Preventing children from slipping through the net

NordVPN offers eight tips for staying safe online

Most schools now require children to have their own laptop or tablet, but few give clear instructions to them or their parents about how to stay secure online – even though they educate on cyberbullying and safe social media behaviour. 

Hackers that want to access a school’s wifi system can usually do so without problems. One way is for a hacker to position themselves as a fake wifi spot that looks like the real one. They can then see every device used on that network, steal passwords, and so on. 

Here, then, are some tips and tricks parents can teach their children about internet privacy and safety. 

1. Protect passwords
Children create their own email accounts for school and use other websites requiring a sign-in; parents should advise their children to choose a password mixing characters and special symbols. The easiest way to store them in one place is to use password managing apps. 

2. Use encryption
Schools should ensure that wifi networks are safe and encrypted, and should take IT audits to test their security. However, it’s unrealistic to expect all schools will encrypt their wifi networks immediately. Therefore, parents should take their kids’ security into their own hands and install a VPN (virtual private network) on their computers and tablets. VPN creates a connection tunnel that automatically encrypts all the data coming in and out of a device and effectively protects anyone using the internet, including on open wifi networks. 

3. Learn about secret apps
While these apps look like any other used by children on their smartphones – such as a game app, photo editing app or calculator – they might be where they hide their secret content. These apps can obfuscate a child’s online activity and transactions. The best way for parents to be able to spot them is to visit an app store and search decoy apps to see what they look like. 

“Kids today might be more tech-savvy than most of their parents, but they will still be exposed to online identity thefts, hackings and snooping if not taught basic internet safety rules.”

4. Curb social media usage
Children spend a lot of time on social media, so it’s important to let them know what is and isn’t okay to share. Have a talk with your child and discuss the things they should not share on social media – everything stays forever on the internet. If you want to take an extra step in securing your child’s online privacy, create false social media names and a fake school/ city name for them. 

5. IM and texting
Sending messages on instant messaging clients like Messenger or WhatsApp is something every teenager does, but they don’t always know that their chats are not 100% private. Therefore, you should advise them never to share personal data, banking details or other sensitive information like passwords. 

6. Warn them of game scams
Agree to install games together with your kids; research to see if the game and provider are reputable. Make sure you download the games only from a reliable source after reading reviews. Too often, fake games containing infectious malware are uploaded online. They are made to pop-up on websites, prompting kids to install them for free. 

7. Communication with strangers
The internet is more social than ever. New chat rooms and forums uniting different interest groups are popping up every day. As children are eager to discuss their interests with peers, it is important to speak with them about sharing their private information; under no circumstances should they share any pictures, addresses, etc. 

8. Email deals are fake!
If your kids receive an email about a great offer – like a free cell phone or concert tickets – it’s quite probably a trick designed to get them to give up personal information. Advise your kids always to show you such emails and never to respond if they offer free stuff. 

Kids today might be more tech-savvy than most of their parents, but they will still be exposed to online identity thefts, hackings and snooping if not taught basic internet safety rules from an early age.  

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