being proactive with a few simple tips is a means of providing protection to yourself and your family online.  

1 – Have Conversations about Online Safety  

It is necessary to explain to your family the pros and cons of interacting online. This conversation is similar to the type that you would have with your children about interacting in person with strangers. By having an age-appropriate conversation, warning children about the risks of their online behaviour can have a significant impact in their interactions.  

Discussions to have with children could include: 

  • Explaining the nature of online interactions and digital footprints 
  • Discussing the type of information they upload, what is safe and what will attract harmful attention 
  • Identifying what online apps and platforms they can access 
  • The type of basic information that they are not to release online 
  • How to identify scams and inappropriate online behaviour 

2 – Be clear about boundaries for online activity 

Setting clear boundaries about the limits of your families online usage is an important safeguard. Young children can access a wealth of information when online, thus it is vital that you clearly set limits of their online participation.  

These boundaries can include: 

  • Limiting access to certain apps  
  • Limiting time spent online 
  • Implementing parental controls  
  • Monitoring who they interact with online  
  • Discussing what they are permitted to share online  

3 – Monitor online activity and developments  

As social media platforms aim to retain the attention of children, this can simultaneously expose them to harmful individuals.  

In Attorney-General for the State of Queensland v SDWH [2020] QSC 349, SDWH was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for indecent treatment, child grooming and distribution of child exploitation material offences. The offences involved six complainants aged between 12 and 14. SDWH befriended most of the complainants online. He would initiate contact by sending explicit images of his genitalia and receiving similar messages in return. His interactions with the complainants was done through online platforms like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and evolved to text messages.  

The frequency and ease of the offender’s behaviour indicates the accessibility and naivety of many young people online. Through the simple act of friending children, the offender was able to easily prey on the complainants and exploit them. This case demonstrates the importance of monitoring your children’s social media presence and their online interactions. 

Additionally, it is important to continually remain up to date about ongoing developments of online scams and issues that could affect your family. Telephone and email scams are becoming more sophisticated, therefore, avoiding suspicious links can protect against your information being accessed  

4 – Be conscious of what you upload 

The desire to connect is innate and providing regular updates online is customary behaviour, without much thought to others that may wish to use information to their benefit. We suggest that if you share information online, it does not include sensitive information or information that can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals. For example, live uploads while on holiday can indicate to online viewers that your home is empty.  

The shift to a world dominated by online activity brings both great opportunities and the potential for harm.  By implementing some of these tips, you will be able to mitigate the online risks and keep your family safe online. 

Have you been a victim of cybercrime? Do you need advice on a privacy breach? 

Please contact our client engagement team or call us on (07) 3252 0011 to book an appointment with one of our Lawyers today. 

This article was written by Prini Avia and Heilala Tabete
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