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Cyber security for kids: How parents can talk with their children

June 12, 2020

There’s so much that kids don’t know about the world, or could have the wrong information about. 

You know that, as your child’s first teacher, you have a lot of ground to cover to educate your kids about real world issues. But it’s important not to forget one issue that impacts many parts of their lives: cyber security.

Kids who don’t know how to keep themselves cyber secure are vulnerable to losing their information, their identity, and their money.

Here’s how you, as a parent, can have “the talk” with your kids about cyber security.

Let them know what’s at stake

The first thing kids need to know about cyber security is that the threat is real. There are cyber criminals who want to steal from anyone, even a kid.
In general, staying cyber secure revolves around the following three areas:

  • Threats to information: Cyber criminals are pros at using a variety of tactics to steal sensitive information, like account passwords.
  • Threats to identity: You and your kids need to keep your personal information safe, but it’s difficult to do that if your kids post personal details online.
  • Threats to finances: Cyber criminals use many ways  to steal your money. That may not matter much to a kid, but it may have to come out of your pocket. It’s also a lesson that should be taught at an early age so that they don’t fall for scams later in life.

Many kids have never had to consider these threats before. By educating them on why cyber security matters, kids are more likely to take steps to protect themselves.

Let them know the threats

Cyber criminals have a variety of tactics in their toolkits to carry out their attacks. Knowing the most common threats is one of the best ways your kids can protect themselves from them. You should talk to them about what’s at stake when they’re online and how cyber criminals are likely to target them.

One of the biggest risks is social media, and  kids – heavy users of social media – are particularly vulnerable if they don’t know what to watch out for.

  • Social engineering: You kids may post pictures of their pets, their recent activities, or their friends. But are they revealing too much info? Cyber criminals can take that information and make up a scam that sounds amazing, urgent, or very personalized, based on what your kids have shared online (something like “click here to see the pics of my new puppy”, or “you’ve won a gift card to your favourite store, click here”, or “see  what you missed by opening this link”.  Social engineering is all about emotions, and kids need to know how to spot the scams that target their emotions.
  •  Phishing: It’s common to see threats, scams and tricks online based on world events. And kids will be exposed to these, just like adults, often through phishing attempts. Phishers try to trick users in to giving up personal information. Maybe they’ll be asked to log in to an account to get easy money, or be threatened with having their accounts closed if they don’t confirm their identities. Phishers often use trusted well-known brands that kids are familiar with.  Kids need to ask themselves if what they are being asked makes sense coming from their favourite social media platform or gaming store.

Many times, for social engineering and phishing, the offers sound too good to be true, but looks so real. But if you can teach your kids about these threats, you can help them avoid becoming victims.

Let them know how to stay safe

There’s no silver bullet for staying cyber secure. But, through a combination of different measures, you can significantly decrease the risk of your kids becoming victims of cyber attacks.

Here’s are some best practices that you can use today to keep your kids cyber secure.

  • Create a strong passphrase: A passphrase, as opposed to a password, is the best way to keep accounts, like social media accounts, secure. Without a strong passphrase, cyber criminals may be able to easily guess a password and hack into an account. Cyber criminals can guess at what passwords your kids have used, based on the information they’ve shared.

Passwords and passphrases should never use the same info your kids have posted online (like using a pet’s name as a password).

  • Use multi-factor authentication: Passphrases are great, but it’s always better to use multiple ways to protect accounts. Multi-factor authentication adds another layer of security so that if cyber criminals can guess passphrases or passwords, they still need another piece of information to get into the account. Again, this is particularly important on social media. Most social media platforms have multi-factor authentication features available in the account settings.
  • Enable software updates: Software updates and patches aren’t just for getting new features. They also fix weaknesses or security vulnerabilities. Your kids might ignore update notifications so remind them to run updates regularly.
  • Think twice: If your kids are aware and think twice before reacting with their emotions while they’re online, they will be safer and will be protecting their information, their identity and their money.

Conclusion

There are lots of areas that parents need to educate your kids on. But don’t forget about cyber security!

It’s one of the most essential lessons a parent can impart to keep their kids safe.

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