cybersecurity tipsIn a world full of frequent security breaches, identity theft and privacy invasions, knowing the basics of cybersecurity is important for everyone, especially children, who are just as vulnerable to cybercrime, as we saw with the recent VTech breach. Similar to how good financial habits can never be taught too early, safe online behaviors are very much the same. Here are three cybersecurity tips you should teach your children as they start using the Internet more independently.

Don’t overshare

The last decade brought the advent of social media, and now so many intimate details about people can be found online. Although most social media sites have age requirements, oversharing can happen anywhere and to anyone. Just as you’d teach your child about what not to share with strangers in real life, teaching your kid about what sites to avoid and what types of information not to share online is equally as important. Remind them to never share their full name, home address, phone number, their parents or siblings’ names, financial information, school name, passwords or other private information with a stranger or anyone online.

Sharing also requires them to keep in mind who their online “friends” are, and make sure they understand that they shouldn’t “friend” or “follow” someone unless they personally know them in real life. Parents should also explain that just because they get to know someone online doesn’t mean they really know the person at all — a lesson that many online daters learn the hard way.

Keep in mind that oversharing applies to everyone, not just your children. In fact, the results of a 2015 New York University study drew attention to the practice of parental oversharing — finding that parents are unknowingly exposing their child’s photo, name, birthday and other information. As such, it’s important to make oversharing not just about your children and their information but about your entire family. That’s why it’s essential to emphasize a family-wide culture that commits to not oversharing information about anyone in your household. This is also something you’ll want to share with your friends and extended family members. Let them know you’d prefer that they don’t post photos of your children (regardless of if you’re tagged in it or not), and if they do, ask them to double check that the photo is not posted publicly.

Don’t accept gifts from strangers

Children are very passionate about their interests and those who target them know this. Teach your children to be vigilant with regards to any online communications, such as occasional mass messages, unsolicited invitations and other links, as they may be phishing scams aiming to take advantage of younger victims who don’t know to be aware. As such, scammers will often target children’s love of games, videos, music or other types of downloadable content by posing as their favorite content production company and sending them malicious links.

To help your children combat these attempted scams, teach them to share any funny or questionable content with you — links, websites and emails as well as text messages and chat messages — before they click or share it. While this may not be ideal for your children (especially teenagers), doing this can help protect the security of your child and your family’s information. Even if it’s as innocuous as a funny video or a teen pop star’s fan website, it could be used as a malware vector. To further bring the point home, connect this advice to the real danger of accepting gifts from strangers offline, and emphasize how the Internet is simply an extension of real life — if you wouldn’t do it in real life, then you shouldn’t do it online.

Finally, make sure you know what your children are involved in online and which social media sites they use. You may even want to consider setting up a weekly check in with your child where you both go through what they’ve been doing online, or you can always enlist the help of a parental control software, which compiles a report to help you keep tabs of your child’s online and social media activity. It’s also essential for parents and children to have open communication about cybersecurity, as it can help you and your children to better discern scams from genuine messaging online.

Beware of dangerous downloads

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to simply teach your children not to trust strangers, as it’s also possible for your child to download a malicious app disguised as a game or other fun app that’s designed to steal their identity. While it used to be true that you can avoid malicious apps as long as you only download them from your Windows, Android-or iPhone-branded app store, this is not always the case, as Apple users learned earlier this year. The key to helping your children stay away from malicious apps is open communication, as described above. As a part of that, require your children to tell you before they download an app so you can inspect it to see if it’s safe. If you’re unsure or think you child may not be willing to follow this policy, you can either download a trusted mobile security app that will let them know when an app is unsafe, or change the password to the app store account so your child must have you enter it every time they wish to download an app.

While mobile devices are the target for malicious apps, computers are also targets of malware-laced downloads. The easiest way to combat this on a computer is to instill a no-downloading rule, as your child may be much more exposed to pop-ups and other spam on a desktop version of their browser than a mobile one. As an added level of protection, you may also want to download an Internet security software on your child’s computer, as it will alert them to a potentially dangerous file or document before they download it.

Want to learn more? Follow our security breach blog to learn about the most recent breaches and get tips on how to protect your family from a cyberattack.