Kids and Computer Security

The security of your computer can affect the safety of your online experience — and your kids’. Talk to your kids about what they can do to help protect your computer and your family’s personal information.

Teaching Computer Security

Talk to your kids about:

  • protecting their personal information. Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords are examples of information to keep private.
  • Watching out for "free" stuff. Free games, ring tones, or other downloads can hide malware. Tell your kids not to download anything unless they trust the source and they've scanned it with security software.
  • Using strong email passwords and protect them. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. Personal information, your login name, common words, or adjacent keys on the keyboard are not safe passwords. Kids can protect their passwords by not sharing them with anyone, including their friends.

In addition, be sure your family computers are protected by reputable security software and use these basic computer security practices.

P2P File Sharing

Some kids share music, games, or software online. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing allows people to share these kinds of files through an informal network of computers running the same software. P2P file-sharing has risks:

  • You could accidentally provide many people with access to your private files.
  • If your kids download copyrighted material, you could get mired in legal issues.
  • A shared file could hide spyware, malware, or pornography.

Here are some tips to help your kids share files safely:

  • Install file-sharing software properly. Activate the proper settings so that nothing private is shared.
  • Before your kids open or play any file they’ve downloaded, advise them to use security software to scan it. Make sure the security software is up-to-date and running when the computer is connected to the internet.

For more tips, read P2P File-Sharing Risks.

Phishing

Phishing is when scam artists send fake text, email, or pop-up messages to get people to share their personal and financial information. Criminals use the information to commit identity theft.

Here are tips you can share with your kids to help them avoid a phishing scam:

  • Don't reply to text, email, or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don't follow any links in the message.
  • Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. Unexpected files may contain malware.

Get your kids involved, so they can develop their scam “antennas” and careful internet habits. Look for "teachable moments" — if you get a phishing message, show it to your kids. A demonstration can help them recognize a potential phishing scam and help them understand that messages on the internet aren't always what they seem. Learn more about Phishing.

Apps

Do you — or your kids — download "apps" to a phone or social networking page? Downloading may give the app's developers access to personal information that's not related to the purpose of the app. The developers may share the information they collect with marketers or other companies. Suggest that your kids check the privacy policy and their privacy settings to see what information the app can access. And consider this: Is finding out which cartoon character you are really worth sharing the details of your life — or your children's? Learn more about Mobile Apps.

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