Blog authored by: Mandi Rae
As a parent, I consider the internet to be a scary, unrestricted place where my kids hang out a lot. Since children and teens of this generation are so accustomed to relying on technology and social media for daily communication, they do not fully understand the longstanding impacts that sharing your personal life, information and pictures can have. As a practice lead at IT Audit Labs, I have had the privilege of navigating security challenges and their impacts with executives of large organizations and their families. I educate on how to improve their personal security posture, and also utilize this knowledge to inform and protect my own family and friends. Here I’ll share three key areas of consideration with easy-to-institute best practices to help protect your kids and teens from common security risks.
1. Identity Theft
Personal information is a valuable and precious asset that we need to continuously monitor and safeguard. We know how devastating and impactful identity theft can be for adults, but it is also important to consider the ramifications for our children. Because they are issued a social security number at birth, years of unmonitored credit reports go by which could lead to your child being susceptible to identity theft. As cyber-security consultants, while assisting executives with personal information security assessments, we encourage them to freeze any minor dependents’ credit reports. A security freeze on your child’s credit report is free and protects them from a threat actor taking out a loan or credit card in their name. All major credit bureaus offer this service and make it convenient to set up. For more information on requesting a security freeze for your minor child’s credit report, visit www.identitytheft.gov. It will be worth your time now and save you from potential future headaches when your child is ready to establish credit as a young adult.
2. Location Sharing
A conversation that educates our kids on how to safely share photos or their location online should also be had. Having a teen and pre-teen myself, I understand all the Find Me services, Insta selfies and endless Snap Chats that are being shared with their social networks. We encourage adults to turn off location sharing services and we should be encouraging the same for our children, especially on social media. I know that monitoring your children’s location from your phone can be convenient, but there are other ways to keep tabs on whereabouts. In my family, each child has an Apple Air Tag that they clip onto their clothing/backpack. This way, when my pre-teen jumps on her bike for a ride through the neighborhood, I can still be aware of her location and she does not need to bring her phone.
Teens typically view sharing their location as a common way to be engaged with their social network. Threat actors also find these services helpful to determine when your family is away so they can break into your home or, worst case, find your child when they are out and about. While we are on vacation, my teens know not to post pictures and tag our location in real time. This safeguards our home from physical theft and also lets us enjoy the moment outside the lens of our mobile devices. When we return, trip pictures can be posted on social media platforms that are set to private so only known contacts can see the memories we made. Chat with your kids about picture posting dos and don’ts and conduct a periodic review of their phone and application settings to ensure they are all set to private with location sharing turned off.
3. Parental Controls + Monitoring
As I mentioned before, children’s unsupervised access to the internet is inevitable and can feel quite scary. Trying to manage it all can be a daunting task in this day and age. Luckily, there is an app to help parents with ALL THE THINGS! Bark is one of the most popular parental control apps, which I also use and highly recommend. Bark monitors texts, emails, and over 30 of the most common applications our kids use such as YouTube, Fortnite, Snapchat, etc. It also allows parents to have visibility and control over screen time limits and access to disable the internet on multiple devices at the same time.
One of my favorite features is the ability to proactively set schedules for both school nights and weekends. At our house, when its lights-out, the internet is out too. I no longer have to run around taking away phones, tablets, and Chromebooks from protesting teenagers. This also saves me countless hours of trying to navigate each of their devices and applications. Furthermore, Bark allows parents to set up preventive measures if there are concerns with specific categories such as self-harm, depression, cyber bullying, or pornography. Bark does have an annual fee, but it is relatively inexpensive for both the service it provides and the dashboard it enables to view each of my kid’s internet activity and screen time.
I hope this brief list coupled with my personal experience can help you take quick actions to mitigate the risks your children face while sharing information online. Stay tuned for a podcast episode presented by The Audit, and our upcoming blogs in celebration of Cyber Security Awareness month. We'll keep you informed, discuss further best practices and provide resources for you to utilize both professionally and personally.