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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, Online Learning Tips
Note: This article was originally published on InCyberDefense.
For anyone who has children, teaching cybersecurity should be a primary concern. In today’s world, children are constantly exposed to desktop computers, laptops and smartphones at school and at home. In fact, over 45% of U.S. children ages 10 to 12 own a smartphone, according to a December 2017 CNN article.
All of these electronic products serve various purposes. For example, they may be used as electronic babysitters to entertain children while their parents do housework or run errands. Similarly, smartphone calls and texts are a useful way for parents and children to stay in contact with each another.
Electronic Devices Pose Cybersecurity Risks for Children
This exposure to electronic devices and the Internet comes at a high security cost. For example, game apps that tempt children to download them to their smartphones could be malware in disguise.
Also, smartphone software commonly tracks the owner’s location, especially with apps such as Waze and search engines like Google. A hacker with sufficient skills could use that information to locate your child. Similarly, a stranger who connects with your child on Facebook or Twitter could be a predator intent on involving your child in a criminal act.
In today’s Internet of Things world, children and teenagers definitely need to become adept with computers and mobile devices. But what is the best way to make sure they also avoid the many cyber hazards of the Internet? Even tech-savvy teens can be vulnerable to cons from hackers or predators.
Teaching Cybersecurity to Children Starts at Home
Teaching cybersecurity to your children starts with a long chat about being responsible and smart. Kerry Matre of Hewlett Packard Enterprises also recommends that you encourage children to verify with you if something doesn’t seem right and to realize that their identity is sacred.
Due to online predators, children need to be wary about what personal information they reveal online, especially personal data like their name, age and location. Even an online photo of your child could be a hazard if he or she is wearing a T-shirt with the logo of his or her school; that school could be easily tracked down by a predator.
Make sure your kids know that any information or images they post on the Internet have the potential to stay on the Internet forever, even after they’ve been deleted. That includes Twitter tweets, Facebook posts and Snapchat images captured by a screenshot.
Parents who are thinking about giving their children smartphones should first gauge the child’s maturity level and cyber knowledge. Take the time to turn the gift of a smartphone into a cyber education experience. Teach that child how to create a strong password, how to refuse requests for inappropriate images and how to block unwanted, unknown people.
Also, use the parental controls on the smartphone. The parental controls will prevent a child from downloading a potentially dangerous app without your knowledge.
The National Cyber Security Alliance’s online site StaySafeOnline has multiple resources for everyone, including kids, teenagers and older adults.
Take the time to teach proper cybersecurity techniques to your children. By helping them to become cyber-smart, they will be less likely to encounter cybersecurity problems in the future.