Kids and families are spending more time online than ever before. The internet can be a truly valuable resource for kids, as it provides educational material, fun games, and ways to connect with friends. However, it can also be a playground for things like cyberbullying, malicious content, and bad actors who seek to prey on kids and their families for things such as identity theft, criminal activity, and more.
So just like wearing bike helmets and seatbelts, we need to practice good cyber hygiene skills when we’re online to ensure we stay protected.
Steps Kids Can Take When Going Online
Parents, guardians, and teachers, here are some tips you can share with kids and students to ensure they stay safe:
- Protecting Personal Information: First, it’s really important to keep your personal information safe. Never share your name, your address, phone numbers, where you go to school, passwords, or any pictures without your parent’s or guardian’s permission. Once information’s out on the internet, it can be really hard to remove it, and anybody can see it. Keep in mind; you may not really know who you’re communicating with online. You may think you’re just talking to another kid, but in reality, it could actually be an adult who is posing to be a kid. So you should never meet up in person with someone you’ve met online.
- Be Cautious of What Websites you are Using: Be careful when going to various websites. Some may try to get you to go to these sites by offering free games, free music, and other free stuff. But sometimes, these sites have malware. They can look to steal your information from your device or even turn on your camera without your knowledge!
- Don’t Open Suspect Links or Attachments: Similarly, don’t open suspect links or unexpected email attachments because they too can contain malware and other malicious content. You can take Fortinet’s NSE 1 & 2 trainings to learn more about what makes a link or attachment suspicious.
- Keep Devices Updated: Make sure you keep your devices up to date with the latest software and security patches and follow good security practices, such as using strong passwords that are hard to guess.
- Lastly, don’t post or respond to hurtful posts online. It’s important that we all be good neighbors online. And if you do see something that makes you upset or uncomfortable, then talk to your parents or other trusted adult.
Consider the Following Tips When Kids are Online
As a mother of two young kids myself, I know the importance of keeping kids safe wherever they go, including online. Here are some things parents can do to ensure the safety of their kids.
First, talk to kids about your expectations for them online. Consider setting boundaries that may include rules about how long they’re allowed to be on the computer, what sites they’re allowed to visit, what software programs they can use, what tasks or activities they’re allowed to do based upon age appropriateness, knowledge, and maturity.
Cyber hygiene doesn’t stop here, keep computers in an open area like the living room or kitchen so you can see certain behaviors that you could intervene before something bad happens.
Many internet service providers offer parental controls, sometimes for free, specifically designed to protect kids online, restricting access to websites and communication features, such as email, chat, and instant messaging by age, content, time limits, and other categories for students. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) to see if any of these services are available.
In addition, you may be able to set some parental controls within your web browsers. Some browsers allow you to restrict or allow only certain websites to be viewed on your computer, and you can protect these settings with a password.
While no technology is foolproof, there are also commercial software applications available that you can install to add an additional layer of protection by monitoring, filtering, and restricting access to dangerous content.
It’s important that you know what your child is doing on the computer, including which websites they’re visiting. If they’re using email, instant message, or chat rooms, make sure you have a sense of who they’re communicating with and that your child actually knows the people they’re talking to, and be sure to prioritize privacy.
Check their privacy settings on social media sites to prevent strangers from accessing personal information. These settings may not always be set up properly by default.
You should talk to your family about being cautious of fake and malicious websites and potential scams like fake emails. Make it clear that no one should click on any suspect links or open any unexpected email attachments.
And finally, have the conversation with your kids that if it sees something on a website, in an email, or in a chat room that doesn’t seem right or makes them uncomfortable, that they can come to you with their questions and concerns.
As part of Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and my continued commitment to educating kids on cyber hygiene best practices, I co-wrote “Cyber Safe: A Dog’s Guide to Internet Security,” a book written to educate our youth about internet safety.
Learn more about this book and see how it can help young kids stay safe online.
Find out more about how Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and NSE Training Institute programs, including the Certification Program, Security Academy Program and Veterans Program, are helping to solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.