Back to school cyber security

As children of all ages go back to school, in today’s modern world, cyber security is one of many looming threats they’re faced with.

We live in an age where toddlers carry around iPads and if you want to call your middle schooler, you can reach them on their iPhone. It’s critical, now more than ever, that parents watch over and protect their children’s cyber security since children are often targets of identity theft because of their clean credit.

With just a social security number, identity thieves could open bank accounts, rent an apartment and even apply for loans – sometimes without the child finding out for years.

After all, how often do children under 18 run a credit report?

In the back to school rush, many lucky kids are receiving new phones to stay connected and laptops for research and homework. There’s no better time than now to lay the ground rules for cyber security – no matter what your child’s age.

Parental Control Software

Let’s face it. Controlling what your children do online isn’t easy. But taking advantage of tools like parental control software can help you stay informed and keep track of your children’s online activity.

Although this method is not foolproof, it may be worthwhile to look into parental control software.

PC Magazine released a review of the best parental control software of 2017 for a wide range of budgets. But be warned, parental control software is not a substitute for talking with your kids about cyber security. Open communication is the key to keeping them safe.

Cyber Security for Elementary School Kids

    • Child using tabletFind out what they know: Growing up in the digital age, you might be surprised by what your child already knows about cyber security.Find out what they know and use that as a starting point. Then fill in the gaps through an open, interactive discussion, rather than a lecture format. To keep them engaged and find out what they know, ask them to complete fun online safety quizzes like this one.
    • Online Privacy: Middle school children crave privacy, so teach them the best way to maintain their privacy online. Now is a good time to start educating them that “online is forever” and they’re often just a few clicks away from sharing personal details with the public. Teach them about what types of information should remain private under any and all conditions, such as their social security number and home address.
  • App Security: Just because an app is in the Google Play or Apple store doesn’t mean it’s safe and 100% legit. When the Pokémon Go craze hit, fake apps flooded app stores, loaded with malware designed to gather sensitive information from unsuspecting users. Encourage your child to read the comments on the app download page and if they are still unsure, tell them to check with an adult to verify.

Cyber Security for Middle and High School Kids

    • Online Privacy: Similar to elementary school students, it’s important to have a discussion about online privacy if your child falls into this age group. Chances are good that he or she has fully adopted social media which presents the opportunity to help your child learn about the ramifications of over sharing.Kids may think they know their friends, but they don’t know friends of friends. Something as simple as sharing vacation photos (while away), could increase the likelihood of a home burglary while the family is out of town.
    • Online reputation: Although reputation isn’t on the mind of kids in this age group, they need to start thinking about how their online activity is going to look down the road to potential employers. Cyberbullying is also key at this age, so engage them in a separate discussion about this topic specifically.
  • Use Skepticism: Teach your children to be skeptical of what they see and read online. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true. This is true also for individuals your children might encounter via social media.There’s simply no easy way to determine if a middle/high school aged kid is behind a profile, or if it’s a 45 year old man. For this reason, establishing ground rules for communicating with anyone online at this age is critical.

Cyber Security for College Students

    • Real world caution: In a college atmosphere, students often share their workspace with many other students, which opens up the threat of mobile device theft.While being trusting can be a positive personality trait, when it comes to cyber security, it’s a real risk factor.Encourage your child to keep an eye on their devices at all times – coffee shops, libraries – even their own dorm room. At minimum, they should set a password-protected lock screen and never share their password with anyone.
  • As mentioned previously, over sharing on social media, online reputation and privacy are absolutely key at this age. But this is also a good time to educate your kids on more technically savvy security tips like the importance of:
    • Backing up data
    • Installing malware/virus protection
    • Being cautious when buying used tech
    • Keeping their software up to date
    • Watching out for phishing email scams

While there are many resources for internet safety, some of the best are those from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Remember, keep discussions light, honest, and open. Be prepared to have multiple conversations so your kids can absorb what you’re saying in small doses.  Communicating your values with your children can help them make more thoughtful decisions when faced with tricky situations.

Always be positive and supportive of your children’s thoughts. It may take some time, but this open communication is key to educating your children about cyber security.

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