THE EDITOR: Now more than ever hacks are taking place throughout the world and therefore here in Trinidad and Tobago, and as such parents are now more stressed for their children to stay safe online and taking part mobile games they may play, such as Roblox, etc. Here are some tips parents can utilise to keep their children safe online.
Never leave your/your child’s device unattended
One minute it's there and the next minute it's gone. Smartphones, laptops and tablets have a decent resale value. Moreover, cybercriminals capture information such as passwords, addresses and more from the devices, especially if you have credit card information stored on them.
Children are a prime target for device thefts, as there is a high likelihood that all of this information is on their devices, as they rely on this information for school and other activities. Teach your children how valuable these devices are and that they should keep them safe.
Familiarise yourself with your children's devices and learning platforms
Whether your children's school provided a laptop or tablet or you purchased one, you should familiarise yourself with the device and software your child will use to participate in class and submit schoolwork.
You do not need to be trained as an IT expert, but you do need to know how to update the device and the software on it, and how to configure parental controls and privacy settings.
Click with caution
Whether subtle or brazen, phishing is dangerous. All it takes is one careless click to sneak malicious software into devices and cause damage.
Talk to your children about not automatically clicking on links in e-mails. Show them how to hover over the link to make sure it leads to a legitimate address. Spelling mistakes, strange e-mails from well-known companies and threats asking for quick action are some of the telltale signs of a phishing e-mail designed to install malware on the device.
If in doubt, do not click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company's website and contact the relevant person or customer service to make sure that you have received such an e-mail.
Never ever share your password
You may think that everyone knows the importance of keeping passwords secret, but maybe your children do not. After all, 76 per cent of people share their passwords. All it takes is one moment of making the wrong decision and you risk exposing everything stored on your device.
Teach your children to protect accounts with strong, unique passwords that include a combination of at least ten uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers to confuse bots that steal passwords and crawl the internet.
Change your passwords every three months and do not use the same password for different accounts. If it's too difficult to remember all those passwords, use a good password manager.
Be careful when using social media
Many social media networks require users to be at least 13 years old, but some allow children to sign up with their parents' permission.
If your children have accounts, check their privacy settings. The default settings may reveal more information than you'd like. Change the settings to the highest level of privacy. You never know who is snooping on social media profiles.
Teach your children not to accept friend requests from people they – and you – do not know. Some friend requests come from bots that spam friend lists.
There are many risks associated with social accounts, but stalking and bullying are two very real dangers that can haunt children online and offline. Publicly posting your location is not the safest thing you can do. To deter stalkers, disable location services on your child's phone and apps.
Be a good online citizen
Remember that the internet is eternal. So everything that is said online stays online. Nothing is really deleted, not even on Snapchat. Unfortunately, since the internet is the new playground, bullying can plague children offline, too.
Teach your children to practise good online etiquette and never say mean things. Instead, be kind and do not engage in negative posts. Let them know that the law protects victims of cyberbullying. So they should tell you if they are being cyberbullied or know someone who is being bullied.
These are all important skills for staying safe online, but with children mistakes can happen. As a parent, you can take preventative measures by protecting your child's device with security software and being ever so vigilant.