Those of us who were born before the digital age like to joke about how today’s children grow up having been given a tablet in their crib, something we can hardly imagine for ourselves. And while that may or may not actually be true, the fact remains that the next generation has never experienced life without connectivity.
Yet the importance of online safety seems to be lacking for everyone, parents and kids alike. This is a big problem in our ever connected world of data breaches, identity theft, and malicious software.
We often encourage parents to stay familiar with current topics in cybersecurity and tech so that they can have frequent conversations with their kids about those things (just like with anything else). But more effort is needed if we want to create a generation of good cyber citizens.
We’ve put together a list of a handful of online safety-themed chores for children that can be added in with all the other traditional stuff like sweeping or taking out the trash. Each of these has the opportunity to inspire kids to have cyber-aware habits that will form a strong foundation for them to build on.
Ensure all critical software is up to date, especially anti-malware databases.
Software updates roll out spontaneously for the most part (apparently always when we’re right in the middle of doing something). Since we all fall victim to X’ing out of the notification box, it’s good to have a set time to make sure all software updates and patches have been installed. Giving this chore to your kid to do weekly not only teaches them a great security habit, it also keeps your family’s devices immune to the latest known vulnerabilities and bugs.
Make sure backups are automated, running smoothly, and well-protected.
Once backups are in place, it’s a good idea to check periodically to make sure everything is still being backed up properly. If you’re backing up to a hard drive, those can sometimes fail without warning. If you’re backing up to a cloud service, it’s possible that a miscommunication can occur between your device and their server. This is not a “set it and forget it” deal! It’s much better to keep an eye on things rather than waiting to find out that your data is gone and the backup hasn’t been working for 6 months.
Monthly to Quarterly Chores
Review social media account privacy settings.
This is a very important chore for everyone, but especially important for younger people who spend a LOT of time on social media. Instituting a monthly or quarterly checkup on privacy settings does you more than one favor. For one, it’s a good way to make sure you (and the kid) haven’t missed an app update that has made PII or embarrassing photos public without your knowledge.
But second (and perhaps more important), making this a habit for your children subtly instills the importance of being private on the internet. Being too open on a public-facing account can cause all sorts of problems, from identity theft to failing an interview for college or a future job to straight up embarrassment or harassment.
Update router password.
Your home router is one of the most vulnerable entry points into your network and digital life at home. If you’ve never changed the default password that came with it, we highly suggest you do that RIGHT NOW. And then, every month or so, ask your kid to update the password to something new and strong. This teaches them the habit of changing passwords regularly, and how to make strong passwords in the first place.
Update online account passwords.
This piggybacks on the last chore. We like to say that passwords are like underwear: change them often, don’t leave them out for people to see, and don’t share them with others! Ask your child to update the passwords for their personal accounts – as well as family accounts or devices – to, once again, get them in the habit of doing so and doing it well.
Delete mobile apps you no longer need or use.
Mobile apps already ask us for too many permissions, giving them access to our personal information, contact lists, and daily activities. Quarterly, do a check on devices to see if there’s anywhere you can cut some of that out. Ask your kid to do a scan of the apps on theirs and any other family devices to see if there are apps that no one has used in a while and uninstall. You’ll get a slight increase in performance and will have one less vulnerable opening onto your device.
Get creative and come up with some of your own! What digital chores would you recommend for children? Have you tried something that’s worked well, or something that’s failed? We’d love to hear about it!
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