How to talk to your kids about security online

You may have trouble keeping up with the latest tech, apps and trends, but your kids probably don’t.

They go headfirst into the digital world, often without looking both ways before they cross.

We spoke with the head of the National Cyber Security Alliance to learn how he talks to his own kids about cybersecurity.

Watch here:


Direct Talk

Kelvin Coleman’s two children may sigh a bit when he starts talking about cybersecurity.

“They always tell you ‘too much,’ that I talk to them way too often about it. But it’s too important,” Coleman said. “I want them to understand that what they’re doing now is going to have consequences in the future.”

He is the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, with a mission of keeping all of us smarter and safer online.

And that starts with his own kids.

Here are some of his tips and strategies for working on cybersecurity with your children.

Kids & Cybersecurity

Talk to your kids about doing the right things online:

—Use long passwords

—Use different passwords for each account

—Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication gives you a second step to verify who you are before you sign in to accounts — like a code sent to your phone or a special key — so if crooks steal your password, they have trouble getting in.

You and your kids can use a password manager to remember your long, unique passwords.


Even parents of young children need to think about kids & cybersecurity
Children often learn how to use technology as toddlers. Image: Anviere


Be a Role Model

Coleman said he taught his kids to use two-factor authentication for every account.

“I think it’s one of those things where you have no choice,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re in a car, you have to put on your seatbelt, right? When you’re crossing the street, you have to look both ways. That’s not an option.”

“For my kids, where two-factor authentication is available, you absolutely use it,” he added.

Your kids are more likely to do all this good stuff if you do it, too, he advised.

If you don’t do it, why should they?

Hang Out, Check In

Check in on what they’re doing online.

Hang out with them to see where they go and what they do.

“They’re using technology all the time,” Coleman said. “So, why wouldn’t we be more curious about how they’re using it and if they’re going to be more secure on it?”

He described a typical interaction with his children.

“Sit down with them and say, ‘Hey, let me see your two-factor,’” he said. “‘Oh, Dad! Okay, now I can I go back to whatever.’”

“Okay, great, that was just a little drill, a fire drill if you will,” he said.

More Good Stuff

The National Cyber Security Alliance has more ideas on kids & cybersecurity:

—Help your kids come up with their own long passwords, or passphrases. They like being creative with a string of unique words.

—Go over examples of shady sites and posts so they can learn critical thinking skills.

—Talk about the possible problems with clicking on or downloading things, how you can download malware and allow crooks to invade your entire network.

—Discuss how posting images and info can reveal too much information and allow people to hurt you now and in the future.


Parents around the world need to focus on kids & cybersecurity
Kids have access to the Internet around the world. Image: Dean Moriarty



It can be hard for kids to think about filtering their info online, especially when the current currency is public attention.

“Young people may not get it right away,” Coleman said. “But I tell you what, that’s no reason to not continue to talk to them about it.”

Let them know that cyber crooks can use your information against you.

For example, if you give your pet’s name online and then use the same name for the answer to a security question, you’re making it easy for people to break into your accounts.

Abusing Accounts

Criminals can steal your money, your points, or the account itself.

They can use your accounts to pretend to be you and harass other people.

And things you post now can make it hard for you to get a job, a scholarship or respect later on in your life.

“You absolutely have to have to protect your information, because may not be as important to you right now, but it’s going to be important in a few years down the road,” Coleman explained.

Your kids’ friends may care more about attention than privacy.

“Still have to talk about it,” Coleman said. “Their friends may not care about a lot of things. We still have to talk about these various things in terms of staying safe on line.”



Helpful links for kids & cybersecurity:


Instilling Security From the Start: Tips for Teaching Children Cybersecurity



Don’t Give Up On Cyber Safety 



A Parent’s Guide to Cybersecurity



NetSmartzKids Activities for Kids



Internet Safety Tips for Kids



Kids & Computer Security



Family Online Safety Agreement




Main image: Kids, one with phone. Image: StockSnap

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