As a parent of two tech-savvy children – one in their teens and one in their tweens – I’m lucky to live with the knowledge that my kids are careful with their personal information online. For some parents, this can be a major source of worry.
While the majority of young people are pretty clued up about keeping their personal information secure, reports show some children as young as eight are sharing personal details, like their surname, home address and phone number, on open social media accounts. This is despite most social media channels putting measures in place to restrict access to users aged 13 and over.
When I first let my kids have their own smartphones, teaching them to be smart and safe online was at the front of my mind. And I know I’m not alone. We know that we should be talking to our children about online safety, but we don’t always know how – or what advice we should be giving to our savvy digital natives.
Here are some of the ways I help my kids protect their personal information online and on their devices.
A private conversation
I have regular conversations with my children about exactly what personal information is and the importance of keeping it private. The majority of kids are likely to be aware that sharing things like their passwords and bank details online isn’t a good idea, but do they realise the implications of publicly sharing more innocuous details, like their current location or school name? By working together with my kids, we keep their personal details limited to family and friends only.
Lock it down
These days, smart devices come with plenty of security features, like passcodes and automatic locking timers, so they’re protected even while they’re switched on. To tell the truth, it’s often my kids showing me how these features work, rather than the other way around! But it’s still important for children and their parents to know all about the protections built into their devices, including biometric scanning (such as fingerprints or even facial recognition) for next level security. It’s worth teaching kids from a young age not to share passwords with others or across different sites and accounts. You could look together at setting up a password vault, and get them in the habit of using passphrases so they’re hard to guess but easy to remember.
Double up defence
All the devices in our family have two-factor authentication set up for an extra layer of security. That means if someone tries to access my kids’ private channels – like their email account or app store – from an unrecognised source, a notification or passcode will be sent to their phone number to help them control unwanted access.
Check updates available
Device and online security settings are constantly being updated to keep personal information as secure as possible. As a family, we set aside some time every few months to review our privacy settings and see if there are any new developments we can take advantage of to stay better protected.
Outsmart the scammers
If something sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is. This has become a bit of a mantra in our household, especially when it comes to online security. I make an effort to remind my children that any emails, posts, texts or tweets promising the world probably shouldn’t be trusted. Communication containing suspicious links, or unknown senders, shouldn’t be clicked on. Instead, they should delete it immediately.
I also discourage my kids from visiting or downloading from unsecured sites or untrusted sources, where spyware (tracking software installed on a computer without the owner’s knowledge) and viruses could be embedded into the content.
More cyber safety articles for parents:
- The guide to eParenting
- How to counter child cyberbullying
- How to protect kids from inappropriate content online
- How to keep your kids’ digital footprint clean
- How to manage kids’ screen time
- My first mobile agreement