When your kids go back to school, you talk to them about how to keep safe in school and out. But are you talking to them about how to be digitally safe and secure? The 21st Century presents a host of new security concerns that today’s parents didn’t face when they were kids, but missteps can impact your kids for years or even decades. So before they head back, here are five things to school your kids on.
1. Keep Your Gadgets Secure
Your kids are far more likely to use mobile devices than laptops (and certainly more than desktops). Talk to them about how keep those devices secure. That includes having a passcode protecting access. Explain to them that if someone gains access to their gadgets, they can post embarrassing things online, read their emails and effectively own their identity.
2. Back Up Your Files
Nothing will be more upsetting than having spent all weekend on a project just to have the data disappear in a crash. Especially when they’re in the middle of a project, it’s super important to back up files. And it’s not just about protecting the work they’re doing at school; it’s also about the potential loss of fun data, like movies and music.
3. Don’t Share Personal Information Online
There are two talks you should have with your kids about using social media. The first is that a lot of seemingly innocuous information can be useful hackers and identity thieves, such as their birthday, the city they were born in or the name of their first pet. Second, explain to your children that anything they post online can easily be shared. Even if they have privacy settings set just right, screenshotting can capture anything and make it instantly sharable anywhere.
4. Learn to Recognize Spam
Your kids should have spam filtering set up to avoid both inappropriate and unsafe content online. If you don’t explain to your kids that a Nigerian prince did not actually leave them $3 million -- and never, ever will -- their youthful excitement might get the better of them. That can end up compromising the entire family.
5. Let Them Know You’re Looking
Parents should have access to children’s social media and other online accounts. This allows you to monitor when you think there’s a problem. But you should also your kids know that you’re there to help with any problems or questions they might have. The last thing that you want is for your kids to get in over their heads and try to hide it from you.
Nicholas Pell is a freelance writer based in Hollywood, CA. He writes about music, personal finance and technology for publications such as LA Weekly, Salon and Business Insider. He’s been online since the days of Usenet groups and bulletin board systems.