Do Children Understand Personal Cybersecurity Best Practices?

What is Personal Cybersecurity?

To help our children understand Personal Cybersecurity it is necessary to define what it is. First, let’s define the meaning of just Cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is the act of protecting digital systems and digital assets. It includes the methods and techniques used to protect systems and assets. Not only does it include protecting against unauthorized access, but also protecting digital assets from damage or destruction. That is referred to as Data Loss Protection (DLP).

Personal Cybersecurity involves addressing the self-needs of an individual, whether at home or work. It involves the protection of personal information, personal devices, and our Personal Area Network (PAN). Effective personal cybersecurity practices include a personal awareness of the world we live in and having the knowledge and resources to protect our personal devices, ourselves, and our children.


Personal cybersecurity means bringing good

cybersecurity practices into our daily lives and where we live.


Why Do Children Need to Understand Personal Cybersecurity?

It is important that your children understand personal cybersecurity at an early age. They will be exposed to personal cybersecurity risks their entire life. The earlier your children understand personal cybersecurity and learn the best practices the sooner they can begin to develop the good habits that will keep them safe.

The topics they must understand cover a large spectrum. It’s everything from social media threats to malicious cyber attacks. As our children begin to understand personal cybersecurity better they will be well-equipped to fend off the threats they are sure to encounter.

In today’s landscape children are spending more time online and at an earlier age. The Covid Pandemic has changed the way our children are growing up. We must prepare our children for the future without overloading their ability to comprehend and understand personal cybersecurity and why it is so important.

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Image by FreePick

Why Should We Teach Our Children About Personal Cybersecurity

The answer may seem obvious but a lot has changed since we were at the age of our children. As adults nobody ever taught us about personal cybersecurity. We pretty much learned as we went along and the technologies evolved. However, today our children are being forced onto the Internet at an early age. It is necessary that our children understand personal cybersecurity concepts.

Until recently most of our children were taught in classrooms and did not have to rely on the Internet as a way to obtain an education. It is more important than ever that we ensure our children understand personal cybersecurity best practices. The world is changing and we must adapt to our surroundings.

What Parents Should Know Cybersecurity Threats

Before you can help your children understand personal cybersecurity you need to know it yourself. Not only know it but practice it on a daily basis.

During a recent 60 day period from July to August 2020, Microsoft’s Global Threat Activity Tracker documented over eight million incidents involving malware. This represents a significant increase over the same period in 2019. Part of the increase can be attributed to the need for our children to transition to an online learning environment.

As parents, we must acknowledge this and help our children understand personal cybersecurity concepts. We must know how to teach our children these important concepts. We must be diligent in taking action to defend against the increasing cybersecurity threats that our children are being exposed to.

Also, as parents, we must know how to use the same safeguards in our home that the schools use in their online learning environment and on their networks. That will be covered in a later section, but for now, we must be aware of the main threats to our children’s personal cybersecurity space. the graphic below describes them.

Cybersecurity Threats Our Children are Exposed To

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Infographic sourced from UC Berkeley Bootcamp

As you can see the threats are increasing as the opportunities for cybercriminals heighten. The one stat that stands out for me is the number of minors who fell victim to Identity theft, over one million in a year. Following are some resources that may come in handy.

Additional resources for parents

How to Teach Personal Cybersecurity to Your Children

This section covers how to teach Internet safety to your children so they understand personal cybersecurity responsibilities. Parents have not been faced with this challenge at this scale ever before. Our homes have turned into classrooms. Parents have a higher level of the responsibility to educate their children about things like internet safety and online learning.

Distance learning has created opportunities for parents, housekeepers, and babysitters to become teachers. As learning sessions have moved into our households we must accept and rise to the challenge. We must accept this responsibility in addition to what we are already doing to pay the rent and put food on the table. It’s really like taking a second job.

I have been tutoring kids for many years. I have also completed both bachelor’s and Masters’s degrees online. So for me, the burdens of our new environment, learning, and teaching at home come naturally. But it’s not like that for everyone, especially when it comes to teaching new technologies and Internet safety practices to our children, now our students.

