Taking your kid’s online safety seriously has never been more important than today, as the internet creeps into every corner of their life, and that’s why we have made this mini-guide for you.
Kids today are online at a much earlier age than ever before and it is harder than ever to watch what they are doing all the time. Unfortunately, kids are not aware of all the threats they are facing. Stuff like malware, cyberbullying, identity theft, stalking, phishing scams, etc. probably don’t have their interests in mind. Unfortunately, a lot of grown-ups lack basic knowledge as well. This makes kids easy prey for the cybercriminals, and It is, therefore, important to teach kids some basic skills that will make their lives much safer. Kids are by nature trusting but with a bit of critical thinking, they can go a long way.
Let’s look at what you can do:
1 Be an example for your kids
There’s nothing as effective as practicing what you preach. Ask yourself if you are a good example for your children. Do you share everything you can, or are you looking at the phone or tablet every minute? Do you let the phone interrupt every conversation you have when you are together with your kids?
To be a great example for your kids, it is important that you keep up to date with what threats are trending right now. We, therefore, suggest you subscribe to our newsletter where we will keep you up to date with the development in common threats
2 Start talking to your kids early and do it regularly
A good rule of thumb is that when your kids can play a video on YouTube or download a game and play it by themselves, it is time to have a talk about how to do it safely. You, of course, have to use a language that is appropriate for their age and knowledge but it is important that they learn the basic of cybersecurity from an early age.
It is crucial that you make them feel safe, so they always know they can come to you if they have questions, or if they get into trouble, that they can go to you without risking getting into trouble. Remember that even very experienced security experts can make mistakes now and then.
3 Explain about privacy and why it matters
Surprisingly a lot of people still think the greatest risks for kids being online is that they might come across inappropriate material. But it can’t be further from the truth and it is a dangerous assumption. It is important that every parent discusses privacy with their kids. How it can be violated and how they put themselves at risk if they share their personal information online.
This includes a discussion about what kind of information can be personal information – like your address, phone number, account credentials, social security number, and discuss how somebody can exploit the information. Like if you post a vacation photo on social media, you will announce to all thieves that your house is ripe for a robbery.
4 Teach them about cybersecurity
When you feel they are old enough, begin to teach them about cybersecurity. The younger, the better, but you will, of course, have to adopt the teaching to their age level. Tell them about the most common types of hacking and social media engineering methods and how they can recognize them and most important how to avoid to fall for them.
It is also wise to discuss identity theft, what can lead to it, how you can identify it, and what to do if you fall victim to it.
It is important that you show to your children that the threats are real so that they won’t open messages from unknown sources, click on suspicious links, or download questionable programs from the Google shop.
Teach them critical thinking and that if something looks strange, it’s best to stay away from it instead of open or download it. Also tell them that if they are in doubt they should come to you and that it is better to ask too often instead of getting into trouble.
5 Use of social media and messaging
Children and in particular teenagers spend more and more time on social media and there is even a pressure from friends to be available 24/7. That’s why it is important to teach them to be smart when they share and text. Among the main points are:
- Never accept friends request from people you don’t know
- Don’t send your photo to strangers
- Take a look at the settings of the social media and set it to show as little personal information as possible
- Don’t reveal personal information when asked for it
- A lot of apps and sites give the option of using social media logins for authorization. Never use this option
You can follow up on the talk by watching your kids from a safe distance to confirm that they stick to the rules you have agreed on.
You can also ask your children to be their friends on social media they are on. You might have to promise not to embarrass them. This will let you keep an eye on who are their friends and what kind of content they share.
6 Have a talk about cyberbullying
The rise of social media has given a steep rise in the amount of cyberbullying, and it is often much easier to say hurtful things when you can hide behind a screen. It is therefore important to discuss with your children how they can recognize cyberbullies.
Also, discuss that there are several types of cyberbullying from seemingly harmless looking frapping to serious cyberstalking or catfishing. Make it clear that even “light” bullying can be very devasting in the long run and maybe even more than the more aggressive bullying.
Be aware that it often can be difficult for kids to talk about bullying whether it is online or offline. The emotions will be high, and they will feel that they are in a tricky situation; they don’t know how to change. Having an adult to interfere in this situation will often be the last thing they want, as thy most likely think it might make the situation even worse for them, because of the risk of ridicule or humiliation for letting an adult intervene.
Therefore it is important to have an open discussing regarding bullying in general and the factors that are specific for cyberbullying. Use the discussion to create trust and openness, so it will be easier for your kids to come to you the day they experience cyberbullying.
7 Create strong passwords with your kids
As soon as your kids are going to have their first account, you should discuss passwords with your kids and in particular, what makes a password strong and why it is important with strong passwords. It is important to help your kids to create strong, complex, and unique passwords so nobody can break into their account. Let’s look at the dos and don’ts of password security:
- Make it strong by never let it be shorter than eight characters and always use a combination of lower and upper case characters plus numbers and special characters.
- Never use personal information in your password as a name, address, birthday, and so on. This includes family members like the birthday of their grandparents, and the same applies to pets or friends.
- Try not to let the password resemble an actual word.
- In case you really want to use dictionary words, replace some of the characters with numbers or special characters
Let’s also look a bit into how you can keep the passwords secure:
- Ask your children to keep the passwords secret – kids love secrets, and in case they forget, to report immediately to you.
- Change the passwords regularly.
- Never use the same passwords for different accounts.
- Never write the passwords down. Unfortunately, it can be hard to memorize several strong passwords. Therefore we recommend that you use a tool like Lastpass to keep tracks of your passwords, so your kids only need to remember a master password.
8 Dig into the privacy settings
Most social media, messaging services, and email services give you the possibility of adjusting privacy settings. As soon as your children get an account, sit down with your kid and set up the privacy settings for maximal privacy.
You should also explain why you do it. Make your children understand that what they do online is private and that it is necessary to hide what you do online from prying eyes.
9 Tell them why it is very risky to use public WiFi spots
If you have teenagers, you will know that they love to hang out at malls, cafes, and other public places with public WiFi. Unfortunately, public WiFi networks are often set up with sloppy security and are a sweet spot for people with ill intentions. It is therefore important that you teach your children that they put themselves in the hands of cybercriminals if they use free WiFi spots.
They will probably not always remember this and the best precaution will be to install a VPN on their phone, tablet or computer. The VPN will protect them in case they use a public WiFi spot. You can read more about VPN and the best provideres here.
10 Give your children a VPN subscription
This is one of the best ways to protect your kids. It can’t replace the tips above but it is a great supplement. A VPN-connection will encrypt all data, hide your kids true location and make it much harder for cybercriminals to attack your kids. You can read much more about VPNs here and get help to choose the right provider
We hope this has inspired you to help your children to stay safe. Unfortunately you will have to keep updated about new threats as cybercriminals are very innovative and as one trick stops working, they will come up with new ones. We therefore suggest you sign up for our newsletter here so we can keep you up-to-date.