By Renee Tarun, Deputy CISO and VP, Information Security, FortinetFeatured

Fortinet’s tips on how to keep kids safe online

By Renee Tarun, Deputy CISO and VP, Information Security, Fortinet

A year into the pandemic, many adults remain working from their homes and children continue with remote learning, making it critical for parents to know the different ways on how to keep kids safe online.

With distance learning, students are connected to their home networks for the majority of their day. Outside their virtual classrooms, children often remain online afterward, whether it be streaming television shows, playing video games, or browsing through social media. With an increased amount of new devices connecting to home networks, cybercriminals have identified and exploited an open opportunity to execute ransomware attacks, target specific devices to steal information from, and compromise public school district’s security defenses. This is why it is critical to establish a foundation of cyber awareness for kids through education about internet safety from an early age.

Teleworkers typically rely on the security of the device and the network they are using to protect them from online threats. However, those security solutions can only go so far. Knowledge of basic cybersecurity practices can go a long way to ensure a good security posture.

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The same goes for our youth, who typically spend a majority of their time online. It is important for parents to have a discussion about online safety practices as well as for them to be aware of the dangers their children can face online. Discussion should focus on: 

  • Educating your family and friends on keeping their personal details private online by encouraging them not to share their real names, addresses, or other personally identifiable information (PII) to strangers online. 
  • Establishing clear rules for children and teens to follow, for example, creating lists of approved websites and applications or requiring parental approval for certain activities. 
  • Ensuring you know who your kids are communicating with online. Make sure that kids understand that they should never meet up in person with someone they met online.
  • Talking to your family about being cautious of fake or malicious websites and potential scams, such as phishing attempts. Make it clear that no one should click on a suspect link or open unexpected attachments.
  • Encouraging children and teens to approach a trusted adult if they are unsure about something they find on the internet or have concerns about a particular website or interaction.
  • Ensuring everyone in the family understands the importance of strong passwords and is using strong, differentiating passwords that are not obvious or easily accessible information. Examples of passwords to avoid using would include: birthdays, default passwords provided with devices, the user’s name, or simple combinations of numbers or words (ie. 1234, pAssword). 
  • Keeping your devices up to date is a must when working or learning from home. Make sure all devices and applications are fully updated with patches and that any antivirus/antimalware software on your device is current and operating. 

Cyber awareness

Fortinet places a heavy focus on spreading cyber awareness through our NSE Training Institute and skills gap initiatives. As part of this effort, I co-wrote “Cyber Safe: A Dog’s Guide to Internet Security,” a book written to educate our youth about internet safety. Through this initiative, Fortinet is continuing its commitment to educating the global community on cyber safety, regardless of age, background, or life experiences. Just as security affects everyone, cybercriminals target any vulnerability they can find, with no interest in their victim’s demographic. This book is an initiative of Fortinet’s skills gap work, focusing on building cyber awareness from an early age to help create a safer environment online for all. 

“Cyber Safe: A Dog’s Guide to Internet Security,” aims to raise cyber awareness among children in elementary and middle school, and takes readers on a journey to learn how to stay secure online. The book is centered around a cyber smart dog, Lacey, who teaches her cat friend Gabbi how to use the internet safely. The book provides an easy-to-understand introduction to possible dangers for children connecting online for school, video games, streaming shows, and more. The book also includes a guide for parents with details on what they should be looking out for when their children are online. Copies of the book will be available to elementary and middle schools across the United States to further cement a strong foundation of cyber safety knowledge in children. 

In addition to the book on how to keep kids safe online, Fortinet offers free cyber awareness courses, NSE 1 and NSE 2, through the NSE Training Institute for anyone interested in building their knowledge of cybersecurity and is for all age groups, including young children. The NSE Training courses complement the information provided in the children’s book, providing foundational cyber awareness courses for children to learn about bad actors and put their learning to the test through levels NSE 1 and NSE 2.

Fortinet is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. It develops and sells cybersecurity solutions. Original story first published on the Fortinet website.