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Image by Nizovatina

As stay at home teachers, we must rely on available resources. One of the best resources I know of is CommonSense.org. They have a large amount of content that is available for us, like “23 Great Lesson Plans for Internet Safety.” It offers many videos and lesson plans that we can use to teach personal cybersecurity and Internet safety to our kids, the students in our house. The videos and lesson plans are broke down into sections that cover all age groups.

Below are some tips to assist parents with the task of addressing Internet safety at home. It covers strategies for different grade-levels and offers resources that can be used to teach Internet safety and personal cybersecurity to your children.

  • Relate real-world scenarios to online situations — For instance, use what they already know about strangers, and the possible dangers, while in public and relate it to a scenario on the Internet. In public situations where if something doesn’t seem right you teach your child to seek out an adult they trust. Relate that to a scenario they could run across on the Internet and stress that they should also come to you for that.
  • Use appropriate teaching strategies based on the grade level of the child — A child in first grade requires a different approach than a child in the sixth grade. Don’t overwhelm a younger child, and ask questions of older children to gauge their current level of understanding. Never assume what a child knows and does not know. The goal is to build critical thinking skills that can be applied to situations as they arise later on. This strategy will help you teach your children to understand personal cybersecurity and the importance of practicing it.
  • Have confidence in your ability to teach your kids how to be safe online — You know how to guide your children in the real world because you have experience there. You also have at least some experience online too. Always educate yourself about any issues you need to discuss with your children. You don’t have to be an expert to teach Internet safety and personal cybersecurity practices to your children. You just need to know your child and be familiar with the dangers kids face on the Internet. Don’t feel daunted, just help your children to act responsibly online, and to use technology to their advantage.

Try to Make the Process Interesting and Fun

Acknowledge the short attention spans that some of our children have. Our children are kids, and kids like to have fun. While teaching your children about online safety incorporate some stories to keep their interest. Teaching by telling a story is a great way to keep a student’s interest. It may be about something that happened to you on the Internet or someone you know.

A great way to keep their interest is to teach them new technologies. Younger children are very inquisitive so teaching them new technologies is a great way to keep them involved in the learning process. Concentrate on teaching the technologies they need for their online studies. Teach them how to use applications like Zoom in a safe manner.

Learning new technologies can be fun. Zoom is no exception. Children that are old enough, in fifth or sixth grade, for example, may be interested in the advanced features of applications like Zoom. Zoom has a feature that allows for virtual backgrounds.

The student will be able to pick any background image or video as a background while participating in a Zoom meeting. It’s fun and will keep a young student engaged in the learning process. For more information about the Zoom Virtual Backgrounds feature you can refer to this article where I explain it. Multiple strategies should be used when teaching internet safety to ensure your children understand personal cybersecurity.

One of the most useful tools that your children should learn to use is a password manager. It is imperative that your children develop good password habits at an early age. Most of the adults I know do not have good password habits. And, for a few of them, it has come back to haunt them. There are lots of good password managers available. The one I use is called Dashlane, and it’s free. Get it here. It’s totally free and has been a lifesaver for me.

Here’s a poster you can download for your children’s study and gaming area (Pdf format)

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How to Protect Your Child Online

First of all, ensure that your children understand personal cybersecurity and the methods necessary to protect themselves. And, understand the dangers and threats yourself. At the minimum, educate yourself about these:

  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media
  • How to Stay Safe While Gaming Online
  • Common Types of Phishing Attacks
  • General Understanding of Internet Threats

There are many resources that provide information on these topics. This site offers lots of detailed information that makes “Talking to Your Child About Internet Safety” easier and more effective. The more you know the better you can explain Internet safety to a child. Use all available sources when learning how to teach Internet safety to elementary students.

It’s very important to have the ability to communicate openly with your children. Your guidance will be more effective when you can talk openly and freely to your children about personal cybersecurity and the risks that are associated with the online environment. Following are three good resources to help keep your children safe online.

Read more: How to Keep Your Children Safe While Online

Read more: How to Teach Internet Safety to Elementary Students

Read more: What is a Complex and Unique Password?

Featured image for “Do Children Understand Personal Cybersecurity Best Practices?” created by VectorJuice

Updated 01/19/2021 by Kirby Allen