Cybersecurity tips for teens

The internet can be an exciting—but dangerous—place for your teens. Here's what you need to know to keep them safe

Key takeaways

  • Talk to your teens about the implications of them providing too much personal information.
  • Make sure that your teens know when to recognize red flags while online.
  • Encourage your teens to take advantage of privacy settings to ensure that their information is not available to the public.

We all live in a world where our digital lives are in clear view. With more free time on their hands to go on their smartphones now that school is out, teens are especially exposed by their carefully curated social media profiles, private text message conversations and going online.

While access to the web offers countless advantages and benefits, such as sending payments, ordering a rideshare or sending videos to friends, there are countless threats and risks lurking on the web, as well. If you have teenagers at home, it is important to teach them how to stay safe online to protect your entire family from virtual predators.

Why cybercriminals target teens

Cyberattacks can impact anyone at any time. While many teens may encounter difficult online problems in the form of cyberbullying, it can go far beyond that and extend to financial crimes, identity theft and threats to safety.

"They are using the internet, often like you do. They are starting to make online purchases and use social networks, and at that age you know they won't be as careful as you want them to be," says Ellen Segriff, Head of Privacy, Cyber and Information Security for Wealth Management in the Americas, UBS.

Why are teens prime targets for cyberattacks? Identity thefts, access to financial accounts and data for a bigger fraud on their parents are all reasons criminals target children. Once their Social Security number and other details have leaked, criminals may try to open up credit cards or make online purchases using your kids' names.

Reused passwords are a big risk. If your teen uses the same password for social networking and online banking, for example, a hack at the social network exposes their email address and password for their money.

What you and your kids should look out for

It is a good idea to teach your teen about managing their money online and taking responsibility for their finances. This can offer important lifelong lessons. But don't skimp on teaching them about security at the same time.

Online cyber risks for teens "are the same risks as adults. Be careful what sites you're on. Be careful what you're sharing on social media. If they know their Social Security number, they should never give that out," Segriff explains.

Make sure your kids know about major red flags online. "If they don't know who the person is on social media, you shouldn't be friending them," Segriff continues. "Only friend people you actually know."

If your teen sees something inappropriate, they should tell you or another trusted adult. Good communication with your kids is important in keeping them safe both off and online.

Stay on alert to stay safe online

Segriff says most teens should take similar steps to adults to secure their online experience. "Start using password managers. When you are on social media, take advantage of your privacy settings. Also, don't open or click email links from someone you don't know."

In addition to resources your kids may get at school, the Stop.Think.Connect. Program from the Department of Homeland Security is another useful resource in leveling up your family's online safety IQ.

The internet is a reality today for nearly all families. In some situations, teens could be at a higher risk for cybercrime than their parents. Good habits and educated kids are in the best position to avoid the most common threats.

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