What Types of Personal Data Should Parents Protect?
In a world of easy internet access, our children are vulnerable to online criminals. There are several types of personal data that parents should protect for their kids. We’ll take a look at what you need to know to keep your family safe from cybercrime.
Your Children Are Vulnerable Online
Because we all use the web so much, it’s easy to forget about internet privacy. Companies, agencies, and other organizations track us when we are online: our location, our financial data, and our personal information, as well as what we buy. Even our conversations are recorded and stored by companies.
Companies use this data for marketing. Unfortunately, hackers and other criminals can access it to steal, defame, and otherwise harm our children. How can we protect our families when they are so vulnerable?
Ways to Protect Your Family
The first step is to talk to your children. As long as your children are online, they are not too young to learn about internet safety. Set age-appropriate rules and boundaries for internet usage. Then, teach them to understand why you’ve put these in place.
The most important thing you can teach them is to avoid sharing information with people they don’t know. They should not share personal data, like their phone or address, online. Instead, they can give that info out via phone or text.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take to safeguard their privacy online:
- Use a VPN with your internet service to block unwanted sites and safeguard browsing features.
- Protect your browser by disabling tracking cookies and enabling private browsing in your options. That will protect their data and actions from being monitored.
- Use trustworthy antivirus services and parental controls to keep kids and their computers safe.
- Have your kids set up and store unique and complex passwords for all their accounts. Using the same ones repeatedly puts them at risk.
Besides these generic safety tools, there are several options you can employ to protect them during their most common activities.
Just about all our kids are on social media. Unfortunately, this can be a dangerous place. To keep kids safe, you must teach them to keep personal data private while on social media. Here are some simple guidelines you can teach them:
- What we share online can be stored forever. Make sure your kids understand how to use good judgment and discretion when posting. If they are uncertain, start a conversation about what makes a good post versus TMI (too much information).
- Everyone likes to post photos. Sadly, family pictures can attract predators, cyberbullies, and other internet dangers. Teach them to respect others’ privacy by not posting pictures of other people without their permission.
- Many websites give you an option to log in using a social media profile rather than your email. That leads to numerous security dangers. Instead, teach your kids to set up a new profile via email rather than exposing social media data.
Online gaming is another area that exposes our kids to identity theft, data mining, phishing, and other hazards. There are several protections you can put in place to safeguard their virtual gaming activities.
- Computer cameras and mics may be exploited with the click of an insecure link. Be sure your kids are not clicking anything suspicious or unverified while in games. You can also cover the camera and unplug peripherals when offline.
- Turn off location tracking on devices if possible whenever gaming.
- If you have secure Wifi or a VPN and antivirus software, you’ll give your child an extra level of protection against unsecured gaming servers.
- Finally, be sure to update applications and software regularly.
Safely shopping online is a bit of a tricky activity since your child needs to enter secure data, such as location, phone, and credit card info. Teach your child to recognize safe sites for shopping (i.e., Amazon, Target) versus unknown name sites or links that redirect elsewhere. Additionally, kids need to be wary of clicking email links from unknown sources.
Posting a direct bank account link is also unsafe. Therefore, instead of using a debit card, have your kids use a credit card for an extra measure of safety. Kids should also protect their credit card usage by keeping their online receipts and looking for suspicious activity on their accounts. Have them avoid saving credit card data either with a retailer or in their cookies.
Since the pandemic, more children are relying on online education. Unfortunately, from 2018 to 2019, problems with student data security in classrooms tripled. Your child’s grades, progress, and other confidential school data are stored online and can be vulnerable to attacks.
Be sure that your educators and administrators take the appropriate steps to protect student privacy. Review your schools’ digital policies, including how information is protected and shared. Schools should use FERPA Sherpa, a government resource designed to help them protect student privacy.
Kids today cannot avoid using the internet. This puts them at great risk for cybercrimes. However, these simple steps can keep your children safe online no matter what they are doing.