A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Security

When you hear the phrase “we live in a digital age,” chances are your mind immediately wanders to the Internet and social media—and with good reason. The vast majority of teens are surfing the Web, watching videos, connecting on social media, Instagram, pinning… not to mention tweeting. The Internet touches every family in some aspect or another. But do security risks increase due to overuse of the Internet?

Making the Connection

Our teens have tons of options to get online. Phones, laptops, tablets and even watches have become connected. So whether your teen is surfing the Net, watching a video or playing a game, the ability to get “connected” is always at their fingertips. And by connecting digitally, children are vulnerable to a variety of risks.

The Digital Risks

Although we can never be guaranteed 100 percent security online (or offline), there are things we can do as parents to keep our cyberspace as secure as possible.

  • Be careful where you click: Fake or malicious websites can jeopardize your device and the data on it. They often look legitimate, and they usually offer something too good to be true, but they can install malicious software on your computer.
  • Be smart about passwords: Have strong passwords and change them often—and don’t use them on all sites.
  • Keep software and apps up-to-date: Companies sometimes discover security flaws and vulnerabilities in their programs, which is the reason for the update. And once you update your programs or your apps, check your privacy settings to make sure they didn’t go back to the default settings.
  • Use secure Wi-Fi: When using Wi-Fi at coffee shops, airports or other public places, avoid banking, shopping or doing anything confidential because public networks are often less secure than private ones.

The Social Risks

Unfortunately, some threats are specifically aimed at teens. It can be hard for adults to recognize the difference between a legitimate offer and a scam. Imagine the difficulty for teens that have not yet honed their critical thinking skills.

  • Kids love videos: Malicious links can show up on video-sharing sites like YouTube. Ads that pop-up can connect our teens to content that isn’t appropriate, or to third-party sites that capture sensitive information. Links that suggest “make a new friend” or “find out who’s talking about you” should never be clicked.
  • Teens IDs are valuable to criminals: It’s called Identity Spoofing; When a criminal gets enough information – name, address, social security number – they become the perfect target (with excellent credit) for identity theft. Teens have to be taught how to make strong passwords, and it needs to be ingrained that they are not to share their passwords with anyone.
  • The teenage years are the time when they want to do a lot of online shopping…: Which is open ground for fraud, data theft and over-spending. Pre-paid credit cards or an “allowance” is one way to help curb spending and out-of-control online purchases. It also keeps private credit card information private.
  • …And some illegal downloading: By downloading pirated videos and music, teens open themselves to greater risk, especially to becoming the subject of a substantial lawsuit. Malware and viruses run rampant on illegal download sites, so make sure your teen is made aware of all the dangers as well as the legitimate ways to legally stream music and movies.

Highlights of a Smartworld

Recognizing the importance of cyber security, President Obama, along with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Homeland Security, has selected October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Its mission is to educate and empower our digital society to use the Internet safely and securely. Search the official National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 hashtag #CyberAware to find more helpful resources on the topic.

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