Cybersecurity and Children: How to Keep Them Safe Online

When I was a kid, about the only thing I had to worry about when using a computer was dying of dysentery while playing Oregon Trail. The threats that face computer users today, especially children who are not aware of cybersecurity best practices, are far worse than not making it past the Rockies in a video game. We teach our children basic security aspects of using computers and laptops, but often don’t realize that something far more dangerous is lurking in their midst: smartphones. 

Smartphones consist of technologies that have been miniaturized and rolled into one tiny package. They provide instant access to all sorts of information such as GPS navigation, social media, and the Internet, and we place them in the hands of our children. In the early ‘90s, if you wanted access to any sort of information, you went to a local library and checked out an Encyclopedia Britannica. Now, kids can open their smartphones, speak a few words, and get access to a world of data. Question is, do you know what data your kids are looking at?

According to the data folks at nodegraph.se, every hour there are 60,000 images uploaded to Instagram. In that same hour, 4.7 million videos are watched on YouTube. In 2020, there are approximately 4.6 billion people using the Internet and they send 200 million emails every minute. How many of those emails are destined for your child’s inbox, and how many of them are malicious? Do your children know how to handle suspicious emails, let alone identify one? Do you?

Security starts with you, the parent. Cybersecurity starts with understanding how we are vulnerable and how we can address those vulnerabilities through knowledge of basic cybersecurity measures. Palo Alto Networks provides some basic practices for parents and children, as well as introduces Cyber A.C.E.S (Activities in Cybersecurity Education for Students), a  free course that helps teach kids from K through 12 about cybersecurity best practices. The U.S. Department of Education is another resource that has a few tips that can help educate both children and parents alike. 

At the end of the day, we want to make sure our children are safe when using these extremely sophisticated devices that provide unfettered access to the world we now live in, whether that be a computer, laptop, or smartphone. The Internet is one of the most amazing inventions this world has ever seen, connecting the human race at every point of the world, even in outer space. However, while surfing this web of the interconnected world, we must incorporate cybersecurity into our daily practices and make sure our children do the same. 

Cybersecurity Education Resources:

https://live.paloaltonetworks.com/t5/blogs/cybersecurity-for-children/ba-p/320444#,

https://www2.ed.gov/free/features/cybersecurity.html


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