So you’re going for the Parent of the Year Award and getting your kiddo the latest iPad or that new Android phone they’ve been dying for. They’ve been well-behaved all year and nothing beats a new piece of tech as the main holiday present.
But before you let that little Isabel or Brighton connect to your home network and run wild with their new device, there’s something else you can do to definitely be a shoo-in for that Parent of the Year Award: have “the talk.”
No, I don’t mean the birds and bees. I mean the bits and the bytes, the clicks and the tricks, the nerds and the keys, if you will. 🙂
This is the perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about security, privacy, and responsibility. It’s not easy, and will probably have to be something you talk to them about multiple times, in different stages as they get older and as new risks pop up. I’ve come up with a list of conversation starters for any of you who haven’t broached the subject yet. (These are also great to have for those kids who are already savvy to the risks they face online.)
Creepers, pedophiles, scammers, and other predators exist in both the physical world and online. Kids might feel safe chatting with some faceless Twitter handle or receiving pictures from some unknown user name on Snapchat, but they need to understand that real people are behind the screen, that real people are typing those words and sending those photos, and that those real people might be out to get them.
Don’t Be a Bully
You don’t want your kids shoving other kids around the lunchroom, and you certainly don’t want them bullying someone on social media. Make sure your kids understand that their words – even if they are just text on a screen – carry weight and have meaning. The i-SAFE foundation has research suggesting that half of adolescents who use the internet have been bullied, and about the same amount have done the bullying, and only 10% of victims tell their parents about it. Start the bullying conversation from a young age.
I can not tell you the number of times I’ve seen photos on Facebook and Instagram containing personal information, posted by teens and twenty-somethings. Photos of their airline tickets, their first paycheck, their drivers’ license. They don’t stop to think about all the information they’re just putting out there for all those creepers online who might want to get their hands on a minor. Everyone is at risk of ID theft, especially young people.
A friend of mine who plays a lot of video games online says that he’s always running into kids who log in to play and just share details – name, age, address – with the adult strangers on the same channel. Teach your kids the importance of privacy, of protecting personally identifiable information (PII), and don’t let them post TMI in the most public place on the planet.
What Goes on the Internet, Stays on the Internet
Once something is put out there, in the public, online, it is there forever. This is a lesson that many adults still need to learn, and that every kid needs to grow up understanding. If they post a photo from a party with underage drinking, a future employer could find it. If they send nudie pictures to a boyfriend, someone could save those forever. If they post a racist comment in a forum, their dream college could find it. It is important to think before you post that antagonizing comment, that personal photo, that seemingly off-hand remark about your boss or parents. Anything that gets put out there, is out there forever and could very easily come back to bite you.
Where’s Your Device?
Kids who receive hot tech gadgets and mobile devices as gifts need to be taught to keep them in their possession at all times. Not only is losing a device a total waste of money, but it’s a threat to your privacy and personal security. Teach your kids how much personal information is stored on a device at any time and the importance of knowing where their mobile devices are (this is great practice for when they eventually have to keep up with their own set of car keys)! It’s a good idea to install an app that can help you locate a missing device – and one that allows for remote wipe is even better! Make sure your kids have lock screens enabled on any device with a screen.
Cyber vs Real World
Technology and the internet are such integral parts of our lives that we can no longer think of things in terms of the “cyber” world and the “real” world. They are one and the same. Money we make in the “real” world gets managed in the “cyber” world. Things we say in the “cyber” world can come back to haunt us in the “real” world. Kids need to understand that even though there is a screen separating the two, they still need to be aware and cautious with both. Ask them to consider their online actions in terms of the “real” world before doing them. If it’s not something they would feel comfortable saying or doing in front of someone (like you!) in the “real” world, then they shouldn’t do it online.
Tech gifts are always an exciting route to go for the holidays, but just make sure your kids are aware of the privacy and security responsibilities that go along with them. It’s always a good idea to create a family security policy that everyone follows – you can use our Human Firewall Pledge as a starting point – and make sure there are consequences for those who don’t follow policy.
Here’s to a safe and secure holiday season!
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