Wi-Fi, AirDrop, Bluetooth… The many inventions of the modern world have made it possible for children to connect, explore and learn in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. This is undoubtedly reason to celebrate – but it also underscores the importance of safeguarding your children’s online experiences. As parents and educators, we can empower kids to embrace the modern possibilities, even while protecting their digital safety. How?
Here are 8 tips.
1. Explain connectivity risks
One of the most important ways you can enhance your child's online safety and cyber-awareness is through open and informative dialogue. Engage in conversations about responsible digital behavior and discuss the possible risks. At the same time, try not to scare or overwhelm them with abstract information. If possible, use real-life examples or exercises to make the topics more comprehensible for them. When you discuss passwords, for example, you can explain them as locks that guards their precious treasures.
Regarding connectivity, there are a variety of topics and risks that you could discuss with your child. Here are some.
Unauthorized device pairing: This involves your child's device, smartphone or tablet, being connected to another device without their knowledge or permission. When this happens, your child may receive all sorts of content, including unsolicited explicit pictures or videos. Talk with them about why and how these situations happen and take the necessary steps to avoid this risk.
How to avoid unauthorized device pairing?
Enable device locks: Ensure that your child's devices, such as smartphones or tablets, are protected with secure passwords, PINs, or biometric authentication methods such as fingerprint or facial recognition.
Disable automatic connectivity: Teach your child how to disable features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or AirDrop when not in use, or only have them turned on for their contacts, which is possible on devices with iOS. This prevents their device from being discoverable by others.
Educate on privacy settings: Help your child understand and configure the privacy settings on their devices. This allows them to control who can discover and connect to their device. Encourage them to limit their visibility only to their contacts or trusted users.
Don’t accept all requests: Advise your child to accept pairing requests only from people they know and trust, and not from unfamiliar devices.
Regularly check connected devices: Teach your child to periodically review the list of devices connected to their own device. If they notice any unfamiliar connections, they should promptly disconnect them and, if necessary, change their device's password or PIN.
Update software: Ensure that your child's devices are running the latest software updates.
Tip: When talking about cybersecurity, use simple metaphors to make the subject easier for children to understand. For example, describe device locks by comparing them to real locks on your house. You wouldn't leave your doors open for anyone to come in, would you? Accepting pairing requests only from people you know can be compared to letting only your friends and family into your house. Be creative, come up with your own metaphors, and make cybersecurity fun to learn.
Receiving unknown files through AirDrop: AirDrop is a convenient feature that allows for the easy sharing of photos, videos and documents between devices running on iOS. However, it's essential to clarify the need for caution when accepting files from unknown sources. Accepting files from strangers can expose your child's device to potential risks such as inappropriate content. AirDrop has also dealt with quite a few vulnerabilities in the past, all of which were publicly reported but could have been exploited to leak user data.
Connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi: Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks can be a breeding ground for cyber threats. Explain to your child that when they connect to these networks, their data might be vulnerable to hackers who can spy on them or redirect them to malicious websites. Whenever possible, your children should for added protection opt to use private Wi-Fi (or, when they are outside, only Wi-Fi that they are able to verify, for example with cafe or hotel staff), a virtual private network (VPN) or their mobile data.
2. Teach responsible sharing
Emphasize the importance of responsible sharing. Explain to your children why they should not share personal information or sensitive data when connecting to public networks or using Bluetooth devices. They should know which of their data can be made public and what information is sensitive and needs to be guarded.
3. Discuss the importance of passwords
Passwords are the frontline defense against cyber threats. Teach your child the significance of strong and unique passwords that are easy to remember but difficult to guess. Want to know how strong your password really is? Together with your child, you can try password strength checkers that show how long it would take to brute force a weak password. Coming up with original passwords and keeping them all safe can be challenging sometimes – but maybe, modern inventions, such as passkeys, will make the future of our kids easier.
Do your children know how to differentiate between public and private data? Or how to create a strong password? Download our HeyPug! Workbook to educate your children about cybersecurity through fun interactive exercises.
4. Update devices and apps regularly
Don’t forget about the importance of keeping your child’s devices and apps up to date. Why? Updates often include security patches that can protect your child’s device against potential vulnerabilities. Make it a routine to regularly check for and install these updates. On the other hand, your children may want to avoid downloading too many apps, especially from random online sites. Some fake apps may pose as popular mobile games to give cyber-attackers full control of your child’s phone. This is more commonly the case with Android apps, similar cases with iOS are quite rare.
5. Adjust privacy settings
Discuss the importance of adjusting privacy settings on social media and other apps. Show them how to limit their exposure to strangers online. This step can prevent unwanted attention and protect their personal information.
6. Don’t forget notification settings
To avoid notification and alert fatigue, teach your child how to manage notification settings. Explain that they don't need to be instantly available 24/7 and encourage them to silence notifications during designated study and sleep times, or even to turn some off completely. They may also just choose one or two apps they use the most and turn off notifications for the rest. This will help reduce anxiety and improve their focus.
7. Lead by example
If you want to encourage your child’s cyber-secure behavior, you need to start with your own. Lead by example and share your own experiences with your children to foster trust and understanding. Make sure they know they can come to you with any online concerns or problems they encounter.
8. Make use of available software options
Security software and parental control apps can make your child’s online experience much safer. While the latter is especially useful for your child’s first steps in the online world, security software is a must for everyone who uses the internet.
Where can you find the right security or parental control software? Check our products. Perhaps you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.
By following these basic rules, you can empower your child to use technology responsibly and securely. Remember, with the right guidance your child can explore the digital world with confidence and embrace the countless opportunities it offers yet remain protected.