With many schools switching to remote learning, it’s no secret the pandemic has been overwhelming for kids and their parents.
Before COVID-19 lockdowns, a third of Australian kids had been socially excluded, threatened or abused online, and 90% had reported having a negative experience, according to eSafety.gov.au. Now that kids are spending more time online than ever, cyberbullying and cyber attacks are being more and more frequent, so we have to be extra vigilant.
We asked the cybersecurity experts at ESET how to keep kids safe online. They came back with 3 top tips…
#1 Educate your kids about cybersecurity and staying safe online
At school, kids don’t need to worry about internet safety for students because there are strict controls in place. But at home, depending on email and applications like Zoom and Slack open up exposure to a range of malware threats. There’s a higher chance of downloading viruses or ransomware by accident, or coming across inappropriate content on YouTube.
As parents, it’s a good idea to co-play in your kids’ digital world so you have an idea about the apps, games and social media sites they’re using. Along with making sure they’re only on age-appropriate, safe websites for kids, you might want to turn off location-sharing or messaging functions, and set parental controls on the internet.
While you’re at it, spend some time teaching your kids how to protect themselves online.
These are the key lessons to tick off your list.
Don’t give away your personal details online
To prevent your kids from revealing personally identifiable information (like your home address), tell them to only talk to people they know. If someone asks your kids for their full name, where they live or where they go to school, train them to come to you for advice. Once a cybercriminal has a name, they can do some digging and find out a lot more about your family.
Secure your WiFi connection
You wouldn’t leave your front door wide open, right? To explain internet safety to a child, tell your kids that an open WiFi network is the online version of that, and it’s even more important to lock it down now that we’re using our webcams more often.
Walk them through these steps for their phone and computer, if the WiFi hasn’t already been secured:
- Choose a random name for the network. They can have fun with this! Instead of using your name for your WiFi network, pick an obscure, nonsensical phrase like “turtle’s lair.”
- Create a strong password. Challenge your kids to come up with a password that’s made up of letters, numbers and special characters.
- Update the security settings. You may have to help out with this one. Go to your network settings and select WiFi-Protected Access 2 for your network (also known as WPA2). Then, pick AES for your algorithm.
Check all of your privacy settings
You can turn this into a game! Ask your kids to go into every app, video-conference software or social media site they use and find the privacy settings. Then, ask them to choose the strictest possible settings, and do the same thing with every new tool they download.
Learn how to identify spam and phishing emails
Many kids are relying on email to access school materials and announcements. Scamming and phishing attempts have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic as cybercriminals try to trick people who are online more than ever.
Children aren’t immune. So, teach them not to open emails from unknown senders, download attachments or reply to emails asking for personal information without asking you first. You may be able to spot a suspicious email before it causes damage, like installing malware on your computer.
#2 Help your kids to recognise and respond to cyberbullying
Between school, playdates and extracurricular activities, our children are on their devices all the time. Cyberbullies hide behind screens, so they’re thriving during this time.
Kids often don’t tell anyone they’re being bullied online. They think “dobbing” will make the situation worse for them, or they’ll get in trouble. A child bullied online might even be worried their gadgets will be taken away from them.
Since this is a delicate topic, it’s important to be explicit in your expectations and what to do about cyberbullying. Tell your kids to leave a conversation if someone’s being rude or hurtful to them, or stand up for and comfort the victim of bullying. At the same time, take note if your children are anxious, angry or secretive when using their laptop or phone, or if they’re less social than usual. Those are possible signs of cyberbullying.
#3 Install antivirus software on your home devices
Think of antivirus software like a security guard. While you can do your best to control the behaviour of the people inside, the security guard is ultimately there to prevent problems and step in if something happens.
Along with teaching your kids about cybersecurity and how to identify cyberbullying, install antivirus software on your kids’ home devices, including computers, laptops and phones, for peace of mind.
These sophisticated programs prevent hackers from accessing your webcams and networks, and stop your children from accessing harmful online content. They also protect your devices from malware and cyberattacks, and scan your router for vulnerabilities.
It’s important to stay on top of software updates, too. Manufacturers release them regularly to address security flaws and fix bugs to keep you safe. They usually take just a few minutes to install, and may require you to restart your device, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Protect your kids while they’re adjusting to the “new normal”
In an ideal world, your kids would only use their devices in front of you. But with parents juggling remote learning and their own work, it’s not always possible to keep a close eye on what children are doing online.