Sometimes I am not sure which is more stressful – Christmas, or getting kids ready for the school year. So many things to do but so little time!
School shoes, sports shoes, stationery, textbooks, uniforms and haircuts. Phew! And of course, devices. Yes, devices are now a part of almost all back to school lists – adding yet another thing for us busy parents to manage.
Research undertaken by McAfee shows that 2 out of 5 Australian parents have no rules or restrictions around their children’s device usage. And, concerningly, 1 in 5 Australian parents don’t talk to their kids about cybercrime or online predators.
So, whether your kids are returning to school with laptops or smartphones for the first time, or they are ‘old hands’, it’s the perfect time for us parents to think about digital safety. How can we protect our kids online? How can we secure their device(s)? How long should we let our children access their devices for? What are the main threats?
In the interests of keeping it real, I have put together a short checklist to ensure your kids have the tools they need to protect their devices, their data and, most importantly, themselves.
1 Passwords, Passwords, Passwords
Ensuring your kids have a strong and unique password on each of their devices is essential. Ideally, a password should have between 8-10 characters and a combination of lower case and upper case letters, numbers and symbols. Their passwords should be changed regularly and NEVER shared. If your kids just don’t seem to get this, simply remind them that passwords are like toothbrushes – they are NEVER shared.
2 Install Security on All Devices
A device without security is no different to leaving your front door unlocked. There’s nothing to stop anyone coming in and taking what they want. Ensuring devices have security software means you have protection against viruses, online threats, risky websites and dangerous downloads. Comprehensive security software such as McAfee Total Protection will also encrypt files on your PC and provide a very handy password manager, True Key by McAfee, which will generate and manage unique passwords for all online accounts.
Don’t forget you need to secure smartphones and tablets as well! We use our phones all the time to run our lives, but tend to forget they’re also at risk. McAfee Total Protection will protect these devices too, or you can download the free McAfee Mobile Security for Android or iOS.
3 Schedule Regular Backups
Please make sure you and your kids know how to back up data, whether to the cloud or a secure external drive. And teach them to make backing up a regular task. No one wants to lose an important school assessment or a work project file!
4 Understand Your School’s BYOD Policy and Know Your Responsibilities
Every school has a different BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. Some include tech support and insurance while others will nominate the exact device model you need to buy. Check what the rules are about mobile phone use during school hours – some schools are more strict than others – and make sure your kids know them and abide by them too. Please ensure you are ‘all over’ this so there are no unforeseen issues.
5 Consider a Digital Contract and Set Limits on Screen Time
While the research shows that 40% of Aussie parents have no rules for device use, nearly half have a limit of 1-2 hours screen time per day – which is great. If you feel like it’s all getting ‘out of hand’ at your place, it might be time to implement a digital contract. This is a great way of ensuring your kids understand what the rules and expectations are about their online activity. It could include how much time online, what information can be shared, were to buy apps from, what apps to use and even how to treat others online – just tailor it to your kids and their online life.
6 Keep Up with the Social Media Your Kids are Using – and Talk About the Risks
Understanding the digital world our kids are growing up in is essential to help them navigate it. So, take some time to join and understand the social media platforms, apps and even games your kids are using. McAfee’s research shows that only 20% of parents are talking to their kids about online predators and cybercrime because they think they already know how to protect themselves. This is concerning!
As parents we need to educate our kids about cybersafety just like we do road safety and sun safety. So join up and start sharing your experiences. They will be more likely to come to you with a problem if they know you understand their world.
Please hang in there, people! Don’t be overwhelmed. Ensuring our kids are protected and safe online should be a top priority for our generation of parents. So, get digital safety sorted in your house this January and just imagine how good it will be when all of our little darlings are back at school. Time to breathe!
PS If you are after more tips and tricks, please check out my Facebook page. It’s a great way of workshopping cyber parenting issues!