Online security is the practice of protecting our data and devices. Just like we lock the door when we leave our house to prevent unwanted people from entering, we should lock our digital vaults to protect our online lives from various threats and keep the key safe.
Regularly talking about online security helps your whole family learn how to stay safe. Teach your child that not everything and everyone is as they seem online – a common method of stealing information is to pretend to be someone the victim trusts. So, it’s important to never give out sensitive information such as our name, address, social security number and passwords to people we’re not sure we know.
The stronger your child’s passwords, the more protected their information will be. Use passphrases instead of passwords which are at least 15 characters long, made up of three random words with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols such as “&Cherry!Duck0Butterfly”. Changing them every six months adds an extra layer of security. You can also use the password managers that are built into many online browsers to make randomized passwords that are hard to guess. Talk with your child about why they should keep passwords private and let them know that they can always come to you for help.
Another common online threat is people or content – such as fake commercials, fake websites, fake emails and pop-ups – pretending to be something they’re not to gain our trust and persuade us to allow them access to our digital devices and assets. It can be hard enough to spot these fraudsters as an adult, but it’s even harder for children, which is why it’s important to have regular conversations about what we’re doing on our devices.
Some simple strategies to stay secure online can be to delete and block suspicious messages, and to keep software updated on phones, tablets and other devices. This means if we do happen to install something bad, it most likely won’t be able to work on our devices. Remind your child they can ask you for help if they’re in doubt. Remember, two sets of eyes are better than one.
Even people we meet online that seem friendly, or websites/apps that look safe, may not be. Before sharing anything, encourage your child to think: “Do I know the person in real life? Would I trust them to take care of my favorite toy? Is the app/website made for kids?” If the answer is no or they are unsure, then it’s best they check first with a trusted grown-up.
When your child gets a new smartphone or tablet, activate the password/passcode protection right away. This will help protect their personal information and stop it getting into the wrong hands.
Most of us will accidentally click a link in a scam email at some point but what’s important is that your child knows that they can come to you for support if it happens. If it’s our password that is compromised, we should log out of all devices attached to the account immediately and set up a strong new password; and remember that you can always consult online search engines for help and guidance.
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