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Online learning is here to stay. Many K-12 schools will probably use some blend of fully online learning and in-person teaching for the foreseeable future.
As more students learn online, it is crucial that students, parents, teachers and administrators understand basic cybersecurity steps. By following best practices, today’s kids can ensure they move to the top of the class securely.
Tips for Students
Protect your personal information
Personal information is any information that can be used to identify you or your accounts: your name, address, phone number, usernames, passwords, and birthdates. Photos are also personal information. If anyone asks you to share this information online, say no and stop talking to them, even if you know them. Immediately tell your parent or guardian about the situation.
Check before you download
Always talk to your parents before opening an email attachment or downloading any software from the internet. Sometimes, these files, programs and apps are actually computer viruses, which can ruin your computer.
Think before you click
Just like you wouldn’t take a gift from a stranger, be careful about what you click online. Do not click links in emails, text messages or direct messages from people you do not know – hackers can impersonate people you know, too, so be careful about any links. If you have doubts, talk to a parent or trusted adult before clicking.
Deal with cyberbullies
If another student in your online class is making you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult right away.
Protect Your Computer
Keep your laptop or tablet close to you. When you’re done using it for the day, put it in a safe place at home. Don’t leave it by itself outside or in a public place. Keep it by turning on locking features that require a PIN, password or biometric setup (that is, a facial scan or fingerprint to unlock the device.)
The Library is Open
Need to do research for your classes? Talk to your librarian, teacher or parent about where you can go for safe and accurate websites for research. Both school libraries and public libraries are excellent places for online research.
Make long, unique passwords
Passwords are the keys to your accounts. The only people who need to know them are YOU and your parents or guardians. Not your brother, sister, best friend, or teacher – just you. Make a fun password in the form of a sentence you can remember, such as: “ILiket0EatIceCream0n$undays!” Notice that this password uses capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
It’s fine if you aren’t tech-savvy – with a little guidance, you can significantly improve your family’s cybersecurity. If you need more help, please reach out to other parents, your child’s school or trusted family members. The goal is not to make you or your child a security expert, but to make online learning a safe space.
New Tech, Who Dis?
If the school issues or requires a technology that you and/or your child are not familiar with, explore its features together. Remember to configure the security and privacy settings together right away.
APPly Your Research
Apps are a great way for students to learn and apply their knowledge. Before downloading any new learning app on your child’s device, make sure it’s a legitimate app. Who created the app? What do the user reviews say? Are there any articles published online about the app’s privacy & security features (or lack thereof)?
Don’t Hesitate to Update
Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system on devices children are using for their virtual schooling is one of the best defenses against online dangers. When the computer or device says it’s time to update the software, don’t click postpone. Update.
Strengthen Your Router’s Password
When is the last time you changed your home’s router password, if ever? Change passwords for routers and smart devices from their default manufacturer’s password to one that is long (at least 12 characters) and unique.
Parental controls are a great way to establish parameters around what kids can and can’t do online. However, they cannot replace candid discussions with your kids about online security and safety. Children may not recognize the dangers of visiting unknown websites or communicating with strangers online, so talk with them about these important issues.
Students aren’t the only ones spending more time on the home network. Today, more and more parents are also working from home. If you and your children are all working from home, consider using separate networks to enhance your security–particularly if your work involves access to sensitive information.
Know Your Role
Sometimes it’s unavoidable for children to use the same computer that parents use for their work. If you’re sharing devices, set up different user accounts so that children have access to an account with limited permissions and access. For instance, restrict your child’s permissions for installing and running software applications.
Configure Privacy Settings
Go through online accounts with children to configure privacy and security settings to limit over-sharing of information – location and camera sharing, for instance. Discuss with your kids why certain data shouldn’t be shared, even with online friends.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) grants parents control over what information websites can collect from their kids. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule, which spells out what operators of websites and online services must do to protect the privacy and safety online for children under 13 years old.