Children currently spend a lot of extra time online. This entails risks. Cyber criminals make no distinction based on age. We want to help parents and teachers to increase the online safety of children. That is why we have listed a number of practical tips.
- Explain cybercrime
Especially young children have a limited understanding of cybercrime. But you can tell them in a general sense that there are also risks associated with the internet. For example, explain that there are thieves on the Internet who try to steal money or property, just like in the real world. Try to keep it light, so that the child does not get scared.
Incidentally, you can also discuss a number of forms of cybercrime with older children. This includes ransomware (malicious software that encrypts files and then asks for a ransom) and phishing emails (emails in which “fumbling” under false pretenses for login details and other sensitive information).
- Use strong and unique passwords
From games and social media to e-mail: children also make extensive use of passwords. It is therefore good to emphasize the importance of strong passwords. Not too short, and with enough variation in, for example, numbers and special signs. Also warn against re-using the same password and explain why this is risky. With a stolen username and password, an attacker has access to all services where you use this data.
- Do not share personal information with strangers
Explain to children that people can pretend to be someone else on the Internet. That is why it is important not to just exchange photos, videos and personal information. A good rule of thumb is: would you also show or tell this to a stranger on the street? If the answer is no, it is also not a good idea online.
- Do not open attachments or click on links in emails
Much malicious software arrives via email or other digital messages. Also the retrieval of data (phishing) usually takes place via e-mail. Advise children not to open attachments or click on links if they do not know the sender personally. A well-known security advice that they will benefit from throughout their lives.
- Always call an adult when in doubt
Of course you cannot expect a child to always make a safe choice independently. An important “rule” is therefore: ask an adult for help if you have any doubts about anything. That could be a strange request from an online boyfriend, but also an error message or a suspicious email. Better to ask once too much!
Children can also feel ashamed if a computer, tablet or smartphone no longer works properly. Maybe they think they have done something wrong and therefore keep it hidden. Explain that you will never get angry when something like this happens as long as the child is honest. Then you can look for a solution together.
- Monitor the child’s online behavior
Trust is good, but also keep a finger on the pulse. From time to time, check the manners in the app groups, whether there is, for example, online bullying and whether there is contact with unknown persons. Also discuss with the child what you find. In addition, regularly check whether the children’s devices are still up-to-date.