The most basic rule of internet safety is “don’t click.” If somebody sends a link, even a friend or a family member, kids should be taught not to click it. If a link is posted on a social media account, kids shouldn’t click it. If somebody is trying to bully you or cajole you into clicking a link, definitely don’t click it. In short, if there’s a scrap of doubt, adult or child, don’t click.
Teach Them The Signs
Beyond not clicking, education is the best weapon against phishing, and will be useful to your kids in the long run. So teach kids to spot the signs of phishing email. Does the email address itself come from an official account? Is the subject line properly spelled and grammatically correct? Does the email take a threatening tone or otherwise attempt to scare you? Is there a way to independently verify the email, such as an 800 number you can call? Are they told not to tell their parents? Sit kids down and show them phishing emails you get, and why they’re fake.
A very useful and effective way to prevent phishing is to simply route all communications online through you, at least in some cases. Just like kids need their own space as they get older, they also need their own space to some degree online, and trust is important between parent and child. At the same time, though, if you found a letter from a total stranger for your child in the mailbox, you’d probably want to know what’s happening. Email is much the same way. For official functions like school contact, kids should give your email.
Unfortunately, even the smartest kids can make mistakes, or get fooled, just like their parents. So it’s also worth controlling what kids can click and otherwise access with parental control apps. These can be installed on any platform kids use and can control everything from the times the devices is available to the websites that device can access. Parental control apps can even prevent apps from being installed or used, which can be particularly handy with messaging apps where phishers lurk. Similarly, if you can afford it, you can have platforms strictly for the kids, with any sensitive information kept well-separate.
To some degree, we’re always going to be nervous about letting our kids on the internet. But with education and software, we can ensure it’s safe to be on. Screen Time is a good place to start. Learn more about it here.