While the internet has been a mainstay in our kids’ lives for years, we’re living in a time when a lot of their daily activities have moved online. During the pandemic, many children are relying on the internet to learn, play and catch up with their friends. This means they need to be extra careful online, and that starts with learning what cyber safety for kids is all about.
Not sure how to explain internet safety to a child? We called on the experts at ESET to explain the 10 cybersecurity terms every parent should teach their kids.
Malware is short for “malicious code, “ and the best way to think about it is your computer having a virus. Just like a virus enters your body and leaves you coughing and sneezing for a few days, malware attacks your computer’s system and stops it from working as well as it should.
There are lots of different types of malware, such as ransomware, spyware, adware and trojans. But they all have one thing in common: they harm your computer. Some also steal or delete your data, which is why it’s important to have a sophisticated antivirus software.
#2 Antivirus software
That leads us to our next term! Antivirus software prevents hackers from accessing your computer, network or webcam, and helps to stop malware attacks. It also scans attachments and images for viruses and blocks offensive and harmful content. Finally, if any outside devices are trying to tap into your WiFi network, it’ll notify you so you can decide whether to let them in.
Though you can download free software online, a subscription version like ESET Internet Security is a safer bet — especially if your kids are surfing the net on their own. By offering a multi-layered defence against a wide range of cyberattacks, it can give you peace of mind and go a long way in protecting children online. We recommend installing it on all computers, laptops and phones in the home.
While you’re at it, consider adding parental controls on the internet. They’re not 100% accurate, but they do a good job in filtering out sites with explicit, violent or sexual content.
#3 Software updates
Your kids have probably seen software update notifications pop up on the computer. As tempting as it is to skip them if you’re in the middle of something, teach your kids to say yes to every update they get. They’re essential for cybersecurity, especially now when we’re all on our screens a lot more.
Software updates fix bugs and address security flaws so it’s harder for hackers to do their job. Manufacturers release “patches” as they identify problems which is why software updates come up all the time. They usually only take a few minutes to install, and you may need to restart your device afterwards, but it’s worth the effort.
Our advice? Turn on automatic updates so you don’t miss any.
#4 Identify theft
Unfortunately, identity theft is one of the most common cyber attacks. It’s not hard to wonder why: we rely on the internet more than ever to fill out forms and communicate with each other. A talented hacker is like a detective. If they get their hands on one or two pieces of personally identifiable information (PII), they can do some digging and find out a lot more to carry out identity theft.
Along with installing antivirus software and internet filters for kids, try to be as private as possible online. To prevent your kids from revealing key details, train them to only talk to and accept friend requests from people they know. And if someone asks your kids for their full name, where they live or where they go to school, tell them to double-check with you before replying.
#5 Phishing emails
These are email scams, and we’ve seen many more of them doing the rounds since the start of the pandemic. Cybercriminals send phishing emails posing as trustworthy people or companies to trick you into handing over information.
With kids using email to access schoolwork and announcements, hackers are targeting them with personalised emails. For example, they might receive an email asking them to enter their details to win a prize or to log into one of their accounts. The problem is, phishing emails often look legit — unless you know what to look for.
To prevent your kids from falling victim to a scam, teach them how to spot and react to phishing emails. These tips are a good start:
- Never open emails from people you don’t know
- Don’t download any attachments or click on links before checking with your parents.
- Avoid replying to emails with personal information
- Be wary of emails with poor spelling and grammar.
This stands for Virtual Private Network, and it helps to secure your WiFi connection and improve online safety for kids. VPNs encrypt the data you send and receive and hide your IP address to keep you safe and anonymous online.
You can set up a VPN on any device, including laptops and phones. This is good news for parents. Once you have a VPN, you’ll know your kids are protected, even if they’re scrolling through their smartphone while they’re at school or a friend’s place.
#7 Multi-factor authentication
Most of us are used to entering a password to access our email, apps or software programs. But you can add an extra layer of protection by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) on any accounts you and your kids log in to regularly.
Instead of typing in one password to get into an account, it requires you to provide two forms of verification. So, you might have to enter a password, and then a code sent to you via email or text. This makes it harder for hackers to access your accounts.
While it’s a little time-consuming, according to Google, this simple step blocks 100% of automated cyber attacks!
Top tip: Speaking of passwords, challenge your kids to come up with the most random, obscure passwords for their accounts. Bonus points if they include a mix of letters, numbers and special characters!
Bullying doesn’t just happen in the playground or classroom — some kids can’t escape it online, either. Cyberbullying is a huge problem, mostly because kids often don’t tell anyone they’re being bullied online. They think tattling will get them into trouble, make the situation worse or result in their gadgets being confiscated from them.
Since cyberbullying is a delicate topic, it may take some time for your kids to not open up about their experiences. If that’s the case, have an honest conversation with your children about how to identify cyberbullying. For example, tell them to leave a conversation if someone is rude or offensive, and to stand up for victims of bullying — and report them to the school or their parents. Explain that cyberbullying is never tolerated, and adults will make sure there are consequences for the bully.
This is when someone creates a social media profile with a fake profile and then uses that to trick others into being their friend (or more). There are some sophisticated catfishers out there, so it’s key to teach your kids how to be social media savvy.
Make sure their profiles are private and don’t reveal any personal information, such as the name of their school. As for how to keep your child safe on social media, explain how they can block someone and report suspicious or unsolicited messages. Let them know you’re always there to talk, and you want them to come to you if a stranger tries to contact them.
#10 Data encryption
Sharing information on the internet is inevitable to some extent, and there are a few steps you can take to secure your data. A big one is encrypting your information. In software speak, this involves encoding your data so it can only be seen by certain people.
Most computers and smartphones have operating systems that fully encrypt your data to prevent unauthorised access, so stay on top of those software updates. It’s also worth backing up your data regularly. Ideally, your information would be backed up both on an external hard drive or flash drive, and on the cloud. That way, you’ll be able to easily recover your information if something happens.
Learn more about online safety for kids
In a perfect world, you would monitor everything your child does online. But that’s not possible or realistic, which is why it’s important to take the time to educate your kids about cybersecurity.
Check out ESET’s Safer Kids Online Initiative. Designed for parents, it’s packed with guides and blog posts to help you keep your kids safe and secure online.