A parent’s guide to cyber safe back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school is a time for new connections – both in making new friends and, increasingly, in getting new devices.

But it’s more high-tech than it’s ever been. Many kids have traded in books and pens for tablets and laptops in preparation for going back to school.

Our need to stay cyber safe has grown with our increased use of technological devices. Here are three ways parents can help their kids become cyber secure as they go back-to-school shopping.

Know what to look for when buying a new device"a child looks at a tablet against a backdrop of smiley faces, dialogue bubbles, pencils, workbooks, update circles and stars"

One of the most important steps for staying cyber safe while device shopping is the first one: Buying devices with cyber security in mind.

Why does this matter? Smartphones have different security features. This can include variations in the operating systems used by the devices and different ways of locking the devices with a password.

The same is true for many other devices as well, from laptops to Wi-Fi routers.

For example: Some laptops come with firewall security built into the operating system that comes with the device. This is a great way to protect your computer from any other device that’s trying to access it through the internet.

(Firewall security can also be downloaded if it doesn’t come with your device but having it automatically available on your device is a great way to stay secure).

Similarly, some Wi-Fi routers offer the ability to create a guest network. This means that, rather than having to give out your main network’s password to any visitors, you can just give them the password for the guest network.

This is a simple task, but it can go a long way towards keeping your Wi-Fi secure.

Shopping for the device is one of the most exciting times for students. Start your shopping trip by thinking about cyber security, and you can have an ongoing conversion with your children about how they can stay safe after you buy the shiny new device.

Set up devices in a cyber secure way

Buying a cyber secure device is only half the battle. The other half is setting it up in a cyber secure way.

The exact approach depends on the device, but in general there are a few areas which are worth paying attention to.

The first is enabling a password or PIN, particularly on smartphones and tablets. This is the single best way to prevent someone from accessing your device.

For students – who are likely taking their devices to school where others can easily have access to them – it’s particularly important. And once their device is password-protected, make sure it is set to automatically lock after being inactive for a minute or less.

Updating operating systems is also very important. It’s probably the last thing students want to do after getting a new device. After all, there’s so much other fun stuff to look at!

That’s why parents should insist that, once the shopping is done, operating systems are set to update automatically.

Updates should happen before the device sees its first day at school, in order to protect the device from cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

Have a student who doesn’t see why they should have to devote time that could be spent on homework or even gaming to downloading updates? It’s a good opportunity to educate them on why software updates matter!

After all, software updates are about a lot more than just improving user experience. They also contain important cyber security features designed to keep your device and files safe.

Cyber criminals are always devising new ways to access your devices. That’s why software companies design these updates: To help protect your device from weaknesses that could be exploited.

But software updates can only help keep you cyber safe if you take the time to update them.

Educate your kids on cyber security

Shopping for secure devices and setting them up properly is important. But it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

There is only so much that can be done to stay protected just by focusing on devices.

It is just as important to educate your kids on what it takes to be cyber safe.

This includes teaching them to ignore phishing attempts, to always enable multi-factor authentication  on their social media (and other) accounts and to create a unique passphrase or complex password  for every account (and remind them to keep those passwords private!).

So before your kids go back to school, do what you can to educate them on what it takes to use their new devices safely.


Going back to school in a cyber safe way is one of the most important lessons a student can learn. By following the steps outlined above you can ensure your kids are educated on any devices they need for going back to school.


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