With internet usage becoming a daily part of our lives, restricting your kids' access doesn’t seem viable or sustainable. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average young American spends every waking minute on a smartphone, TV, or computer.
Not only that, but kids ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours a day on such devices. Kaspersky estimates that kids in this age group are always online as they prefer entertainment and social apps. Therefore, the topic of internet safety and cybersecurity for kids should be at the core of every parent’s and educator’s mind.
For this reason, we’ve prepared the following five tips you can use to teach your kids cybersecurity basics.
1. Consider Kid-Friendly Educational Resources
One of the best ways to teach children about cybersecurity is through resources designed to help them learn, especially hands-on. It can be incredibly challenging to teach younger kids about more complex concepts and ideas so it’s helpful to break it down in a way they easily understand.
Fortunately, there are many great resources that can help explain the fundamentals of cybersecurity to a variety of kids. One resource to consider are the Sphero cybersecurity labs.
Using Sphero BOLT, you can teach your kids cybersecurity principles using programmable robots and fun, engaging activities. These free lessons bring abstract cybersecurity concepts to life for middle school students. The curriculum features 20 lessons and an Educator Guide additional educator or parent support. Check them out in the Sphero Edu app.
2. Sensitize Them to the Dangers of Talking to Strangers
The old saying, “Don’t talk to strangers,” couldn't be more accurate when it comes to cybersecurity for kids.
In the online world, predators are extremely deceptive and mask themselves as harmless people. For starters, you should make your kids aware of online predatory behavior and that people are the biggest threat to cybersecurity. You should also talk to them about cyberbullying, emotional harm, and fraud to protect their online privacy.
One way to do this is by running through specific scenarios. This is an effective technique to teach your kid a key lesson about online security, as you’ll be creating an imaginary scenario that involves confrontation from a stranger online.
The other way to help your kids avoid interactions with online strangers is by telling them to stick to communicating solely with their friends, who have been verified by parents. It’s important to make sure your child is comfortable communicating with you about the various online spaces, encounters, and messages they get, even if it means discussing difficult topics.
3. Lead By Example
As parents and educators, it’s tempting to lead by telling children to follow exactly what we say. However, it’s generally better to teach kids about cybersecurity by setting a positive example.
Recently, a study published by Michigan State University explains that children learn by copying their parents or other trusted adults. This phenomenon is also popularly referred to as “Monkey see, monkey do.” Children learn by imitating behaviors, watching, and listening to other people.
For this reason, we recommend teaching your kids about cybersecurity by setting a strong example for them to follow. This means that you’ll want to fully educate yourself about the dangers of internet usage so you can steer away from online risks.
After you’ve educated yourself about these dangers and the best practices to follow, incorporate them into your daily life. These habits could be anything from implementing best password security practices to being mindful about the Wi-Fi you use and keeping your software up to date.
4. Lay Down Household Rules for Online Security
Setting up house rules can be a great way to keep your kids within safe online boundaries, especially at an early age. There are a couple of household rules that you should consider adopting, such as:
- No giving out information online. This could be anything from email addresses to telephone numbers to passwords and the name of the school where your kids use the internet.
- Only connect to the internet if you have to. It would be best to disconnect from the internet, especially when they are not using it. Ensure the device is NOT set to connect automatically to the Wi-Fi.
- Ask before downloading anything. Make sure your kids ask you for permission before downloading anything from the internet. Malware can easily fool children as they disguise themselves as games or videos that could pique their interest.
5. Use the Right Tools to Keep Them Safe
Although this is not a tip for teaching your children about internet safety, using the right tools allows you to take charge and be proactive about your kids' online safety. There are a ton of threats out there, meaning your kid could potentially run into one of them, even if they follow all the rules.
This is why we recommend using tools such as VPNs and antivirus software to enhance your defenses against these threats. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that provides a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the internet.
A VPN can even be installed on a smartphone to ensure your child's internet activity is secure and protected. No matter their device, there are plenty of VPN options for iPhone and Android operating systems. It’s a great tool that encrypts all internet traffic, making it difficult for anyone to intercept or steal sensitive information such as passwords, login credentials, and personal data.
Antivirus software is also a crucial tool to consider if you want to enhance the safety of your devices, including computers and tablets. These tools provide an added layer of security by scanning devices for malware and viruses and removing any potential threats they may find.
The best antivirus software also includes features such as parental controls, which allow you to monitor and control your kid's online activity. With these tools, you can set limits on the websites they can visit, the apps they can use, and the time they can spend online.
Teaching Kids Cybersecurity Basics
Online predators and hackers are constantly upping their game to try and deceive us into giving away our sensitive information and finances. Children, especially young ones, are the most vulnerable as they can easily be fooled.
Fortunately, teaching them about cybersecurity is a great way to enhance their protection and keep them safe.
Opinions expressed by Sphero.com contributors are their own.