Monitoring internet use is key to cybersecurity for kids

The world changes fast, Jeremy Bandre told the Columbus Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon at Lion Hills Center.

“In the 1950s the word sex was taboo,” he said. “In the 1960s culture, the taboo was abortion and divorce. In the ’70s it was casual nudity and lewd language. In the ’80s it was drug abuse. In the ’90s, it was homosexuality and pornography. In the 2000s, it was cloning humans and suicide.”

Bandre, the president of Exceed Technologies, said that “really quick” progression from taboo to normalization could be traced back to desensitization.

“If you want to desensitize society, all you need is a method of mass distribution and to slowly increase the intensity of the delivered content,” he said. “In just the matter of a few minutes, anybody in this room could go home, sit in your living room and watch real murder, real decapitations, sex, rape … or anything you can imagine, for free. Just pull up your phone.”

As both an information technologies professional and a parent, Bandre is very aware of the dangers posed by the internet and that children more commonly have internet access via cell phones and tablets.

He offered Rotarians tips on how to mitigate the dangers kids can encounter through technology, especially when dealing with browsing and social media.

“At age 12, and that’s typically the age, we give our children cell phone service,” he said. “We ask our best friend what monitoring software to use, and we put it on there and we give it to them.”

There are no monitoring apps that are 100 percent effective, he said.

“It is easy, easy, easy, to get around those,” he said. “If you think you have the right app, open up Google. Let’s say it’s Life360. Type in ‘how to hack Life360’ and spend 15 minutes. I promise you if your child wants to get around the app, they will.”

That being said, something is better than nothing, he said.

“Call your friend, ask them and install it,” he said. “Just because they can hack it doesn’t mean we give up. That’s actually the worst thing we can do. Put it on the phone, but monitor it.”

Stop claiming ignorance when it comes to technology, Bandre said.

“Once they hit 14 or so they’re smarter than us already,” he said. “We don’t need to give them anymore. All you’re doing is reinforcing the idea to that inquisitive kid that they’re smarter than you.”

Install, set up and use the same apps your kids use, he said.

“If your kid’s talking about TikTok, don’t say you don’t have TikTok,” he said. “Install TikTok.”

Bandre ran down a list of bad and, if not good, at least less bad apps. He began by cautioning parents against the Tor browser, an encrypted browser designed for a high degree of anonymity.

“It should never end up on any computer or cell phone,” he said. “Tor is what is used to enter the dark web. … Once you launch it, it establishes a (virtual private network) connection and makes everyone anonymous. You can buy Social Security numbers, passwords, real child pornography.”

Age-appropriate Snapchat, he said, is “probably good” because it has at least a modicum of privacy.

“Everybody in this room did and said really stupid things when you were growing up,” he said. “It wasn’t recorded, and it’s not haunting us everytime we turn around. … Everything on social media is there forever. But there is a place for age-appropriate Snapchat because it’s the only app that has at least some ability to erase part of that footprint.”

Twitter is now “very heavy” in pornography, he said.

“It’s been shocking over the past six months where we’ve seen Twitter go,” he said.

Much of that is because of how Twitter’s algorithm works, he said.

“If I’m friends with you, and you’re friends with somebody else, and that somebody else sends a pornographic tweet, it will end up in my timeline,” Bandre said. “They interlink all friends of friends of friends. So there is no Twitter at our house now.”

TikTok is “phenomenal” if age-appropriate, he said.

“TikTok is great, if it’s done right,” he said. “The longer you look at a video, the more it knows you like it. I let my 13-year-old have TikTok, waited about 60 days and then called all (three) of my kids downstairs and told them to give their phone to somebody else. Then swipe 25 times (to see videos) and anybody who can yell ‘inappropriate’ is doing well.”

Bandre said he gets his kids together for “TikTok challenge” randomly.

He said he allows both Facebook and Instagram, but he requires his kids be friends with him.

Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.