Kaspersky Lab and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the Kingdom of Bahrain have embarked on a series of interactive cybersecurity roadshows[i] in schools in Bahrain aimed at raising awareness about the threats that await children on the Internet and effective ways to respond to them. Among the main threats to be addressed are cyberbullying, inordinate disclosure of personal information and general rules of online behavior.

All of the mentioned threats represent a real danger not only for the global community, but also for Bahrain pupils in particular. According to a survey conducted by The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, about 38% of young people in Bahrain have faced cyberbullying, which represents the biggest cyber threat to young people in the region. The second most worrying problem is the danger associated with meeting strangers online. The percentage of such encounters has significantly dropped, however it remains at an alarming 16%.

“There has never been a more important time to truly educate children about online safety and the dangers of the online world than now.” Says TRA Senior Advisor of Consumer Affairs Development, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Humood Al Khalifa. “Our connected lifestyles have given room for a lot of dangers out there, and we are very happy to collaborate with Kaspersky Lab and bring the Safe Kids cybersecurity roadshow to children across schools in Bahrain. Cyberbullying in particular comes with dangerous and far-reaching implications which could impact our children’s academic performances and overall well-being. Children are the future of our society. Empowering them and giving them the intellectual tools to survive in a digital world is our prime responsibility.” He further added.

Amir Kanaan, Managing Director in the Middle East, Turkey and South Africa at Kaspersky Lab, says “Children’s safety is one of the key priorities of Kaspersky Lab as a cybersecurity company. Firstly, because family well-being is something everyone is concerned about, regardless of status and origin. And secondly, only by instilling the basic principles of safe behavior online in the children of today we can make the Internet of tomorrow safer — and this, of course, is one of the main goals of our company. It is almost impossible to reach this goal without the support of governments and public organizations, so we are very glad and grateful to TRA for supporting our initiative”.

Kaspersky Lab’s findings are in line with the TRA survey. According to KSN data, 81% of children in Bahrain actively spend time socializing online, which includes both the usage of social networks and various messengers, exposing them to all the threats associated with these services. Every third parent (32%) interviewed globally fears that their child is at risk of becoming a victim of cyberbullying. The same number of respondents are afraid of the dangers that can await children when dealing with strangers. At the same time, 7% of respondents are aware of cases when their children have suffered from cyberbullying and communicated with suspicious strangers. Such discrepancy between the real rate of cyberbullying and the share of cases that become known to parents indicates that this and other threats can be more significant than they seem at first glance.

To help children avoid the threats associated with social networks, it is recommend that “friends” should only be those who are known personally. Even then, children should not publish too much personal information online — information could be used by predators if they hijack one of their friend’s accounts.

There also have been several warning signs identified that will help parents identify if their child is experiencing troubles on social media:

Sudden changes in mood for no apparent reason; Changing the style of use of their digital device and social networks (for example, the child begins to wake up at night to go online); A sharp increase or decrease in the number of “friends” in their social network; The appearance of “friends” with a big age difference; Abusive images and messages on the child’s social media page; The child deletes their page on social networks.

Maria Namestnikova, Children’s online safety expert at Kaspersky Lab says: “At first glance, online communication may seem like a safe environment, as a certain distance is maintained between both sides. But, this environment has now reached such a scale and diversity, that its dangers are almost identical to those of the real world — sometimes it is not entirely clear which world is more “real”. The bad news is that some of these threats have migrated to the web from real life and therefore cannot be defeated entirely. However, the good news is we can teach children to withstand these threats, primarily by educating them. And what place better than school for educating? Although, it should be noted that many online threats can also be neutralized by specialized security solutions”.

TRA and Kaspersky Lab Held a Press conference to mark the beginning of the roadshow on Monday the 5th of March where the members of the media community had the opportunity to learn more about these threats and for their questions to be answered. The roadshow will continue until the 13th of March, 2018 and will target children between the age of 7 to 13.