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Today’s youth are often called “digital natives” because they are so comfortable with living online. But much as we may admire their proficiency with their devices, we shouldn’t forget that security is probably not top of mind.
Innocent young minds don’t grasp the concept of identity theft or understand the consequences of a ransom attack. In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, here are some things you can do to keep them – and your entire family – safe.
Keep family computers in an open area. This allows you to monitor what’s on the screen and to check back on activity later. In particular, keep an eye on chat sessions, which is where predators lurk.
Be sure security software is installed and updated. At the very least, you need anti-malware and anti-spyware packages. A password manager is also a good idea for creating and saving passwords that can’t easily be compromised by hackers.
Give children their own accounts on shared computers. This enables you to limit the software they can access and to define unique controls on each account.
Don’t permit kids to download and install software without your oversight. Free software downloads are a primarily medium for spreading spyware.
Use parental controls in web browsers. These enable you to block unsafe sites, disable potentially malicious scripts and review browsing history to see what your kids have been doing when you weren’t watching. Here is a good guide to implementing parental controls in major browsers.
Have a talk. Remind kids of a few basic protections. Never click on unknown links. Never open email attachments. Never respond to chat messages from people they don’t know. Never “friend” strangers. Don’t bully others and alert parents if they suspect they are the targets of a bully.
Have logins to kids’ social accounts such as Facebook, Snapchat and anywhere else private conversations go on. This not only enables you to keep an eye on what they’re doing but to spot malicious activity by others that’s directed at them.
For additional protection you can install activity monitoring software that keeps detailed records of everything that happens on your computer. Examples include Cyber Patrol, Cybersitter, Net Nanny and SpyAgent. But if you follow the advice above, you probably don’t need additional protection.
Above all, stress to your children that your monitoring and cautionary steps are for their protection. Even if they don’t understand the risks that are out there online, they know that you have their best interests in mind.