We are in an era of technology where children are growing up using technology oftentimes before they are able to speak. These devices that we use constantly are designed to be used in a way which is intuitive, so kids are able to pick up on how to operate these devices quickly and with ease. While it is the norm now for family members of all ages to use technology, it is not quite as common for families to discuss the importance of being cyber safe when on these devices. Below, we’ll take a look at some quick tips to help you and your family use these devices in the ways you love without having to be as concerned about the risks you fear.
As with any other aspect of raising children, communication is key for success in creating a cybersecure space for your family. Teach your children that their devices are to be used for fun and learning activities or shows, but that there can be dangers in the online world and to talk with you if they ever have a concern. Explain this clearly but try not to scare them from using technology altogether as we know it will be a major piece of their existence for all of their lives. There should be a healthy level of respect for the dangers that are out there and knowledge that they should navigate the online world safely and with tact. In addition to communicating the risks out there, it is important to set clear guidelines for what works best for your and your family when it comes to technology. Set boundaries including types of content that they are allowed to access and the amount of time they can be using devices. Do not limit this step to a one-time sit down, rather be sure you are constantly communicating with your children in a way which makes them feel comfortable coming to you with any questions or concerns they may have.
Emphasize the importance of passwords
As adults, we know that cybercriminals are always out there trying to gain access to our accounts for one motive or another. While we do not necessarily need to invoke fear in children, we can teach them the importance of passwords by having them on the various devices. It can be a fun memory game for younger kids who are still learning in this way and can also be their first introduction to being cyber safe. Try to make the passwords unique and explain to your child that they do not tell other people these passwords (except for you, while they are kids), otherwise they are pointless. While there are varying degrees to this particular approach depending on the child’s comprehension, it is a simple cybersecurity step that children of any age can learn.
Set an example
Stick to your predetermined boundaries for yourself as well. If you have made a rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table for your kids, do not sit at dinner using your phone as well. This will help to build trust and show them that you practice what you preach. Additionally, sit down and show them examples of when you deal with cybersecurity risks in your own life. Though a toddler may not understand what it means when you’re showing them a weird phishing email, sitting down with your teenager and saying “This happened to me and I didn’t know what to do but remained calm and everything was fine” will help them to feel comfortable coming to you if they ever have something risky that they are unsure about pop up on their devices. Use passwords on your various devices and accounts and be sure not to have a sticky note full of passwords on your desk, but be a good steward of your own passwords as well to show your kids by example.
Put parental controls in place, if needed
For some families, parental controls might be an appropriate facet of the family unit’s cybersecurity plan. Parental controls can consist of setting password protected time limits on different apps or the devices altogether. They can also be content driven meaning that you set the type of information your child should not be accessing while on a particular device. This can give parents peace of mind when it comes to letting their children have some independence in using devices without letting them roam freely on the Internet.