©2020 Manufacturer’s Edge
Many of the boundaries around family time have melted away in 2020 as parents work from home, children school from home, and multiple conference calls drone on from several different rooms over various devices (but often over the same, unsegmented network). As both my Denver-based daughter and her 12-year-old daughter bemoan the prospect of mandatory at-home/on-line school, I thought it time to ponder the cybersecurity equivalent of PPE:
- How do you practice social distancing online?
- How do you maintain good hygiene (on devices, apps, networks)?
- How do you guide your child toward “good digital citizenship”?
- What legal protections—and risks—exist?
ONLINE SOCIAL DISTANCING
There is a cyber corollary to social distancing that can help families define boundaries around communications to avoid disruptive crosstalk. Headsets or earbuds for those who are consistently on extended calls can help if soundproofed physical isolation is not possible. Here are some others:
- Maintain a “hands-off/no exception” policy with respect to devices used for business. If your child sends or receives inappropriate content while using your device, you may be in violation of your company’s policies. If it’s your personally owned device, you may be in violation of federal law. According to the US Department of Education, “possession of sexually explicit photos received by sexting can be considered a type of possession of child pornography from a legal perspective” https://rems.ed.gov/.
- Activate content filtering on all your devices to reduce the flow of garbage in/garbage out.
- Use a robust, not easily guessable, unique password, and account for each of your children. Reserve the right to withdraw privileges as needed. Never share your password with them.
- Consider freezing credit. Really.
- Limit screen time—and reward children for self-discipline. (I find that my 12-year-old granddaughter happily gives up her Tik-Tok—please don’t judge, not my rules—when I offer an in-person, human-to-human alternative like a bike ride, game of cards, etc.)
Many children are being hit hard emotionally by the physical isolation. Help them reduce their sense of isolation without jeopardizing their safety.
CYBER HYGIENE PRACTICES
Remember when we thought optimistically that children were not susceptible to Covid? That has been disproved—along with the disturbing discovery that children showing some symptoms likely have higher concentrations of the virus than do teens and adults https://fortune.com/2020/07/30/children-covid-carriers-kids-coronavirus-schools-reopening-viral-load-study/. Similarly, even though children are protected under federal laws with respect to some types of cybersecurity activity, in reality they need to practice good cyber hygiene as consistently as their parents. Although not likely subject to business email compromise (BEC) threats, children may be subject to other insidious threats perpetrated by online predators (who may even be peers):
- Inappropriate content
- Online predation
This list was taken from the REMS website https://rems.ed.gov/docs/Cyber_Safety_K-12_Fact_Sheet_508C.PDF. One of my granddaughters who was an enthusiastic Robloxer was apparently being “groomed” by an unknown digital persona whose messages to her subtly sabotaged her parents. (Her Roblox privileges were pulled as soon as my son started scrolling through her account activity. Score for parental control!)
RESPONSIBLE DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
Skills for working, playing, and learning online responsibly are important life skills for our children. The Girls Scouts of America has 36 badges on STEM topics https://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/girl-scouts-and-stem.html including three different badges on cybersecurity, beginning at the level of Brownies Another global organization has developed an assessment fhttps://us.dqworld.net/lang:en/#!/landing/parents for children (8 to 12) so that parents can evaluate where their child is with respect to responsible use of online technology and identify possible problem areas (e.g., screen time management). The assessment looks at eight core skills in total, as the graphic below indicates.