Making Sense

Help Your Kids Stay Safe and Secure in a 24/7 Digital World

Learning to protect personal information is crucial to the safety and security of the digital devices kids use.
Caroline Knorr Parenting Editor | Mom of one Categories: Internet safety and privacy
Parenting Editor | Mom of one

Help kids learn the basics of digital safety

 

Technology makes it so easy for kids to connect and share things with friends and family no matter where they are. But these connections can come with a huge cost if kids aren’t careful. Learning to protect personal identity information, creating strong passwords, and being cautious when downloading programs and files are crucial to the safety and security of the digital devices kids use, as well as the information those devices store. Otherwise, kids can expose themselves and their families to digital threats like computer viruses, data and identity theft, and hacking.

What is digital safety?

To understand digital safety and security, you’ll need to learn some new words: phishing, malware, spyware, spam, and yes, even junk. These greedy little programs attach themselves to respectable-looking software – for example, a downloadable game that looks really cool – and then wreak havoc once installed on your computer. Security programs can block them, but one of the most important weapons is teaching kids to treat their devices and information as the truly valuable things they are.

Why it matters

If kids don’t protect their personal information, there are many potential risks: damage to the hardware, identity theft, or financial loss. But children may not realize they are putting their information in jeopardy, because the warning signs aren’t always obvious.

A friend might ask for your child’s computer password to play a game, and then access your child’s private email account. Or your child might use a file-sharing program that passes along a virus to your computer. To participate in an online contest, your tween might be asked to provide personal identity information such as a home phone number, address, date of birth, or your Social Security number, all of which opens up the family to the risk of identity theft. Just like in real life, kids have to know who to trust with information. It’s as true in the digital world as the real world.

Parent tips for all kids

Master the fine art of password creation. It can actually be fun to develop really good passwords. (See more details on how to do this below.) Strong passwords are a key defense against unauthorized access to your information, as well as identify theft.

Know the difference between information worth sharing and private information. There are many ways you can share your ideas and creativity online, but personal information should remain private. Never input personal identity information such as phone numbers, addresses, or your date of birth in order to download something. And never, ever give Social Security numbers or credit card information.

Be very careful with what you download. Don’t download free games or videos to your computer. These programs often come with spyware and viruses that will land your computer in the shop – and you in hot water.

Tips on creating a perfect password

Protect yourself -- and your stuff -- with strong passwords that safeguard your digital data.

Use these tips to help you do it:

• Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess – such as your nickname or your pet’s name. People who know you well can guess these kinds of passwords.

• Don’t use any private identity information in your password. Identity thieves can use this information to pretend to be you.

• Don’t use a word in the dictionary as a password. Hackers use programs that will try every word in the dictionary to guess passwords.

• Do use combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols. These are harder to crack than regular words because there are more combinations to try.

 

About Caroline Knorr

As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for... Read more

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Comments (10)

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Identity theft is the one of the most growing crime digital world is facing to day. http://enhanced-identity-theft-protection.com/statistics-of-identity-theft-2013-and-2012/ shows there is a constant increase in data stealing over internet. Children are one of the easiest way to get illegal access to data . Its time to aware children about identity theft so they can better protect their self.
Good info! I'll help my little sis by changing her password on a game because it is soooooo easy to guess. I hope she will remember the new password, because she is really used to the password that she already has. :)
As an internet veteran, I have a few things to share here: Parents: Before letting your kids try an MMO game, make a free account (when possible) and screen it for yourself, or at least check up with CSM. If it meets your standards, warn your children with this: Never buy in-game currency from other players. This is a cheap scam used to get player's accounts/install viruses on player's computers. For parents themselves: Never give your kid your credit card, and keep your wallet out of reach. They can use them to buy things like in-game currency and subscriptions, even after you've said no. Keep chat off. Players can and will post obscene, racist, sexual, and violent remarks. Same goes for the game's Forums. Most forums are cesspools of hatred, contempt, and other such things. Make an account and a character (same class, race, faction, gender) as your child. Try and progress faster than them, for advance warning of inappropriate content. This should be obvious, but check the ESRB rating, as well. Another obvious one, NEVER let them browse freely on the internet, doubly so for Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and YouTube. Set parental controls where possible. Finally, train them in Netiquette. This means how to be friendly towards other Internet-users, how to react when they aren't nice to the child, and (of course) account security. Make a secure password. Not just a word you'll remember, but a jumble of symbols, numbers, and letters in both cases. Then write it down, laminate it, and keep it somewhere safe near the computer.
My brother has a friend who wants our computer password. She keeps asking and guessing for our password. If we gave it to her she would have access to two Facebook accounts. One Poptropica account with a credit card number and so much more! My dad said even if we wanted to bill her parents the kid is only 7. Luckily we have a strong password and we took out the hint. We also tell her that we changed the pass
Good work. Do not EVER give out any of your passwords to anyone other than your parents or others trusted BY your parents.
My brother has a friend who wants our computer password. She keeps asking and guessing for our password. If we gave it to her she would have access to two Facebook accounts. One Poptropica account with a credit card number and so much more! My dad said even if we wanted to bill her parents the kid is only 7. Luckily we have a strong password and we took out the hint. We also tell her that we changed the pass