Being a parent has never been a piece of cake. Today, moms and dads have more to think about than ever before, including the online safety of their kids. 84% of parents worldwide fret about their children's security online, but fewer than six out of 10 have spent a half-hour discussing things like data privacy with their kids. In other words, while parents want their youngsters and teens to be safe while navigating the web–and that makes sense–they're not necessarily confident about how to bring up the topic of internet safety. Does this describe you? Are you unsure of which aspects of online activity to address with your kids?
Discussing internet safety, cyber-security, and data privacy with your kids
The way we see it, there are three key areas of cyber-security that should be discussed with minors at home.
Online safety is a big one, so we’ll break it down into relevant discussion topics.
When it comes to cyber-hacking, criminals do their best to get people to give up personal information or download malicious software—and even ransomware. Don't assume that your children understand the basics of how to keep themselves protected. Instead, remind them to be cautious about opening unsolicited emails—phishing scams happen every day. Also make it clear that they should never download any software without coming to you first for approval, and they should take any warning or alerts about suspicious activity seriously.
Many parents assume that their kids' online information can't be stolen or isn't valuable. Well, it can and it is. Social security numbers and other identification can be used to apply for credit cards or loans years after it’s stolen. As soon as your child enters any personal information to access a website or app, the privacy of their data is at risk. Be sure that you stay up to date on the sites your kids visit, and ask to see their passwords. If they balk, explain that identity theft protection is necessary for internet safety. You may also want to have your kids use two-step verification, which makes it harder for people to gain access to their accounts.
Over the years, hackers have become increasingly adept at accessing large companies’ databases and, no surprise, they like to focus on retailers and financial institutions so they can get tons of data at once. Cyber-thieves will even try to hack into contest databases to glean private information. Encourage your children to use prepaid cards to shop online or in store, and discourage them from getting involved in internet giveaways that require a password or private details. And if your teen has a bank account, encourage them to monitor it daily, alerting the bank to any unauthorized withdrawals immediately.
Guest WiFi security and access
Home-based WiFi security should be a part of your data privacy conversation with your children. Specifically, remind them not to give out your home's WiFi password. That's like handing over the keys to the castle to anyone who comes to visit! Many people don't realize that a visitor who's savvy enough—and who may not have your best interests at heart—can gain access to your family's personal information after getting just your WiFi password. Of course, you don't want to be rude to babysitters, your aunt Matilda, or the foreign exchange student you've agreed to host for a month. If you're a member of Plume's® HomePass™ community, you can offer them secure WiFi through our exclusive home management service called Control™. They'll receive a unique password that'll give them data privacy and internet safety but won't expose any of your data to them. When it comes to online safety in general, Guard™ from Plume HomePass has you covered. It prevents all your connected devices from inadvertently downloading viruses, malware, or spamware, protecting you and your family from identity theft, data theft, and loss of privacy.
The more time children spend online, the more opportunities there are for them to access information they shouldn’t. They may stumble upon unsuitable sites by accident, through apps they’ve downloaded to their mobile device or through links they’ve been sent by friends. Guard allows parents to restrict the content that their children can access online. By setting age-appropriate controls, you can prevent your kids from being exposed to adult material, violent images, and other harmful or upsetting content. Similarly, you can block ads that are inappropriate.
Excessive screen time
Many parents struggle to address, and manage, their children’s reliance on screens for everything from entertainment to social validation. Limiting kids’ screen time is important for their digital well-being, but enforcing limits is easier said than done. Even if you tell your preteen or teen to turn off their phones, they might try to sneak online; a tablet or laptop can generally gain them just as much access to their friends as a smartphone. A better way to create limits is by temporarily freezing the internet to one or all devices on a communicated schedule. The HomePass app allows you to create profiles for each family member and enables parents to monitor and set usage constraints for each profile. For example, parents can create schedules around bedtime, school-time, dinner-time and so on.
Key takeaways for parents
First, start the conversation and keep it going. It's never too soon or too late to talk to your children about data privacy and internet safety. Even if they're off to college in a month, open the door for an important chat. Second, control the things you can:
- Use a solution like HomePass that includes network security software with parental control features
- Make sure you enable all parental control features appropriate for your children
- Regularly review the activity on the devices your children use
- Review the “access denied” reports from services like Guard and discuss safer habits with your kids
If you want to know more about how to increase your data protection at home, check out the growing suite of Smart Home Services available to Plume HomePass members. You'll find that HomePass can help you tackle some of the toughest online-related security concerns, making your home the safe place you want it to be for you and your kids.