The summer break is finished many children, teenagers and students are back at school using new gadgets for their studies. For parents, this also means new schedule pressures, and battling to keep kids safe both on and offline.
ESET’s Cybersecurity Awareness survey “Keeping Kids Safe Online” showed many Australian kids were putting themselves at risk online and parents felt they lacked suitable cybersecurity knowledge to manage their children’s online safety.”
To help parents, teachers, children, teenagers and students, ESET has compiled some key tips to start the school year on a safe path.
Nick FitzGerald, Senior Research Fellow at ESET, advises, “It’s best to educate children as early as possible, and for teachers to talk about cybersecurity regularly in school. At the end of the day, it’s usually about common sense but many children and teenagers – and sometimes parents – are not aware of the potential consequences of their actions online.”
ESET have provided a number of safety and security tips and advice to keep students at all levels of education safe on-line.
- Primary School
For many at this age, this might be the first introduction to their own device and learning about online safety. It is important here for parents to take the time to talk to their kids as this could impact the rest of their lives.
- Start talking about online safety and set boundaries, and emphasize the importance of not talking to strangers online.
- Set limits to device usage.While the holidays were all about winding down and enjoying easy access to technology, let’s not forget about the down time and homework.
- Ensure your own devices are password protectedto ensure they are not accessed when you are out of sight.
- Invest in parental control softwareto manage and direct safe online use.
“More and more children get their first device at primary school. This means parents need to add an extra layer of security with maybe adjusting settings from the parental control app to guarantee children are accessing age-appropriate content through their smartphones or tablets and that there are limits to what can be done and accessed,” said FitzGerald.
- High School
While most parents already know how to keep their home devices secure, they are not always extending this to their children’s devices. Here is a good shortlist of what to check with kids before the first day of school:
- Do a spring clean:Take a look at which apps are installed and what needs to be kept. This will avoid update loopholes and risking an app becoming a gateway to malicious software.
- Double check passwords:Back-to-school season is a good time to check if kids are following best practices for passwords. Introduce them to the best password management tools and make sure they’re not using the most common passwords like ‘12345’ or ‘password’.
- Social media overhaul:Parents should go through the social media accounts with their kids and check if there are any that are unused, if the security settings are as private as possible and if the connections are still relevant to the child (e.g. check for strangers connecting on Facebook as “friends”).
- Use parental control tools:Parental control can be a good way of protecting against malware and setting clear rules congruent with the family’s values.
“Among all the digital protection tips for parents, there is always the golden rule of protecting different electronic devices from curious eyes or thieves: Teach children to avoid leaving devices unattended as information can be easily stolen. This applies on public transport, on the street and at school,” says FitzGerald.
Universities are now buzzing hubs for brand new devices, free Wi-Fi spots and students who enjoy doing their projects or assignments online. Here are some ground rules for students to keep away from cyber-trouble:
- On-campus Wi-Fi:Students now have the freedom of being able to roam around and connect to different Wi-Fi hotspots. While this is practical, this can also be an open door for hackers to steal information. It’s best to stick with official Wi-Fi connections provided by campus IT services, from libraries or coffee shops and to not use any connection that is not encrypted with WPA2. Be wary of the “always connect” option when connecting to a legitimate, open Wi-Fi hotspot and once you’re done, don’t forget to disconnect.
- Apps:Some may be useful to help with studies, but avoid downloading apps from an unknown source or unofficial market. This can be a point of entry for malware.
- Keep good cybersecurity hygiene: Regularly check if passwords are long enough – passphrases being the preferred option. Check your social media security settings, and keep an eye on suspicious-looking emails. And always keep an eye on your devices whether at a bar, coffee shop or the library!
- Stay updated:Don’t forget to regularly update your mobile and laptop to avoid any security risks, or choose a reputable security software which can do it all automatically and also block malware.
“Being constantly on social media and ready to share the highlights of the new year at university, students should particularly look at protecting the security of their different social accounts. The best way to do this is by having a strong passphrase and enabling any two-factor or multi-factor authentication options for optimal security,” says FitzGerald.
To know more about how children are behaving online in Australia and how to keep them safe online, you can also read a previous ESET study here. The survey showed compelling results such as 28% of Australian children have already engaged in risky online behavior with a stranger and 3% have arranged to meet an online stranger in person, representing approximately 85,565 children in Australia.
For more tips on safe cybersecurity practice, you can also visit www.welivesecurity.com
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