How to keep your kids safer online this holiday season

With schools about to close for the year and summer vacation fast approaching, kids across the country will be spending more time on their cell phones, chatting with friends, sharing their vacation photos, and consuming online entertainment, not to mention games.

But how safe are they online?

Paul Williams, Fortinet Country Manager – Southern Africa, offers these tips for parents to ensure kids are safer online this December:

Promote online safety awareness

Talk to your kids about the risks and your expectations online. Make sure they understand what they need to do to stay safe, including keeping personally identifiable information (PII) private. This includes names, addresses, telephone numbers and personal banking information.

Consider setting limits that may include rules about how long they can be online, what sites they can visit, and what tasks or activities they can do based on age, knowledge, and maturity.

It reinforces the importance of not opening emails, messages or attachments from people you don’t know, and never agreeing to meet up with anyone you “know” online. Take the time to set up your kids’ phones and check their privacy settings on social media sites for the safest possible experience.

SEE ALSO: 4 apps to protect your children

Safer social networks

Be aware of inappropriate content and unsafe or unhealthy social media practices. Start practicing family sharing groups with the same kind of phones and apps that offer these features to parents for the tracking and approval process. In this way, the parent has visibility of the child’s digital footprint and activities.

Also make your children aware of the risks of phishing, where one person takes information and images of another to create a false identity.

Encourage your kids to tell a trusted adult if they see inappropriate content, aren’t sure about something that doesn’t feel right, or makes them feel uncomfortable.

How to defend against cyber threats

It’s important for parents to make sure their own and their children’s devices are safe. For online accounts, start by using strong, distinctive passwords. Some best practices include avoiding easily accessible information such as birthdays, default passwords provided with devices, user name, or simple combinations of numbers or words (eg 1234, password).

SEE ALSO: World Password Day: Simple ways to improve your online security

Enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the next step in strengthening account security. MFA confirms the identity of users by adding a step to the authentication process, either through physical or mobile-based tokens. MFA is highly recommended for financial accounts, so if your child has a separate bank account, make sure they have it set up.

A major threat comes from the network your child is connected to. Cybercriminals often use unsecured networks, such as public Wi-Fi, as a way to gain access to devices connected to them. It is a good practice to disable Wi-Fi until needed or to confirm the correct network name and login credentials with appropriate personnel before logging in.

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