Parenting in the digital age is a challenge. After all, you’re responsible for everything from managing your kids’ screen time to educating them on online etiquette and safety. From public Wi-Fi to risky downloads, your kids’ Tablet and Smartphone use might be opening the door to malware, identity theft and other cyberattacks.
Use these important internet safety tips to educate yourself and family members.
Secure Your Home Network
If your kids use Wi-Fi at home, you have some control over what they can see and do. Consider only allowing them to connect to your secure home wireless network instead of public or other outside Wi-Fi networks, which may not be protected and open you up to cyberattacks. On every device your kids use, turn off data browsing and cellular data for apps that connect to the internet. You should also set a passcode or PIN to prevent your kids from modifying device preferences on their own.
When they’re connected at home, set security preferences on all internet browsers to prevent downloads, which could be malware. Most Smartphones and other mobile devices allow parental controls as well. Set up a PIN to prevent unapproved app downloads and to disallow downloads when not connected to Wi-Fi.
Stay Safe Outside the Home
One of the best strategies for identity theft protection is not to connect to public Wi-Fi networks. However, if you must, never use public Wi-Fi for online shopping or logging into your accounts. This rule applies to kids, too; even if they’re not shopping, they may be using a linked account to download games or log onto social media. Talk to them about public Wi-Fi networks and help them understand the risks. If you do allow public Wi-Fi usage, make sure your kids aren’t using it for apps that connect to bank accounts or other financial information – even if they aren’t buying anything, it presents a risk.
Additionally, make sure kids turn off Bluetooth on their devices in public – both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be a channel for identity thieves to steal sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers. This can pose an even bigger threat when your kids’ devices are linked to your accounts.
Know What to Look For
Apps and sites aimed at kids are also major targets for hackers. Children may not be as careful about what they download or open, or where they click or tap. This can create additional exposure to malware. In addition to setting parental controls, there are a number of common-sense internet safety tips to help your child avoid security risks:
- Instruct them not to open any ads from sites other than the one they’re currently on (third-party ads).
- Help them identify common traps, such as promises of free giveaways.
- Make sure they know to never enter any personal information, such as an email address or phone number.
Add Extra Protection
If all your other precautions fail (after all, kids will be kids), you have the option to add an extra layer of protection as a backup. Security is so important that most wireless carriers offer data and device protection for mobile devices, such as Device Protection+ from U.S. Cellular®. Consider it to safeguard your family devices and network, so your kids can enjoy the internet without security risks.
Even if your kids do accidentally open a suspicious site or app, these strategies will help them avoid risks and limit your family’s exposure. And remember to remain vigilant: hackers never take a day off, so it pays to stay up to date on emerging security risks.
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