Mother and teen daughter sitting on a couch with laptops.

Teaching Your Kids about Internet Security: 15 Age-Appropriate Tips

by Screen Time Team on 19/08/2020

There are a lot of risks online. Yet, the most common one, by far, is financial. Computer and data security are something kids should learn now, as they’ll need those skills throughout their lives. Here’s how to teach them how to be smart online.

Set Up “Training Wheels”

Until kids fully get the lessons you’re teaching them, the internet will need “training wheels:”  Software-level security that prevents attacks and mistakes.

  • Create a charging space where they have to leave game consoles, tablets, and other gadgets to charge that’s away from schoolwork and bedtime spaces.
  • Limit them to age-appropriate hardware and platforms like tablets designed for kids and “kids” versions of apps.
  • Configure the settings of their apps to limit access to data and chat functions where possible.
  • Set operating-system-level controls to block in-app purchases and to place a PIN on any downloads.
  • Use parental control software to prevent “workarounds” in downloading apps and to enforce other rules, such as no tablets during homework time.
  • Install filtering software to limit malicious and unwanted links.

Free Isn’t Free

Nothing on the internet is free, and kids need to learn what they pay in return for the games and widgets they download.

  • Open up the app store and show kids the permissions you agree to download an app, and what those permissions mean.
  • Discuss with them what “ad-supported” means and how to spot a “pay-to-win” game.
  • Show them how ringtones and other downloads may hide malware.
Father sitting with his daughter in front of a laptop.

Spotting Fakes

  • Discuss why they should never click a link in an email or chat without checking it. This is a common way hackers get malware on your computer.
  • Walk them through the basics of spotting a fake email. Have them check the email address a message comes from, for example.
  • Show how emails attempt to manipulate you into clicking links, whether for legitimate sales or dangerous purposes.

Trust But Verify

The internet thrives on trust. Trust between people, trust between customers and companies, and trust between people and governments. Yet trust isn’t blind, and kids should learn to “trust but verify.”

  • Show them how you deal with potentially fraudulent messages, such as if you get an email from your bank. Point out the email, and that you can check what’s being said by calling the bank directly or accessing their website independently of the email.
  • Point how “social engineering” works. Is someone being overly friendly? Are they offering you gifts without any seeming expectation of return? Have they asked you to download something or personal questions?
  • Show how even seemingly innocent things like profile photos can tell more about them than your children might realize.

Remember, amid all of this, to leave room for growth. As kids get older, they’ll need to have the standards of their parental control software profiles changed, will need more space to form their own friendships and social connections on chat apps, and eventually will become adults themselves. To learn how parental control software can grow with your family, try it for free!

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