Hoping all my readers are healthy and safe from Covid-19 situation. With the current lock down in many countries, we have seen that not only commercial establishments have established work from home for their employees and other staff members, but also schools have enabled study from home where students are asked to have classes from home via telepresence tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom & Google Hangout.
This year, while many of us are confined to our homes, protecting our communities from COVID-19, and relying on our home networks more than ever it seemed especially important to write this blog post during these troubled times it will help provide a bit of peace of mind for households everywhere.
While this opens up different arenas for students to continue their learning from home during this lock down, it exposes children to cyber predators – people who search online for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way, cyber bullies – the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often anonymously and dangerous online games like Blue Whale and similar games that promote self harm. Also, most teenagers are baited to work with illegal click farms to earn money since it needs a phone or computer with decent internet connection only.
This blog post discusses about how parents and children should work together to understand and address the cyber security issues and ensure that children are safe and away from harms way when spending their studying or leisure time online.
- Start with establishing screen time for your kids. Establish clear boundary between study/learning screen time vs entertainment.
- Keep a check on all email accounts used by your kids, especially the ones that include online communication functionality. Like gmail/hangouts, outlook/skype, etc
- Keep a check on how many social media accounts are created by your kids. Most kids have multiple Facebook accounts separated for friends and family. Ensure that you are passive part of these networks to monitor activity.
- DMs or Direct Messages should be audited periodically. This functionality is available on major social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for starters.
- Ensure that their phones and computers are always updated with latest system updates.
- Software downloads – Have them avoid unnecessary software downloads, and only download software from reputable sources. Although free games for kids may be fun, they could contain malware or viruses that can steal information off the device.
- Use webcam covers to cover the laptop cameras and ensure that they flip open only when they need to do video calls or conferencing.
- Use parental control apps for Computers and Mobile Phones/Tablets. Apple, Android & Microsoft have some amazing tools to enforce parental control on their devices.
- Enable activity logging on your wifi routers. For devices like Netgear, there is enough documentation available or if your wifi router is provided by your ISP, ask them to activate it for you.
- If you are families with DNS configuration, use Cloudflare DNS Resolver to secure your internet access from malware and adult content.
- Don’t share Wi-fi Password with your kids. Or if your Wifi Router has ability to create multiple profiles, create a separate limited profile for your kids. Get Wifi routers like Amazon Netgear Nighthawk for enhanced security.
- Develop Awareness. Talk to your parents or elder siblings with considerable knowledge in tech. Gain basic understanding of cyber bullying, netiquette, virus protection to identify wrong doings over the internet.
- Use Strong Passwords. Change your passwords when you receive an account from school. Gamefy your password creation process. Never use your personal information like date/year of birth, etc as passwords. Don’t use your best friends name as your password. Try keeping easy to remember passwords like !Like3Doughnuts (I Like 3 Doughnuts) or D0ntP00Phere (Don’t Poop Here) or something funny that you can remember. Share passwords with your parents or legal guardian or your elder siblings. Never share passwords with outsiders, friends or even relatives without first checking with your parents.
- Don’t open emails from strangers or from email address with names of your parents but email address not belonging to your parents. E.g. if you see an unusual request from your mom or dad via email with their name, validate the email it has come from. If the email is not recognized, call them and verify. Also don’t click any unfamiliar links or download files as attachments.
- Never accept invites from unknown people on Social Networking sites like Facebook or Instagram. Engage with Direct Messages only from friends you know. If you feel someone is trolling you or cyber bullying you in school, inform immediately to your parents and school teacher. Online Trolls and Cyberbullies are harmless once they are exposed to many people.
- Device Safety – Never leave your device unattended, log off or shut down when not using the device. Never allow others to connect to your device via Bluetooth or AirDrop nor share your device password with anyone other than your parent or guardian.
- Contests, Clubs or Challenges – Don’t enter any contest, challenges or clubs that are not associated to your school or community and even then, check with your parents or guardian when doing so. Most of these contests or clubs retrieve your personal information in pretext to malicious activities.
These are simple and easy steps to follow to ensure that your children are protected online. Encourage your kids to be cyber security champions and ask them to share these best practices to their immediate friends and classmates to gain confidence. You have an important role in protecting the internet. Play your part !!!