As a parent, you want to protect your child from the dangers of the internet. There are countless stories of predators, hackers, and thieves targeting and exploiting young adults.

To avoid this, many parents will go as far as to limit or prohibit their child’s use of the internet. However, this solution isn’t practical.

The internet is everywhere and is used in almost every aspect of a teen’s life. The internet is a place for teens to do schoolwork, communicate with others, build meaningful connections, and express themselves freely. Rather than taking away their access to the internet, it’s best to teach them how to navigate it safely.

Teen Online Safety Tips

Don’t Post Private Information

What goes on the internet, stays on the internet. This concept is known as digital permanence, and it’s the idea that anything written, posted, or uploaded will be on the internet forever. Even if you delete a post, there are always ways for people to find it. Young adults need to understand this and take caution before oversharing online. Specifically, teens should refrain from putting personal information online.

Look up your teen’s name on Google or encourage them to search themselves to see what information about them exists online. If things like home addresses, phone numbers, identification documents, email addresses, or any private information pop up, then take it down immediately or request to have them removed. Although this information will be hidden from the public eye, hackers can still find a way to unearth this. If your teen’s email, phone, or identification numbers are made public, it may be beneficial to go the extra mile of changing them to ensure their security. 

Create Strong Passwords

No matter the account, whether it be online shopping, social media, or an email account, it’s vital to have a strong password. In 2020 the most common password used was “123456.” Passwords like these make it easy for hackers and thieves to gain access and steal your teen’s information. When creating a password, avoid dictionary words, names, and birthdays. Instead, encourage your teen to create a strong password that uses a mixture of letters, capitalizations, numbers, and symbols in a randomized order. It’s also important that each of your teen’s accounts has a different password. Using the same password or variations of the same password for multiple accounts can be problematic.

If a hacker is able to gain access to one account, they could easily log into others. When it comes to social accounts, make sure your teen is using the most private settings to avoid scammers and potential predators. Some accounts such as Gmail offer a 2-step verification process.

This will double protect your teen’s account and make it much more difficult for people to hack. Additionally, advise your teen to check their email. Many sites will alert you if someone accesses your account on a new device. If your teen has been hacked, it’s important for them to change their account details and to notify their contacts or anyone connected to the account as well. 

Be Cautious Of  Public Wifi

It can be easy for someone to connect to the first free WiFi they see. Some people even have their WiFi settings to connect automatically to public WiFi. Although public WiFi may be convenient, they’re usually not secure. When using an unsecure network, anything you do or send on your laptop or mobile device can be seen by someone else.

With new easily accessible technology, even a person with the most minimal knowledge of technology can steal your private photos, information, contacts, etc. Make sure your teen doesn’t enter any private information or access important accounts on public networks. It’s safer to assume the public WiFi you’re using isn’t secure than to take the risk of opening yourself up to a cyber attack.

On public WiFi, only use fully encrypted accounts. To know if a site is fully encrypted, look for the lock in the left corner of the URL, or make sure that the URL starts with HTTPS. The minute the search box shows a broken lock or no longer has HTTPS, leave the site immediately.

Pay attention to any warnings web browsers give you, as web browsers tend to alert you if a site is not safe. Encourage your teen to download a VPN on their laptop and mobile devices for additional protection. VPNs will encrypt your traffic, making it harder for people to intercept it, even on public WiFi. 

Recognize Identity Theft

Unfortunately, even if you use the most secure measures, there’s still a chance your teen may get hacked. Companies hold a lot of people’s data, and data breaches happen more often than we’d like. Because of how much information is on the internet, identity theft is a common occurrence on the internet.

Teens especially should be cautious about identity theft. Young adults are 50 times more likely to be victims of identity theft than adults. This is because teens tend to not have credit scores. Thieves will take advantage of this blank slate and use a child’s identity for economic gain and fraudulent purposes.

This can cause a teen to enter adulthood with a low credit score and massive debt; making purchases like buying a home much more difficult, since they have minimum credit score requirements. Using online safety measures will help to prevent identity theft, however, it’s always good to look out for signs. Many teens don’t realize they’re victims of identity theft until they enter adulthood.

One of the best ways to know if someone has stolen your child’s identity is by reviewing your child’s credit report since most teens don’t have any credit history. If your teen has a report without opening any lines of credit, or if there are discrepancies in the report, it may be a sign of identity theft. 

Consider Additional Protection 

As technology continues to advance, so does the threat of cyber attacks. Luckily, there are many ways to secure your devices from potential threats. Some healthy habits to help further protect yourself include shutting down your devices. Many people have their devices on 24/7. Rather than fully shutting down their devices, they have them asleep or logged off. Leaving your devices on all the time makes you more visible to possible attackers. Try to encourage your teen to shut down their devices at night or when they’re not in use.

Similarly, create a healthy habit of keeping Bluetooth off when they’re not using it. Another habit to instill in your teen is to clear their search history. Not only will this save your device’s battery life, but it’ll also diminish the amount of information a hacker can gather. To help protect your whole family, consider buying antivirus software. Most antivirus protections are sold in bundles, so you’ll be able to protect all the devices in your family. 

The internet can be a wondrous place filled with innovation and creativity. As we move forward, it becomes more ingrained in our lives. However, don’t forget just how easily anyone can fall victim to a cyber attack. Although teens need to be especially careful on the internet, it’s important everyone in the family takes the necessary precautions for online safety and security.