As the summer is quickly passing by, many parents are facing the challenge of sending their children to college for the first time or back to college for another year of studies. There are numerous things parents worry about when their children are away from home, from their academic performance to their health and physical safety. Another area of concern is their digital information safety. Are your kids prepared to make smart decisions regarding their digital lives, and ensure that their identities are protected online? Here’s how to help them get started.
Talk about Digital Safety
Many parents assume that since their children grew up using social media and a range of devices, that they know everything about safety. But teens often lack the life experience to make the right decisions about their data. Discuss basic safety protocols, from not divulging personal information like passwords and social security numbers to not sharing vacation plans and physical locations online. Create a checklist of basic safety rules, and sit down and discuss them in detail with your children. Encourage them to ask questions, and imagine different scenarios together where this approach would be useful.
Use the Right Software
It’s also important that you install the appropriate software on your children’s devices to keep their information safe. Every computer and device should have an antivirus program and malware program installed. Teach your children why these are important, and instill in them the need to regularly update the virus definitions. Consider installing a firewall or Virtual Private Network (VPN) for enhanced privacy. Finally, use a program such as a password manager that makes it harder for computers and vital information to be hacked. The right software and infrastructure goes a long way to reinforcing digital safety rules.
Regularly Change Passwords
Another important strategy is to teach your kids how to create strong passwords. Avoid common phrases such as variations on the world password or welcome, significant dates or phone numbers, and family or pet names. Encourage kids to use different passwords for their various programs, and to update them regularly. Monthly is best, but quarterly is the absolute minimum. Provide hands-on guidance for choosing passwords, and offer suggestions on how to beef them up if you feel that the suggested passwords are weak.
Show Kids Examples of Identity Theft
In some cases, it can be hard to get a student who is at college for the first time to think seriously about the consequences of a security breach. But many people will get serious about security after seeing the trouble that identity theft or the loss of private files can cause. Find stories online of people whose lives have been impacted when their financial data or private pictures have leaked. Read these with your children, to help make the consequences real.
While you’ve got a lot to think about with your son or daughter headed off to school this year, digital safety may not be at the top of your list. Take the time to set ground rules, look at examples of what happens when digital security is breached, and create a basic task list of passwords and the programs that should be installed on every device. Not only will your kids’ information be safer immediately, but you’re teaching them important skills that they’ll take with them into adulthood.