More than ever, kids are online. They play games, do school activities, shop, watch movies and, as a result of the pandemic, video conference for school and to visit friends and family. In fact, a survey from Common Sense Media found overall screen use among teens and tweens increased 17% from 2019 to 2021 — a greater rate of growth than the prior four years. On average, daily screen use for tweens (age 8-12) is 5 hours and 33 minutes, while for teens (13-18) it is 8 hours and 39 minutes.
With kids spending more time online, it's important they practice safe online habits. Good cyber hygiene reduces their chances of having information like usernames and passwords stolen, which helps protect them from cybercriminals.
How Kids Can Stay Safe While Gaming, Using Social Media and Shopping Online
- Make sure your kids do not share any personal information, such as their name, address or location, school name, age, birthday, etc. Someone with bad intentions may not come out and ask for that information – rather, they’ll use clever techniques to trick your child into revealing that information. To be safe, your kid should make it a practice never to share with strangers. Games and quizzes will also ask for personal data, which can be used later to guess passwords or impersonate them or their family. Quizzes can be fun, but they are designed to collect information about people.
- Kids should be careful who they add as a friend. You do not know who is on the other side of the screen, even if you hear their voice or see their videos. Your child should only “friend” people they know after confirming it is really them.
- It’s important kids (and anyone else) use unique 12+ character passphrases for their password. They are easier to remember and harder for identity criminals to guess. They should make it something they will remember, like a phrase – hence passphrase. Also, it’s encouraged to enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) when available, as it adds an extra layer of security.
- Ensure your kids do not give anyone access to their account unless it is a trusted parent or guardian. Account takeover is on the rise, particularly on social media, and people are losing their accounts to criminals.
- When buying a product or service, kids should verify that the person or company selling it is real. That confirmation needs to happen outside of the platform. (Parents or guardians can help them with this.) Also, they should check for product reviews and read the fine print. If anything seems too good to be true – the price, the way the product works, the perks one gets for buying something, etc. – it probably is.