Internet safety guide: 5 ways to help your child stay safe online

While your child is spending more time online in the classroom, they may not be learning the ins and outs of internet safety.
Tips & tricks
4 mins
How to keep your kids safe online.

You may not see it on the evening news, but the world of education technology is booming. In fact, experts say investments in the EdTech industry are poised to surpass $250 billion globally within the next three years.

The growth may be due in significant part to the ConnectED initiative, which is working to bring high-speed WiFi to every classroom in the U.S.

ConnectED is slowly revolutionizing how schools use the internet, and as such is opening the door for more companies to develop technology and software to help supplement your child’s educational curriculum.

As more teachers turn to various online educational tools to enhance traditional teaching methods, it’s important that your child knows how to stay safe online both at home and in the classroom.

Here are five ways to help.

1. Talk to your children about their digital footprint

When it comes to the web, anything that goes online stays online, so it’s important to be mindful of not only your privacy but also your child’s. Think of the internet as one vast forest where everything you do leaves a trail.

Make sure your child knows what’s ok to share online and what’s not. When in doubt, it’s best to keep things private. After all, the more information there is about a person online, the more opportunity there is to exploit.

Online awareness is especially prudent in the age of social media, where sites like Facebook have become so efficient at targeting users they’re now able to identify teens who feel insecure or anxious.

Not only that but more and more universities today are checking prospective students’ social media accounts before deciding who to accept. While that may not be an immediate issue, it could pose a problem when it comes time for your child to apply to various schools.

2. Help your kids spot the difference between safe and harmful sites

While most browsers today can alert a user when they’re visiting a potentially dangerous site, there are always a few cases that can slip through the cracks. Help your child be mindful of safe sites and recognize the harmful ones.

An easy way to check whether a site is safe or not is to check the URL at the top search bar. If the URL has ‘https’ in it, then the site is secure. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Security, where the ‘s’ stands for secure. If a site uses https, then chances are it’s legitimate.

3. Set up a VPN for your children

You can also add an extra level of security for your kids by using what’s known as a VPN. Short for virtual private network, VPNs are safe and legal ways to help anonymize a person’s online network and encrypt their internet connection.

By connecting to a VPN server location, a user can anonymize their connection while simultaneously browsing more securely. It may sound complicated, but in practice, VPNs are incredibly easy to use.

Most VPN services offer monthly payment plans and can cover most devices, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and even some routers.

4. Teach your children to use stronger passwords

One of the best ways to help your child stay safe online is to teach them to use better passwords. While it may be easier to remember simple passwords like a family pet or street address, they’ve been found to be much less secure. In fact, a Google study found that the most common password habit is to use a pet’s name as a password. It’s important not to use passwords that an attacker can guess with very little research.

Passwords that are at least eight characters long and include a variety of letters and numbers are much safer than using a pet’s name. While it can be hard for a child to remember one of these passwords (much less a handful), there are tools you can use to remember for them, like our random password generator.

Free apps like LastPass are a great resource to have. By creating what’s called a Master Key, LastPass keeps your child’s various passwords secure under lock and key. Instead of having to remember a handful of passwords, your child only needs to remember one.

5. Make sure your kid’s software is updated

The easiest way for hackers to hijack a computer is by exploiting vulnerabilities in the network’s software, a job that’s much easier when the software is out of date. Last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack, which targeted some 300,000 computers around the world, was only able to hit networks that were using outdated software.

Set aside some time to check both you and your child’s various software programs—especially the antivirus package—and make sure your various browsers and networks are up to date. After all, most updates and patches are there to help fix known security issues, so be sure to take advantage of them.

If you want to help your child stay safe online, it’s worth taking the time to spend a few minutes going over these tips.