Just as in real life, it is important that students know whom they can trust with their information on the Internet. If kids don’t protect their personal information and understand digital security risks, their devices can be damaged, they can fall prey to scams, and they can increase their risk of identity theft.
For instance, one child might ask another child for his computer password to play a game, and then access their private email account. Or a student might use a file-sharing program that passes along a virus to his or her computer. Students also need to understand that when they’re online, companies are watching and tracking their behavior, and scam artists might try to trick them into giving out personal information such as their phone number, address, date of birth, and even their Social Security number.
What can you do?
Create strong passwords. A powerful password does wonders to protect accounts. A password should be hard to guess, be a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and never include private identity information such as birthdays or addresses. Students should be encouraged to never share their passwords with friends.
Think twice before downloading. Content that students download from non-secure sources can plague a computer with problems. Free games and videos often come with spyware and viruses. Encourage students to download only from secure sites.
Be careful when sharing information. Students should be careful when sharing information such as full name, address, and account numbers. Messages that ask them to share private information are red flags for scams. If teens suspect a scam, they should not reply to it and not click on links in the message.
Identify and deal with spam. Teach students that spam is Internet junk mail that should not be opened, because if they do, they will just receive more of it. The best strategy is not to open email from any addresses you don’t recognize.
Consider limiting data collection. Help students take control over their own information by:
- disabling Internet “cookies” so companies cannot track online behavior,
- limiting clicking on ads, and