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Public Policy

Back to School: How to keep your child safe in cyber land
By   Stacy Hartman, Director, Public Policy
Aug. 31, 2017

Backpack – check. Binders – check. Ballpoint pens – check. I fondly recall the excitement that back-to-school shopping for these items would instill in me during this time of year. However, many of today’s youth have moved away from pens and binders in favor of laptops, tablets and cell phones as they make their way back into the classroom. While this technological transformation is exciting, it’s important to know how to keep them safe online and help them understand how to manage their “digital presence” with all of these devices. While parents can’t safeguard every aspect of their children’s activity on the internet, they can be armed with knowledge, resources and safety tips.

Internet Safety Tips:

Where would we be without the World Wide Web? While it’s an endless source of learning and information, the web can potentially be a dangerous place for kids. To better safeguard them, consider:

  • Using strong, unique passwords or, even better, passphrases for every website – a passphrase is a phrase forming a compete sentence and is more secure than a single word.
  • Not using the same passwords/passphrases across multiple platforms or sites. If you have trouble keeping track of different password combinations, explore keeping your passwords safe by using a password manager and turning on two-factor authentication.
  • Reminding your child that it’s never safe to meet up with strangers, to share addresses/phone numbers/passwords, or provide other personal or financial information online to anyone they don’t have your permission to interact with.
  • Implementing the highest level of Privacy settings available, and setting up appropriate “parental permission” within browsers and devices that they can access.
  • Turning off GPS tracking/location finders that apps and cell phones use.
  • Being cautious when considering whether to connect to public WiFi networks as they’re not generally secure and are far more vulnerable to nefarious activity.
  • Reviewing the browser history and the cookies that sites have placed on your child’s devices. You can often control access to certain sites through these settings.

Intelligent Use of Smartphones:

While smartphones have undoubtedly changed the way that we all communicate, putting these powerful devices in a child’s hands can have terrible consequences if appropriate monitoring isn’t in place. Help your child make safe choices:

  • Make sure their device is set to lock after a short period of time and requires some sort of authentication to unlock.
  • Talk to them about the numbers they have in their address book, and make sure they know they shouldn’t answer a call or respond to a text from a number that isn’t known already or vetted through you.
  • Text messaging is a wonderful means of communication, but they need to understand that texting inappropriate photos or words can harm others or themselves – and that once they’re shared, they can’t be taken back or digitally erased.
  • Even when digital permissions/limitations are set on their device, verbal permission from you is required before downloading anything (e.g., apps, games). Each app/game has its own privacy settings, so it’s important to check through these and make sure they’re all set to align with your family’s guidelines.

Social Media Mania:

Age appropriate use of any social media platform must be decided by every family, but there are a few ageless tips for parents to contemplate:

  • You should always have usernames and passwords for all platforms your children use. Some apps, like Instagram, don’t require you to log out of your personal profile to view your child’s – you can simply switch accounts inside the app. This can be a great way to receive real-time notifications on your child’s activity, messages and usage.
  • Develop a “public posting policy,” and take time to discuss the permanence of all content that is generated on and posted to social media. Similar to text messages, electronic posts never truly “go away” and can damage future opportunities like joining a competitive sports team, getting into a college and finding a job.
  • Follower and friend requests should only be granted to those that you give your child permission to have.
  • Once again, it’s NEVER safe to meet up with strangers that have contacted them through social media.
  • Remind your kids to be careful about including any potentially traceable geographical information, like street signs and building names, in photos as they can be used to track their location.

Parents should be able to maintain peace of mind that their kids are learning and safely enjoying what the digital world has to offer. With proper awareness and caution on how to utilize the internet and these tools safely, transitioning back to school can be stress and anxiety free. Here are some great resources for more information:

At CenturyLink, we care about our customers and their families’ online safety. Our cybersecurity policies are designed to protect and connect our customers as they connect to the digital world. For more information about CenturyLink’s policies, visit: