During the month of October, we celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). This long-running annual event is all about raising awareness about the importance of protecting our information and privacy online. And for some of us who may have allowed our good habits to lapse, it offers a chance to refresh our knowledge. Although the initiative covers a range of areas — from protecting national critical infrastructure to getting more kids into cybersecurity careers — it begins in week one with a focus on cybersecurity in the home.
For families of school-aged kids, this is a great time to ensure the environment you’ve set up at home means they have the best and safest online experience possible.
From then to now
We’ve come a long way since NCSAM was first launched in 2004. Back then, Facebook had just been created and was years away from becoming a household name. Internet threats were relatively unsophisticated, and limited in scope and volume. Your kids were more likely to be playing hand-held gaming devices in the school yard than fiddling with their cell phones. In fact, it’s unlikely they would have had on-the-go internet access at all, with clunky feature phones still the norm.
How times have changed. Today we live in a mobile-centric, hyper-connected world where online threats are never far away. Trend Micro blocked over 20.4 billion in the first six months of 2018 alone. Smartphones are a great tool for kids to stay connected with parents and friends, but we also want to keep them safe: not just from malware and identity theft but inappropriate content, cyber-bullying, grooming and other online threats. With the average American teenager spending 4.5 hours each day on their phone, legitimate concerns have also been raised over how much screen time we should be allowing them.
This isn’t meant to shock you into action. As a concerned parent you’ll already no doubt be aware of some of the negative aspects of our increasingly digital-centric lifestyles. Let’s instead take a look at some concrete actions you can take to make things better for your family.
A safer home
This year, the theme of NCSAM is Our Shared Responsibility. With that in mind, we’d like to do our part by offering up a few ideas to help you improve online safety at home:
- Set up a good place in the home for kids to access the internet
A family area with the home PC in the living room or kitchen can help as it will enable you to monitor internet use directly. Similarly, if you create charging rooms in the shared areas, it reduces the likelihood of devices being used in bedrooms all night. If they have friends over, make sure these visitors also know the rules.
- Technology can help
Make the most of the built-in security and privacy protections that come with many consumer electronics, apps and web services today:
- Use parental controls via router or security software on each device to ensure kids only access sites/services appropriate for them
- Switch on restrictions native to devices, apps or websites to ensure kids only download games/apps appropriate for their age. Sites like Google and YouTube, stores like iTunes, services like Spotify, and gaming consoles like Xbox have their own settings to help you
- Turn off access to mobile device cameras, microphones and location services on your kids’ apps, games, etc. if they’re not functionally necessary
- Set the rules
It’s important before you start to set some ground rules around the use of technology and the internet at home. These could include:
- Ask before downloading/using/connecting
- Don’t connect with strangers online, or give out any personal information
- Tell parents if a stranger contacts you
- Use technology together
Technology should be an opportunity to bring the family closer together, rather than building yet another wall between parents and their children. Try the following:
- Learn a new app or play a new game as a family
- When your kids make a mistake, be sure to use it as a moment to teach, not take away
After a decade, Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) initiative has reached nearly two million parents, teachers and kids over that time. We are proud to help celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. But we believe that any month in any home is a good time and place to help our kids practice habits that will help them be safe and responsible online well into adulthood.
For more topics and tips on keeping your kids safe online, check out our extensive resources. Have a great National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!