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Cybersecurity: Basic Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Consider these basic tips for keeping your kids safe online.Kids of all ages tap into cyberspace on a daily basis, whether it be for school research, to play games, or connect with friends. While this is standard practice for youngsters today, for parents, this continues to create just another level of worry. There are many real risks involved when surfing the web, and without education, it's easy for kids to run right into traps. 

As a parent, how can you keep your kids protected from the many traps that await users in cyberspace? Consider these basic tips for keeping your kids safe online.

Teach them about cybersecurity early on

It's easy for children to see the benefits of the internet, but an understanding of phishing, viruses, and even online communication etiquette are all things that they must be taught. While their teachers at school may go over certain aspects of internet safety measures, you can help set your kids off on the right foot with teaching a few lessons about cybersecurity at home. When your kids are young and still use the internet with your help or supervision, and these are great moments to start the conversation about cybersecurity include how to create secure passwords, how to identify secure websites, and other web-browsing safety basics. 

Compare basic aspects of cybersecurity to real-life safety

Many basic ways of staying safe online mirror various practices for how we keep ourselves safe out in the real world. Consider these points:

  • Be mindful of your words and actions: In real life, you teach your children to be cognizant of what they say and do as not to hurt someone else's feelings or put oneself in harm's way. However, the internet isn't always so forgiving. Explain to your kids that once you post something online, it can remain in cyberspace indefinitely without the opportunity to take it back. It could even come back to haunt you down the road when looking for a job or applying to college.
  • Careful with strangers: You tell your kids to be wary of strangers in the real world, and the same must be said about strangers in cyberspace. Tell your children to not engage in contact with strangers online, accept things from strangers, or plan to meet in real life with an unknown person they met online.
  • Watch out for scams: As your kids grow older, they'll start learning about purchases, how to shop for good deals and spot apparent scams. The same rule applies to the internet but beyond just shopping. Talk to your kids about information phishing, secure checkouts when making purchases online, and other potential scams that they could run into online.
  • If you see something dangerous, say something: If your child sees something dangerous happening, you've told them to tell an adult. On the internet, if they notice something strange or potentially dangerous happening on any sites they visit, ask that they tell you or another trusted adult. This will give you an opportunity to see what the potential problem is and help your kids avoid falling into traps. It may also tell you that you need to set your web security settings higher.

Restrict access to risky sites

When your kids are surfing the web under your direct supervision, you are right there to see what they see. When you can't be there, set up parameters around your children's access to certain websites that you would deem as inappropriate or risky for them to use. Many popular internet browsers allow you to do this. Even Google offers a SafeSearch tool that makes searching the internet kid-friendlier.

Encourage moderation

This tip might not fall into cybersecurity, but it's still important. Help to encourage moderate internet usage in your kids by limiting their access to it. Screen time and internet usage not related to schoolwork can be restricted to only specific times like on the weekend or after their homework is finished. This could help to instill healthy habits in your kids when it comes to using technology. Be a good model of this behavior too, as kids learn well by observation.

Teaching kids about cybersecurity will be an ongoing practice, as the web is constantly transforming as are the potential security pitfalls that come with it. Keep yourself up-to-date on simple practices that can increase your security on the web. And as your kids grow older and become web experts themselves, maybe they will be the ones teaching you about the latest in cybersecurity.