How (and what) to teach your kids about phishing

It’s impossible to know everything your kid is up to online! With so many apps and games geared towards children, kids of all ages are using phones, tablets and other smart devices to learn, communicate and have fun. Unfortunately, this also means cyber criminals are targeting kids with scam tactics like phishing.

a parent and older child sitting together, with fish hooks, happy faces and eye notifications

Even if you have parental controls or locks in place on your children’s devices, it’s still hard to manage every aspect of their online activity. Help your child protect themselves online by teaching them the signs of phishing, as well as what to do should they encounter them. If you do these things, you’ll help your entire family to get cyber safe.

Show them the signs and give them examples

There are several signs you might see if you’ve encountered a phishing scam. This includes misspelled words, grammar l errors, incorrect email addresses or links, and an unnecessarily urgent tone. It’s important that your child knows what to look out for to spot a phishing scam. You can even show them some examples or make a cheat sheet for them to keep nearby their device.

Many children of all ages are active online. If you have younger kids or if they are still learning to read and spell, focus on some of the more obvious visual signs. A best practice with younger children is to use devices with them, be present and participate in their online activities. You can also have them check with you whenever they encounter anything new or strange during their time online.

Teach them what to do when they encounter a phishing scam

Once you’ve shown your kids how to identify phishing scams, you can instruct them on what to do if they encounter them. For starters, tell your kids never to download anything without your permission. The same thing applies for clicking any links in emails, direct messages or pop-ups.
If they do see a possible phishing scam, they should come to you or another trusted adult right away. If you or another trusted adult isn’t available to help them, make sure they know not to take any further action. Teach them how to close and restart any apps they use and their device in case they need to.

Avoid having children enter any personal information without supervision. This could come up when creating an account for a game or online community. Teach your children to recognize when they are being asked for personal information and to always check with an adult for permission first.  

Set a good example

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery —remember that when your kids start to mimic your online activity. Even when your kids aren’t watching, you should be practicing your own strong cyber security habits. Go online with your kids and see what types of apps and websites they’re using and show them how to use them safely. This can also help you keep up to date if any scams arise targeting certain apps or games that your children use.


Strong cyber security habits are passed down and it’s important that your kids know how to get cyber safe, especially when it comes to scams like phishing. Make sure your kids know what a phishing scam is, how to spot one and what to do when they encounter one. This will have you and your kids feeling more secure online.

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