As a parent, you teach your kids everything – how to ride a bike, how to drive, how to read and more. That’s because you’re responsible for your child’s well-being, in every sense of the word. In 2018, that means you are responsible for your children’s online well-being too.
Kids these days are more connected than ever, as they’re accessing applications, devices and Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets at a fairly young age; this can not only impact a child’s safety but also the safety of an entire home. That’s why it’s crucial as a parent to instill good cybersecurity habits into your children.
Just like teaching a kid to read or to ride a bike, teaching a child about the importance of staying safe online first starts by providing the right context. Explain why it matters in terms they’ll understand – the importance of keeping their personal information, identity and their online reputation safe and intact. Explaining how their actions impact these important things is crucial to developing their understanding of online security. You must explain how a connected toy can impact the security of entire household, how people on the internet may not always be who they say they are and how the use of certain websites and applications may not always be safe.
So, now that you’ve contextualized the importance of cybersecurity, you may be questioning – what now? What actions do I take to make my home a haven for online safety? Start by following these tips:
- Use the social networks that your kids are using.Not only will you gain a better understanding about what your kids do online, but you will also become a more trusted source because you will know the ins and outs of their favorite apps/networks.
- Make parental controls your best friend. Parental controls come built-in to many apps and services you use, so check to see if your next purchase includes these features. From there, adjust the settings to what’s best for your family and stay on top of it. Monitor kids’ usage and hold them accountable to the amount of screen time and specific sites you allow.
- Keep security in mind when purchasing toys. Many of the IoT toys that kids use often have poor security and are vulnerable to cyberattacks. It’s important for parents to understand the risks of these toys and how to best protect them. Start by researching the device in question’s security standards. A simple Google search on the product, as well as the manufacturer, will often do the trick.
- Change default passwords and install updates right away. If you purchase a connected device for your kid or your home, be sure to first and foremost change the default password. Default manufacturer passwords are easy for criminals to crack. Your device’s software will also need to be updated at some point. In many cases, devices will have updates waiting from them as soon as they’re taken out of the box. The first time you power up your device, check to see if there are any updates or patches from the manufacturer.
- Secure your home’s internet at the source. These smart home devices must connect to a home Wi-Fi network in order to run. If they’re vulnerable, they could expose your network as a result. Since it can be challenging to lock down all the IoT devices in a home, utilize a security solution that provides protection at the router-level.
By following these simple tips, you can begin to instill the principles of cybersecurity in your kid at a young age. That way, they’ll grow up security-conscious and will lead their digital life with care and confidence. Who knows, maybe they’ll even be inspired to become a cybersecurity professional themselves one day.
Gary Davis is Chief Consumer Security Evangelist. Through a consumer lens, he partners with internal teams to drive strategic alignment of products with the needs of the security space. Gary also provides security education to businesses and consumers by distilling complex security topics into actionable advice.
He is a sought-after speaker on trends in digital security including the evolving threat landscape, privacy and securing IoT. He has presented at high profile conferences and events including Consumer Electronics Show, Mobile World Congress, South by Southwest and the National Association of Broadcasters. He has also delivered digital security topics to major educational institutions including Harvard University and Columbia University.
During his 9+ years at McAfee, he has held leadership roles in the consumer and enterprise divisions where he has helped shape various product portfolios and strategic direction along with advocating for cybersecurity education.