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Brush up on security to keep your child safe online

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Boy at computer

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1.  How do I guide my child online safely?
2.  Can predators steal my child’s information?
3.  How can we protect our passwords?

These days, it’s not uncommon for children of all ages to use conferencing platforms such as Google Classroom and Zoom for virtual learning and activities, especially during a crisis like a pandemic.

That’s why it’s important for parents to brush up on online safety guidelines and habits to pass along to their children.

1.  HOW DO I GUIDE MY CHILD ONLINE SAFELY?

Be sure to educate kids about potential dangers and safety precautions, says Michael DiBartolo, director of information technology for Community Partners of South Florida.

“Never share passwords or personal information. Never accept calls from or arrange to meet people you don’t know. Never open emails, download, or install files or software from unknown senders,” he says.

It’s understandable this can be daunting for parents, says Christopher Jacob, director of information technology for Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. “Check with your child’s school to see if the software or email systems retain the same security precautions as they would from the school premises,” he says.

Both experts offer these suggestions:

  • Update the computer with the latest security and antivirus protection
  • Use a complex password, even if you have to input it yourself
  • Set internet browsers to the strictest privacy settings
  • Approve, download and install applications only via your parental administrator account
 

2.  CAN PREDATORS STEAL MY CHILD’S INFO?

The School District of Palm Beach County, which uses Google Classroom, packs its digital learning page with valuable safety information to protect the whole family.

Be warned that videoconferencing platforms can be hacked and expose your information. This is why you should set your browser security and privacy settings to the most restrictive level.

“Educational email addresses usually include stronger privacy protection. Even so, third-party tracking cookies can be installed, which may later serve advertisements,” Jacob says.

It’s critical for you to monitor you child’s online learning, DiBartolo says. To make that easier, keep the computer in a common area of your home, such as the living room table.

“Make sure your child isn’t putting personal details in their profiles. Video meetings can be recorded, so children should not do, say or post anything they may regret later,” he says.

3.  HOW CAN WE PROTECT OUR PASSWORDS?

Try to avoid passwords that hackers can guess from looking at your social media, DiBartolo says. “Passwords should be at least eight characters long, using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t keep re-using the same password,” he says.

Consider using a free password manager like LastPass or Dashlane to create and manage complex passwords, Jacob says. Even with this added layer of protection, beware of phishing emails that try to trick you into entering information, such as usernames and passwords, into fake websites. 

“Don’t click the links. Call the company or browse to the website directly,” he says.

For more expert advice, click here to check out these nine tips from Understood on what to discuss with your child.

SOURCES:

• Christopher Jacob, director of information technology, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County
• Michael DiBartolo, director of information technology, Community Partners of South Florida

 

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