Middle School Kit: A Broader World of Cybersecurity Protection
A guide for parents and children.
It can be a full-time job for any parent to be constantly aware of everything that their children are doing online. Kids these days may seem pretty sharp with technology and the Internet, however, we forget that they’re still learning (and so are we) and may not always be prepared to spot the risks and pitfalls of being constantly connected.
In this two-part article, we’ve put together some tips for you as a parent to ensure that your children are safe on the Internet, and some basic cyber security tips that you can share with your children. The best way to fight cybercriminals is through education, and that can start at any age.
A Guide For Parents:
How much screen time is too much?
The Internet can become a huge time suck when using it for recreational purposes. It’s easy to get caught up in online games, YouTube videos and chatting with friends. But remember, there is a world outside of the Internet, so try to balance your child’s time between the two accordingly. Only to allow your child to access the Internet (outside of homework purposes) for a limited, set time each day.
Social Media, What is the right age?
If your child wants to join a social media site, choose sites that are appropriate for their age. Many social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have an age limit of 13 and older. It’s a good idea to have access to their account credentials so you can supervise what they’re doing, such as adding new friends, receiving suspicious messages or posting questionable content.
Monitoring your kids’ online activity.
The computer should be in a common area of your home. That way, you can keep an eye on your child, removing the temptation to visit websites or perform activities they are not allowed to do normally. Another way to add an extra layer of safety, since parents don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, is to sign up for a free Norton Family account. It will notify you when your child registers for a social media account from their computer, along with what name and age they use on their profile. For more control over what your child does online, you can upgrade to a Norton Family Premier account, which will give you insights into your child’s Android mobile device activities as well. It will even allow you to choose which apps your children can use—including the ability to turn off access to Facebook or YouTube.
A Guide For Kids:
Do not give personal information to strangers online.
Personal information is anything about you. Your full name, where you live, your school’s name, your parent’s names, your home address and phone number. These things can help a stranger on the Internet find you, so be very careful as to whom you give this information to. Do not give it to anyone you have not met in real life, and if you share that information on social media sites, be sure to check the privacy settings on the site to make sure that information in not viewable by the public.
Make online accounts safe and use strong passwords.
A strong password is a password that is no less than eight characters, and should not use words that can be found in a dictionary, as that makes it easier for hackers using computer programs to guess your password. They should contain a mixture of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters. Don’t reuse the same password on every site you visit.
When creating an account to join a website, be sure to create a username that protects your personal information. Don’t use your full name as the username, as that is part of personal information that strangers can use to find out more about you by doing a simple Internet search.
Social Media Netiquette.
What you post online will stay there forever, even if you delete it. Colleges and future potential employers will check out social media profiles of applicants, so make sure that what you post online is appropriate, and check your security settings to be sure that everything you post can only be seen by your friends. If you don’t know how to do that, you can ask an adult for help. Beware of “catfishing.” Catfishing is when a user sets up a profile and pretends to be someone they’re not. You may think you’re talking to a kid your age, but it could be anyone behind your computer screen. Use caution when someone you don’t know approaches you on social media, and if something about it makes you feel uncomfortable, you should notify a parent or teacher as soon as possible.
Cyberbullying is similar to bullying in real life except that it takes place via electronic devices. This can be a mean text message, rumors spread on social media sites, and even posting personal information about you online. If you come across a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or bad, do not reply to the sender. Instead, notify a parent or teacher about the hurtful messages. Adults take Cyberbullying seriously, and there can be consequences for the bully, such as being suspended from school or getting disciplined by their parents.
App Security 101
Just because an app is in the Google Play Store doesn’t mean that it is a safe app. Scammers are constantly trying to trick people into downloading apps that look just like a real app in order to try to get the data that is on your phone. You can check if an app is real by reading the comments on the download page. If you still can’t tell, ask an adult to help you choose the right app before downloading it.
Have children in other grades? Check out the rest of our back to school series:
Grade School Cyber Security Kit: Online Safety 101
High School Kit: More Independence Online
College Kit: How To Keep Devices Secure and Information Safe