Cyber threats families need to watch out for

In a perfect world, children would be able to experience the internet at their own pace, free from the fear of threats and cyber criminals. Unfortunately, there is no perfect internet. Cyber criminals will try to trick younger audiences so they can access and steal personal data, potentially leading to identity or financial theft.

two adults and a child looking surprised, with open dialogue boxes, and a backdrop of arrows on bullseyes

These threats are out there and it’s important you know what they are and how to prevent them so that you can teach the children in your life and keep them cyber safe.

Here are some of the most common cyber threats to your children and family:

Social engineering

When cyber criminals do research online to learn personal information about someone and then use that information in a scam attempt, it’s called social engineering. Social engineers use pet names, school details or any personal information that they can find online to trick you into thinking they are someone you know or trust.

Make sure kids stay safe from social engineering by telling them not to overshare online, especially when it comes to personal information about their family. Have kids check with trusted adults whenever they think they encounter something suspicious online, or when someone they don’t know tries to contact them. Trusted adults should be aware of and monitor all the accounts that kids are on. This includes gaming, streaming and social media platforms.  


Phishing is one of the most common threats for Canadians when it comes to cyber security —regardless of age. It’s important for you talk to kids about phishing so they can recognize the signs and know how to protect themselves. Sometimes, phishing scams can be very specific and use information gathered from social engineering tactics.

If kids know the signs of phishing, they’ll be better prepared to recognize cyber threats. Take a moment with the kids in your life to go over what they should look out for. Make sure they know to get help from a trusted adult if something looks suspicious.

Network security

With so many devices having Wi-Fi capability, it’s extra important for families to secure their home network. Take precautions, like changing default passwords and turning off devices when they are not in use. If the network is vulnerable, personal information can be exposed to cyber criminals.

Device security  

It’s important that all the devices a family uses are secure. This even includes things like toys, gaming systems, appliances and exercise equipment. Make sure security features, like passwords, are enabled on any device that lets you. You should also be installing the latest software updates so your devices have the most recent security features. Find out how to secure a new or older device in this infographic.  


One of the biggest threats to anyone’s cyber security is malware. Malware is downloaded through links or attachments found in a variety of places online. A simple link saying “free puppies” could install a virus to your device or network. When talking to kids about malware and downloads, focus on teaching them not to click on anything that looks suspicious. Many of the practices to avoid scams like phishing also help protect from malware.


Gaming is one of the most popular online activities with kids, and cyber criminals use video games to target kids. The best way to keep the kids in your life cyber safe while gaming is by knowing what games they are playing. This allows you to better understand they type of threats that might target them, like phishing scams through private messages. Many games use a point or reward systems that cyber criminals can exploit and use to their advantage. Remind your kids that they should always go to a trusted adult with anything they find suspicious.


There are many cyber threats online, and it can be hard for families to protect themselves against them, especially the scams targeting children. Be aware of the threats your family could be exposed to and talk to the kids in your life about how they can stay safe online. You should also ensure they come to you with anything that they find suspicious or confusing online. If families follow these tips, they can all get cyber safe.

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