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Managing the online presence of your children can be challenging. Many kids quickly become fascinated with devices like tablets and use them to play games or watch videos. These activities can be beneficial for helping them learn new concepts and keeping them occupied throughout the day, but there’s some degree of risk, too.
It’s useful to teach children about how to be positive and understanding online.
For example, the recommendation algorithms and auto-playing features of YouTube can quickly send any viewer down a rabbit hole of potentially risky content. Similarly, it’s possible for kids to become entangled in heated online debates or be taken advantage of by phishing campaigns.
With these pitfalls in mind, Google recently revealed its “Be Internet Awesome” campaign and its related Interland game designed to help children stay safe online. These solutions help advance some of the most reliable advice for keeping common cybersecurity threats at bay, including but not limited to:
Creating strong and unique passwords
Password management is particularly important to a family’s online safety, since it helps prevent kids from performing unauthorized changes to an account, making purchases or accessing gated content. Be sure to set a strong password and/or confirmation PIN for any account that allows it, from your Amazon account (to prevent inadvertent Alexa-enabled shopping) to the parental setting on a phone or tablet. Use a mix of character types while avoiding birthdays and names. Turning memorable phrases into acronyms or character equivalents is often a good strategy, e.g. substituting a “3” for an “e” or a “+” for a “t.” Configure two-factor authentication if appropriate, too.
Recognizing and avoiding online scams
Phishing is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to start a cyberattack. Someone sends an email, text or other communication that seems legitimate but is actually a scam designed to get the target to click on a link or supply revealing information. At least 1% of all emails are attempts at phishing, which doesn’t sound like much but can translate into five or more risky emails each week for the average person. It’s important to teach kids to be skeptical of emails saying they’ve won a prize or will be receiving something for free. Mark any such communications as spam so that they don’t slip into the inbox in the future.
Being careful about what gets shared online and with whom
Google’s initiative offers the useful advice of treating online communications like in-person equivalents. In other words, if you wouldn’t say something to the person next to you, consider doing the same online. Website commenting sections as well as messaging apps are both forums in which it’s easy for tempers to get out of control since distance seems to lower the consequences for making more extreme remarks. It’s useful to teach children about how to be positive and understanding online. Plus, they should know what is and isn’t safe to share. While they might make a comment on something or message with a friend, they should avoid sharing details such as passwords and Social Security numbers.
What else can you do to improve your family’s safety online?
Google’s Be Internet Awesome guidance and Interland game are just two possible tools for promoting online safety to your family. Implementing cybersecurity software across all of your devices, keeping all applications and operating systems up-to-date and reviewing your social media accounts are all good starting places. Our regularly updated security blog and tip of the day series can also provide concise advice for staying safe, so be sure to visit them, too.