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5 ways to help your kids stay safe online

The pandemic has put school in the bedroom, study, kitchen, backyard and lounge. Parents and students are figuring out how to juggle home working and full-time schooling from within the confines of the home and, let's face it, it's hard. Schedules clash, internets crash, time is in short supply and the learning curve is steep. But, there's more. As online learning becomes more prevalent and children become more active online, there are risks. Cyber bulling, hacking, phishing, credential theft - these are all risks that come hand in hand with any login, virtual conference or platform. Parents, stop. This does not have to be another thing to worry about.
Image source: Getty Images
Image source: Getty Images

“While it is incredibly important to be aware of the threats and to have systems in place to protect your kids and your online life, it isn’t rocket science,” says Anna Collard, CEO, Popcorn Training, a subsidiary of KnowBe4. “A secure and safe online life can be established following basic steps and by being aware of the dangers.”

Follow these steps to transform yourself and your children into online security guards.

#1. Educate yourself

Did you know that you can hover over a link to see if it’s legit? Sometimes cybercriminals will send you fake links to well-known virtual conferencing platforms that ask you to sign in. This is a form of phishing that results in stolen credentials that can be used to hack into your accounts – especially if you use the same password for multiple sites.

The most important security risks you need to know about are:

  • Phishing – where cybercriminals use emotion and clever tricks to con you into sharing your login credentials with fake sites or trick you into opening up an infected attachment.
  • Cyber bullying – where other children or adults attack people online. This can have serious emotional and mental consequences.
  • Hacking – gaining access to systems and accounts and using the information to steal money, identities and data.
  • Malware – risky software that can lock your computer (ransomware), destroy your system (virus) and so much more. Don’t click on links or images from people you don’t know or in emails that look strange or you haven’t expected.

“Malware, stealing logins, information harvesting or extorting money are all genuine cyber risks,” says Collard. “Teach your kids about these risks and help them to understand how they work. The amount of information you share will depend on the age of your child, but it’s important that they understand the basics.”

#2. Get digitally savvy

Look after your digital identity. Your password is the last, great defence between your information and the cybercriminal. Do you really want to risk your money, information, child’s information and identity by using the password ‘12345’? Lots of people do.

Use a really good password that consists of up to 12 letters by using a phrase or a line of a song and then don’t use it across multiple accounts. One password per account. To make this easier, invest in a reliable password manager that will help you create and manage your logins. Then you only have to memorize one really strong password, and the password manager takes care of all your other ones.

#3. Use multi-factor authentication

This is combining your password with something that you own, such as a one-time password app on your phone. Most sites such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram support this. You may think that younger kids won’t really understand this, but children are remarkably resilient and capable. If you can instil strong security skills into your kids at a young age, you’ll have set them up for a secure life. Show them how multi-factor authentication works, use it yourself and apply it wherever you can.

#4. Set up parental controls

Parental controls on home devices like your computers, mobile phones and tablets as well as gaming consoles help parents protect children from inappropriate content, such as pornography or other adult content. Parental controls can also be set on Google, YouTube and enforced via dedicated apps that allow parents to monitor activity, ensure children access only age-appropriate content and set usage times.

#5. Create a family online contract

It’s hard for kids to sometimes share things that have happened to them online. It’s equally difficult for parents to keep track of everything their children are doing online. To combat this, create a digital contract that allows for you to build trust and openly share concerns. This contract could include information like:

  • Never meet anyone you met online in real life IRL without parental permission
  • Don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t share with your gran
  • Talk about anything that happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re safe
  • The Dos and Don’ts of online security and etiquette
  • The signs of cyberbullying
  • The rules of online behaviour
  • No go zones (dark web, torrent sites etc)
  • The risks of navigating cyberspace and how to protect against them

“Parents are guardians of children’s safety and it’s hard to be eternally vigilant online,” concludes Collard. “If you work together to create and stick to a digital contract, then you’re building trust and a safety net for one another. Let the kids choose the rules too – they often know things parents don’t – and make cybersecurity a part of your everyday life.”

SOURCE is a South African government news service, published by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). (formerly BuaNews) was established to provide quick and easy access to articles and feature stories aimed at keeping the public informed about the implementation of government mandates.

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