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Back to school cybersecurity: tips for a safer school year

It’s that time of year again when parents are slowly gearing up for a new school term. Some schools have a strict policy of only using their own pre-approved lab devices, while others allow students to bring their own devices. Whatever the plan, it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the potential dangers.

Digital devices are great, but there’s no harm in admitting they can be a problematic time sink at the worst possible moments. Schools have sent out letters about the incredibly popular game Fortnite. Those letters contained everything from advice on limiting digital playtime via game console parental controls to password security basics due to scammers. Almost every digital device you can think of can have some form of time restriction applied to it if need be, and parents should definitely read up on the subject.

A little vanity searching never hurt anyone

It’s not just enough that your kids avoid posting personally identifiable information online, either on their own accounts or school issued pages; they should also occasionally see what others might be saying, too. If a bully is able to work out your address at school and decides to post it online, you’d never know about it. Smart searching can save the day, and help to get the offending information taken down. This may be something you choose to do yourself rather than burden the child with additional responsibilities.

Kids and the written word

There’s a lot of advice guides out there for parents, and though the books may not be specific to schooling, many of the tips within remain valid. Consider choosing a few titles on the subject of digital literacy, citizenship, or cybersecurity, and brush up your own knowledge on the latest issues affecting kids in cyberspace. Online popularity, social media, and (especially) anything to do with gaming should be your first port of call where learning is concerned… they’re all magnets for children and any associated problem points.

School network and parental monitoring

If the school devices are of the fixed, pre-approved types that never leave the classroom, tell your children not to save anything particularly personal to them. You don’t want a batch of their selfies  being stored on some obscure portion of the school network. Even if devices can be brought home, there’s a good chance they may have some sort of monitoring and/or logging functionality onboard, so it pays to be cautious and avoid potential trouble further down the line.

The same goes for student-initiated installs on the device. Whether the school has a liberal install policy or the devices are totally on lockdown, it’s probably a good idea to always ask whoever is responsible for IT before installing something. The school may have its own internal portal where safe, approved apps live.

It isn’t just the school that wants to keep an eye on your children’s computer use; this may be something you want to do as well. If that’s the case, we’ve written about how you can approach the potentially tricky subject of monitoring with your kids. Remind them: with great power (unfettered access to the Internet) comes great responsibility.

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