Like adults, kids have little choice but to opt in when it comes to the internet: they use laptops and online platforms for school assignments and remote learning, and they use social media to stay connected to friends and family. In fact, many of them are ahead of the curve when it comes to tech. According to the Pew Research Center, children as young as 5 are now engaging with smart devices.
Today’s parents might reflect back on their own behaviors as early adopters of the internet and the way we use it today: a tool that is ever-present. As young students access digital interfaces, parents can equip them with guidelines for painless navigation. Here are five tips to share with them:
Kids who’ve been on nature field trips might be familiar with the idea of leaving a place as you found it. The same can be said for internet activity, including Google searches. Young students can benefit from the knowledge that search history is retained on phones and computers, and if they’re logged in with an email address, it can be traced back to them.
Not that you should encourage them to cover their tracks or be ashamed of questions they might have for Google. Instead, explain to them that while search engines can be an excellent tool for research, internet activity like searches and web pages they visit are not anonymous and do not vanish once they turn off the computer. This is especially good to note while they are using school computers.
Even if they don’t have bank accounts or credit cards, kids are still entitled to private information. When creating any new account, whether for school or personal use, they will be prompted to create logins. Email, Google Classroom, Zoom, Buncee, Class Dojo, and many other apps require passwords to protect students’ coursework and personal information. It’s important to impress upon kids the power of a good password and its ability to protect their data.
Of course, this also applies to passwords that protect devices like smartphones and laptops, plus all of their social media accounts. To help them manage passwords, add a family password manager to your personal password manager plan. You won’t be able to see their passwords (unless they want you to), but you can help ensure that their passwords are strong and their logins are secure.
As we mentioned above, it’s good practice for students not to save personal information to public computers, like the ones they use at school. Remind them to log out of any accounts on a school computer and not to store login information on shared devices.
Misinformation and disinformation campaigns are the bane of social media platforms and online discourse. Many adults fall victim to the campaigns, often administered by nation states and carried out through AI or third parties on Twitter and Facebook. But it’s not for lack of vigilance—these strategies used by political actors are increasingly advanced and rampant.
Younger students are encountering the world of digital discourse during a fraught time. As posts and ads vie for their attention, remind them of the tools at their disposal:
Social media trends can range from innocuous to dangerous. TikTok has made headlines for “challenges” that appear as suggested videos for many users, including kids. Recently, challenges have included loading a toy gun with water beads, which led to the arrest of two teenagers, and a “How Far Can You Dig” challenge, which prompted a local Florida police department to issue this warning about the threat a giant hole in the sand poses to beachgoers and wildlife.
Starting a dialogue with your kids about the content they’re viewing and how they absorb it can help deter them from acting on these challenges, despite what their classmates might be doing. (For more on whether TikTok is safe for kids, read Dashlane’s article here.)
Some threat actors target kids via phishing scams. Remind your children not to click links in emails from unknown senders or texts from unknown phone numbers. If the numbers or addresses look familiar, check them thoroughly to make sure they haven’t actually been changed by a single character to look legitimate.
A good rule of thumb for kids to remember is that generally, a personal contact or legitimate organization will not send a link via text or email, or ask for any personal information such as a social security number. VeryWell provides this list of red flag phrases for parents and their children to look out for in emails.