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Written by Silvia Bitchkei on 20 August 2019

Back to School: Cybersecurity Tips for Parents (and Their Children, Too)

All too soon, the summer holidays will come to an end. For some of us, this means getting back to work, starting a new job, or sending our children off to school or university.  In the latter case, we wave them off, hoping that this is the start of a good year and good grades.

Unfortunately, modern kids have a lot more than math exams to think about. Our children have both a real-world and a digital world presence. In fact, by two-years-old, our children have entered the digital realm. A recent paper published in the Emory Law Journal entitled “Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media” points out that around 92 percent of two-year-old’s have an online presence.

With this in mind, we have the responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about cybersecurity as well as math to allow them to stay safe online.

Related Post: 12 Effective Security Habits

Cybersecurity Problem Areas and Tips to Stay Secure

Below we have listed a few key cybersecurity tips that parents and their children need to know about to stay secure.


Staying Secure on Social Media

Social media can be a parenting nightmare in terms of security and privacy. But these platforms are now an intrinsic part of most teenagers' lives.

Pew Research shows that YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular social platforms for 13 to 17-year-olds. TikTok, which has a large teenage audience, is seeing user figures surge with 660M downloads in 2018.

Social media has a myriad of real challenges for young people, especially in terms of privacy and security.

Related Post: Is Cybersecurity the Same as Data Privacy?

Instagram and Snapchat, for example, have been identified as a “go-to” platform for money mule scams. These social platforms are being used to specifically target young people. Money Mules typically end up giving over their bank account details for a cash reward, their account then being used to launder money. In the UK, one bank identified 8,500 money mule accounts that were owned by people under the age of 21, one account was that of a 14-year old.

Social media platforms are, by design, built to create relationships. Parents and children need to be aware that relationships can be nefarious as well as good. Teach your children to be social security-aware.

This includes teaching them about:

  • Catphishing - a modern form of stranger danger. With this well-known Internet scam, a spoof account is created that can be used to build fictitious relationships with children specifically for nefarious reasons
  • Spoof ads and polls - these can be used for phishing purposes.
  • Posting personal data such as their location - social media is infamous for less than respectful privacy practices. However, children should be taught that privacy is about their own actions as well as platform privacy features.

One important thing that you can remember and teach your kids about staying safe on social media is to talk to a responsible adult – especially if anything happens that they feel uncomfortable with.

According to the regular security awareness publication of the SANS Institute, “a good place to start is to create a list of rules or expectations with your kids on how they should use technology”.


Mobile Security

The research from Pew mentioned above also found that 95% of teenagers in the U.S. have access to a smartphone. Smartphone security for children is the same as smartphone security for adults.

Therefore, we recommend that parents make sure that they are familiar (and teach their children) about the following:

mobile security


SMiShing (short for SMS phishing)

Train your kids to spot the tell-tale signs of mobile text/message phishing. Also, make sure they never open an image received from a stranger.



Make sure your kids know about safe app choice. Tell them to always choose apps from established app stores. If possible, oversee their app choices.


Messaging Apps

Messaging chat groups should be overseen by a guardian, especially for younger children. With older children, teach them about the dangers of accepting a stranger’s request to join a messaging group.


Bluetooth/ AirDrop (and similar sharing connections)

Only switch these options on during use. Otherwise, keep them switched off at all other times.


Public Wi-Fi

Teach children to be cautious about public Wi-Fi and that not all of the networks that show up in their Wi-Fi list when they are out and about will be safe.

In addition, consider installing the following tools on your child’s phone:

  • Anti-virus/anti-malware software
  • A Virtual Private Network (VPN) - if your child does use public Wi-Fi, a VPN will encrypt any communications made using the device.


Smart Toys

Smart toys have had a bad press and rightfully so in many cases. For example, CloudPets exposed 2.2 million personal messages between parents and their children.

If you choose a smart toy, always do your homework first.

  • Make sure the manufacturer has security and privacy policies in place.
  • Switch off the toy when not in use.
  • Change any default passwords set by the manufacturer (if allowed)
  • Make sure your home router is secured, ideally using two-factor authentication, if supported.

smart toys


Identity Theft for Kids

According to research from Javelin Strategy, more than 1 million U.S. children were victims of identity theft in 2017. Of those, 60 percent knew their perpetrator and two-thirds were under 8-years old.

As with other security and privacy issues, teaching children about protecting their identity online (and off) is vital. This should include:

  • Password hygiene - tell your children about the hazards of sharing passwords.
  • Phishing - teach children about the dangers of phishing, whether that is via SMS texts, mobile messaging apps, email or on social media platforms.
  • Monitor - wherever possible keep a watch on your children’s accounts, especially bank accounts.

In the U.S., the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act” was introduced that lets you freeze your child’s credit account. This can help prevent identity theft and fraud.


Cybersecurity Tips and Takeaways for Parents and Kids

We don’t think twice about teaching our children about road safety, but now we have to add cybersecurity tips to the things we teach our children about. Cybersecurity threats are no different to the other dangers we make our kids aware of.

If our children are cybersecurity aware and taught to stay safe online at an early age, this awareness will hopefully stay with them throughout their life.

These tips aren’t just for our children. No matter if your child is back to school, going off to college or you're simply getting back into the work routine after the summer break, these cybersecurity tips will help to keep both you and your children cyber-secure.

To learn more about effective security habits, download our infographic “Top 10 Security Tips”.

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