Your Child’s Security is a Team Sport


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…And you’re the captain of the team.

One of the mental hurdles we have when thinking about our children’s security is imagining that someone out there would want to hurt them. So we sort of plod along as parents – thinking that there’s plenty of time for all that nasty security stuff.

We gloss over or ignore basic precautions because we think that by doing so we’re keeping away the harsh realities of the world. We like to believe that because our children are young (and innocent of the ways of the world), so are their requirements for security and privacy.

It’s only natural that we don’t want our children to grow up too fast, but that’s no excuse to play peekaboo (I can’t see you) with the very real risks that are waiting for them online.

Unlike driving a car (and yelling at the drivers who cut you off), voting and having a sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve, security is not a wait until you grow up sort of thing.

So what’s a parent to do?

Even though we may be digital power users in our own universes (email, work apps, awesome Power Point presentations, LinkedIn …), as parents we’re often overwhelmed when it comes to security. This especially applies to keeping tabs on what our children are doing on their devices and online.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a computer genius to make sound decisions – which are critical for protecting your child now, but also for shaping your child’s approach to security. Your guiding principles for dealing with security and privacy are just as important as the tools you choose.

Participate with your children

When it comes to what your child does online, are you an active player or are you a bystander on the sidelines cheering for a win by the home team?

Privacy and security require active participation – not a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude. You need to set the example for your kids.

The average 4-year old knows how to unlock mom’s smartphone and how to access all the exciting apps – and all this with no concept of privacy or security. (That’s not a good thing!)

Here are 10 security principles to incorporate into your family’s online security game plan:

  • Show an interest in what your children are doing online, and do it with them. Devices aren’t digital nannies. Be there with your children when they are using devices. Check out what they are doing in real time so that you can help them do the right thing.
  • Age matters. Start when your children are young – before they know more about the online universe than you do. But whatever your child’s age, start now.
  • Kids will follow your example. If they see you oversharing, writing snarky comments on social media and using lousy passwords, they will do the same thing! The opposite is also true: be the positive example you want your children to emulate.
  • Make rules and monitor your child’s online/social media activities. Privacy and security are about consistently following the rules, not about being tricky or sneaky. As the responsible adult and captain of the team, you need to make the rules and make sure they are followed.
  • Don’t share your screen lock code with your child. While it may be convenient for you (“honey, check daddy’s messages”), it sets a bad precedent for privacy and for the appropriate way to deal with passwords and security.
  • Make sure your kids know that the internet is NOT virtual or anonymous. Bad actions online will have consequences in the real world.
  • No online bullying. Period. No ganging up on anyone. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, then don’t say it online!
  • As captain of the team, you are responsible for reading the Privacy Policy. YOU are the one who decides if the terms are acceptable. YOU are the one who says NO! when you think the vendor is invading your child’s privacy. (To be clear, saying NO! means not installing the app.)
  • Don’t connect to public Wi-Fis. Protect devices with PIN codes, and all your accounts with strong passwords. Activate two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Don’t let the Internet be a parallel universe to which your children escape from you and reality. All those smart devices are tools for learning, entertainment and communication, NOT a parallel universe that your children escape to in order to avoid reality.

The takeaway: your child’s online safety requires your active participation – it’s not something you can delegate. Being involved with what your kids do online will put you in the ‘inner circle of trust’!

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, if you’re not setting the security rules, your children will fill the void with bad habits. Start the ongoing security and privacy discussion BEFORE a problem happens.

Security and privacy are a mindset – not just a setting on a device or app. Be sure to check out Stop.Think.Connect. and consider using apps like Kids Email and Familoop parental control software that put you in control.

Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Post Contriubted by our friends at Sticky Password

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About Peter Lipa

Peter Lipa is Sticky Password’s Regional Director for North America. Sticky Password reminds you to play an active role in your children’s online security.

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