With a wide array of fun games and educational material just one click away, it’s clear why the Internet has become such an important resource in every child’s life. Unfortunately, cyber criminals are aware of this and often target children for their own gain.
Held every October, this year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month theme ‘Own it. Secure It. and Protect It’ has several lessons that can be incorporated into children’s Internet usage to ensure they are safe, maintain their privacy and online-device security.
Many aspects of a child’s life, including school and communicating with friends, are dependent on devices that are connected to the Internet. While these devices do offer opportunities for children’s development, they also put them at risk of being compromised by cyber criminals. With that in mind, it is important to make sure children fully understand their digital profile, as well as the devices and applications they use daily.
The Importance of Privacy Online
When discussing online security with children, start by explaining the role that keeping information private plays in strengthening their online security so as to keep them and your family’s data safe. With many online activities requiring personally identifiable information (PII) such as your name and date of birth, your children must know where and when they should post this type of information. For older children, this extends to banking information as well. While it may seem obvious, it’s crucial that your child understands that he/she should never share their account details with anyone online, outside of official and verified representatives.
Create Online Guidelines
You cannot always control what children do online, however, establishing a set of rules to follow will help to protect them. Having specific lists of websites and applications children can use allows parents to determine how they use the Internet, guaranteeing their safety. The same principles can be applied to social media, as parents can create guidelines for what is acceptable to share, and who their children can connect with.
While teaching children to understand their digital profiles goes a long way in ensuring they are safe online, it does not always guarantee their security. Learning the security features that are built into the websites and applications children use, as well as applying additional security layers to their devices will make it more difficult for cyber criminals to breach their profiles.
Defend Against Cyber Threats
As most people know, personal devices and online accounts have become prime targets for cyber criminals looking to steal personal information. For this reason, it is of paramount importance that parents make sure their own devices, and their child’s devices, are secure.
For online accounts, security starts with using a strong password. Some best practices to follow include making a new password for every account, as well as avoiding the use of common phrases.
With regards to device security, a significant threat stems from the network the child is connected to. Cyber criminals often use unsecure networks, such as public WiFi, as a way to gain access to devices that are connected to it. When using public WiFi, confirm the network name and exact login credentials with the appropriate staff before logging in.
Protecting childern online encompasses aspects of both owning and securing their Internet usage. Ultimately, maintaining an understanding of what children do online, as well as making sure they are secure, culminate in online safety.
Even when children’s online accounts and devices are secure, it is still important to monitor their online activity to make sure they are not overstepping into areas that could put them at risk. One suggestion is to keep the computer in a public area. This allows parents to easily intervene if they see their child misusing online resources.
Parents of older kids should be careful to monitor that online purchases are made from secure sites. Furthermore, recent threat research from FortiGuard Labs shows that e-commerce platforms have been under increased attack and that there has been an increase in card skimming scams to steal financial data.
With the Internet becoming a mainstay in every child’s life, protecting them online has become a necessity for all parents. Cyber Security Awareness Month explores the themes of securing and protecting your online identity in great detail. Parents can join the in-depth discussions on different cybersecurity threats and learn cybersecurity best practices, making this a great resource for any parent looking to protect their child online.
— Renee Tarun is vice-president of information security at Fortinet.
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