As parents, we are most concerned about the effect of the online world on our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Children are susceptible to information security threats that can cause financial harm. These are the exact same threats that adults face: malware and viruses, phishing scams, and identity theft.
The issue is children are far less experienced and are generally far more trusting than us cynical adults. To kids, sharing their personal details, like their full name or where they live, may not seem like such a big deal. They may even be tricked by a malicious third party into sharing your credit card details.
There are a number of ways that hackers and thieves can get information out of children. Free downloadable games, movies, or even ringtones that market themselves to children can place viruses onto your computer and steal your information.
Hackers posing as legitimate companies like Google send emails purporting to ask for your child’s password. Or, they may pose as one of your children’s friends.
What should you communicate to your child?
- Have a discussion with your kids about the big threats online today. Make sure they know what a phishing attack and a disreputable games website looks like, so they know not to fall for these scams.
- Make sure they keep all of their information private and that they never publish their full name, phone number, address, or school they attend in a public place.
- Talk to your kids about passwords. Having a strong password is the first and best measure to prevent hacking and identity theft. Using a secure password generator like the one we created is great for this occasion, and trying out passwords together is a fun way of ensuring your child’s password is as strong as possible.
- Tell your kids to avoid using public wifi – this is an easy way for hackers to get into their devices.
What you can do to create a safe environment:
- Install a strong antivirus program on your home computer and the devices of all family members.
- Think about installing a VPN on your computer. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your connection and anonymizes your web browsing. This makes it far harder for hackers to access and steal your private information.
- If you and your kids use a lot of different devices around the house, consider installing a VPN on your router. That way, all internet traffic that goes through the router will be protected, without having to install the VPN on every device.
- Install an ad blocker so your children won’t have to face deceptive advertising that encourages them to download malicious programs onto your computer.
- If your kids have smartphones, make sure that their security settings are set to maximum.