The Internet Society - Guide for Children's Safety Online

With the increased reliance on digital tools and virtual connections for students to access schooling and connect with teachers and peers, it's even more important for parents to set up safeguards that shield their children from online intrusions. Just as we teach young children about the personal physical safety--how to look both ways when crossing the street or the dangers of talking to strangers--we must also teach them how to be safe online. The Internet Society has provided a few steps to head off digital breaches and keep your children's information secure:
  1. Keep smart assistants in check— Your smart assistant can capture your child's conversations in classes and with friends if it remains enabled during school time. Make it a routine in your household to turn off voice-activated apps on their devices until they are needed. Review and delete recordings frequently by going to the settings of your Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home devices.
  2. Follow best practices in managing passwords— With the use of multiple services on multiple devices, it's important to teach your child about good password hygiene. Learning to set unique passwords and use a password manager to keep track of them is a good habit to form early. There are a number of password managers available, with a range of features and price points that you can learn more about here, here, and here. Passwords should be hard to guess, and should not include personal information, such as home addresses, nicknames or birth dates. They should be complex and include enough varied letters, numbers and characters to make them hard to crack. Using different passwords for different devices and services will reduce the risk of your child's private information getting hacked. Remind your child to never share passwords and to keep any written reminders hidden.
Setting up two-factor authentication will enhance your child's login security. While the use of two-factor authentication is becoming more common in schools, it's easy to check out which services allow this extra login step for yourself. Authenticator apps and physical authentication tokens are especially effective and plug into a USB port on your child's device.

3. Manage email accounts regularly— Your child may not see the need to check their primary email inbox regularly since they may communicate with teachers and peers across other digital platforms more frequently. But their email address is where you may first get tipped off to attempts to hack into those accounts. Many apps and services send important messages to the email account on file, including password resets and changes to profile information. When an account is hacked, it opens up access to gaming personas, social media logins and other accounts that could compromise your child's identity or reputation.

4. Find out if your child's school uses encrypted services— Always check if the services provided by your school district have strong encryption, including end-to-end encryption messaging services that allow your child to communicate with teachers and classmates. If not, advocate for more secure services. Encourage your child to limit communications to closed groups with friends, and to report any unwelcome messages. Remind them that anything they post could be shared without their permission and could come back to haunt them.

5. Choose search engines that respect privacy— Children are undertaking a range of online assignments for school as well as doing their own exploring of topics and interests they are curious about. They aren't thinking about how their search history might be interpreted by others, but it can reveal a lot about their feelings, interests and anxieties. Choose a browser that has protective features and a search engine that doesn’t track your history.

6. Use a more secure private network— A Virtual Private Network (VPN) shields online behavior from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and anyone who tries to spy on Internet traffic. Devices issued by your school district may already be equipped with VPNs. There's a trove of information online about what kind of VPN might be best for your household.

7. Keep your software up to date— Software updates fix bugs and issues with security and are an easy way to keep your child's information as secure as possible. Don't ignore alerts to update your software. You can schedule them regularly and at convenient times that won't disrupt the school day.

8. Backup files and create a digital vault— No one wants to have to redo a homework assignment or waste time searching for a lost file. Encourage your child to develop good digital hygiene by saving their work regularly and backing up files to a hard drive, their school's back-up storage or cloud service. It's never too early for them to keep a secure digital vault with important information they may need in an emergency or in the event of a natural disaster. That's also a good place to keep any certificates or college recommendation letters, or even their personal treasures like photos or videos, or their artwork or journals.

9. Ask for training— Suggest your school or library organize training sessions for online privacy and security for both parents and students. There may be older students in computer science classes that can help younger students set up their devices securely. Or your school could partner with a community member or organization that is experienced in these areas.
Keeping your child safe online is especially important at a time when they may be accessing information from a range of sources and on multiple devices for school or personal activities. Taking steps to keep their personal information and online activities private will help prevent any breaches and keep them safer in the long run. These practices will also help them to be better digital citizens, fully aware of how to keep themselves and other safe while working online