Back to School – Tips for Parents

It feels like the December holidays only just began, and we hate to say it, but the start of another school year is right around the corner. It’s time to purchase school books, pencils and pens. However, in many households across the country, back-to-school may look a little different this year. Instead of working on their handwriting, kids are learning how to navigate online learning systems and use video conferencing apps.

While students are getting back into the swing of doing homework, researching school projects, and focusing on getting good grades, they also need to be aware of malware, phishing schemes, and safe computing practices. The new school year is an exciting time for students, faculty, and staff. It’s also an exciting time for hackers, identity thieves, and other unscrupulous types who take advantage of people during this busy academic time of year.

Malicious cyber activity affects students in a variety of ways, ranging from computer attacks or scams to being a victim of cyber bullying. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep you, your kids, and your devices protected from the latest threats. Here are some cybersecurity tips for parents to ensure their children’s digital safety for the new school year:

#1 Familiarize yourself with your children’s devices and learning platforms.

Whether your child’s school has provided a laptop or tablet or you had to buy one for them, sit down and get familiar with the device, as well as the software your child will be using to attend classes and submit schoolwork. You don’t have to train yourself to be an IT administrator, but you need to understand how to update the machine and the software on it, as well as how to configure parental controls and privacy settings.

#2 Make use of parental controls and privacy settings.

Parental controls and privacy settings help you keep your child safe from cyberbullying and online predators by allowing you to establish parameters around which sites your child can access, the amount of information they can share online, and the amount of time they can spend online outside of school. Don’t just configure the settings; explain the importance of them to your children. This is a great opportunity to segue into a larger discussion of online safety.

#3 Make sure devices and software are kept up to date.

When you receive a message to update your child’s device or software, first make sure that it’s not a phishing scam (also see #7) and once you have vetted the updates do so as soon as possible to ensure you hav the latest updates. These updates frequently contain important security patches.

#4 Monitor your email for important cybersecurity messages from your child’s school.

This ensures you’re kept aware of cyberattacks such as the one that hit the Rialto School District only two weeks into the new school year, where cybercriminals installed malware on students’ district-provided devices.

#5 Cover all webcams when not in use.

With a few tweaks to Google searches,

anyone can locate and access unsecured webcams, including cams located in people’s houses — maybe even your house. Make sure that your kids, and everyone else in the house, cover their webcams when they’re not in use. If your webcam doesn’t come with a privacy cover, use a sticky note or a piece of masking tape.

#6 Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks.

Public Wi-Fi connections, such as those that restaurants and other businesses provide for customers’ use, are notoriously insecure. Among other dangers, they’re highly susceptible to “man-in-the-middle” attacks, which allow cybercriminals to see all of the information that users are transmitting on the public Wi-Fi. Make sure your child does schoolwork on your secured home network, and that network only.

#7 Teach your child to avoid phishing scams.

In the real world, you teach your children not to get into cars with strangers. Online, you need to teach them not to click on links or file attachments sent to them by strangers, as well as not to respond to messages requesting login credentials.

#8 Protect your child’s passwords.

Since about 80% of all data breaches can be traced back to stolen or compromised passwords, the simplest yet most important thing you can do to protect your child online is to make sure they’re exercising good password hygiene, including:

  1. Using strong, unique passwords for all of their online accounts
  2. Never sharing their passwords with other people
  3. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) on every site that supports it
  4. Using a password manager

Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.

For more information on how to keep yourself, your business and your family safe online follow Cyber Angels SA on any of our Social Media channels.

Written by: Robyn Bartlett