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Key cyber security topics that kids need to know about

You may have grown up with some technology, but kids today are growing up right in the thick of it. Kids are surrounded by technology like touch screens and streaming services, and they seem to know everything there is to know about the latest online trends and topics (which might be why they’re better at resetting the router than you are).

They’re often so involved in technology that they’re basically tiny cyborgs – but even cyborgs need cyber security lessons every now and then. While kids may seem like masters at using tech, there’s still a lot that they don’t know when it comes to staying safe online.

Here are some key cyber security topics that kids need to know about.

How to spot a phishing scam

Phishing is a common tactic used by cyber criminals to steal personal or financial information by pretending to be someone they’re not (such as a friend, government department or co-worker). Phishing attacks often take the form of emails, phone calls and text messages. They may also appear in online game chats and forums and on social media. Kids probably have access to one (or all) of these communication methods, making phishing an important topic to discuss.

Some of the most common signs of phishing, such as typos, pixelated images or suspicious language, may be harder for younger kids to identify. This is especially true when the messages seem to be coming from a familiar source. This could include a cyber criminal pretending to be from the streaming service that they use, an app that they play on or a friend on social media.

Because of this, we recommend telling kids to avoid clicking on links or downloads before you’ve verified them. Make sure that you have regular conversations about phishing, so they are aware of some of the most common scams that cyber criminals use. These include things like winning a contest they never entered, threatening to close an account or a message that seems to be from someone they know. Talking about these examples can help kids know what signs to look out for.

How to secure their accounts and login information

A strong and unique password or passphrase is your kid’s first line of defense in protecting their accounts. A breach could result in serious consequences like identity theft. If your payment information is linked to any of their accounts, it could also lead to financial loss for you.

To create a strong passphrase, we recommend using at least 15 characters that include a combination of four or more random words. This could be a fun activity for kids to do. Simply suggest making a passphrase by choosing four random items in the room they are in.

To create a strong password, we recommend using at least 12 characters that include numbers, symbols and a combination of upper- and lower-case letters. Remind them not to use any common passwords, like any variation on the word “password”.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you’re encouraging kids not to include references to personal information like their pet’s name or their own name.

Make sure they’re using a unique password for each of their accounts. If you have trouble keeping track of your kid’s passwords, you can use a password manager to organize them.

You should also encourage kids to enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all their accounts whenever it is available. It adds an extra step to the login process and an extra layer of security to their accounts and devices. That way, if a cyber criminal ever gets their password, there’s another defence in place to stop them.

How to browse the web safely

Kids are spending lots of time online these days, so it’s important that they’re staying safe while they’re scrolling. One of the easiest ways to ensure this is to use parental controls on your child’s device, especially when it comes to downloads. Make sure the kids in your care get permission from you before downloading anything online - if it’s from the official app store on their device. You should always try to download directly from the vendor or use an official website whenever possible to make sure the application is legitimate.

The same rule should apply to random links that a child may receive, as these are often phishing scams. Some links that seem innocent could actually include harmful cookies. Cookies are tiny files that get stored on your computer when you visit a website that monitors information. Though not all cookies are harmful, threat actors can use cookies to track and compromise personal information.

You should also ensure that your child is using a virtual private network (VPN) on their device when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Make sure they know public Wi-Fi isn’t as safe as your secured home network. Many cyber criminals will set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots to get people to connect to their networks so they can infiltrate their devices. Using a VPN will encrypt your information to prevent cyber criminals from stealing it.

Conclusion

You may be thinking: “It’s already hard enough to get a kid to unload the dishwasher, how can I get them to be more cyber secure?” Kids may be resistant to learning about cyber security at first. But you can encourage them to be more cyber secure over the long-term by letting them know what’s at stake if they don’t. They could be victims of identity theft or financial loss, which could lead to things like losing in-game progress or in-app purchases or losing access to an app that they use regularly.

By teaching your kids about phishing scams, protecting their accounts and how to safely browse the internet, you can ensure they’re getting cyber safe and protecting themselves from some of the most common cyber threats.

 

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