How To Teach Your Kids About: Handling Financial Information Online
A topic that I have really wanted to highlight to parents, with kids that have their own phones, is the importance of making sure their money is safe in the digital world we live in. I was going to write a blog myself but felt there would be some aspects I would miss as I’m not an expert in this area. Luckily a former colleague of mine is married to a financial security expert and he was happy to help me write a blog on handling financial information online.
As a kid, my father spent a lot of time teaching me how to handle finances when I grew up. He hoped I wouldn’t repeat any financial mistakes he had made. However, this was before the internet had grown into a behemoth, and so there was a major and relevant issue that he had not covered — handling finances online.
The Internet has seeped into every conceivable crevice, and kids growing up today cannot imagine life before its emergence. For this reason, it’s essential that you teach your kids how to handle money online.
At the most basic level, you need to cover the dangers of digital transactions with losses becoming increasingly prevalent. In the US, the FBI reported an estimated US$3.5 billion worth of cybercrime losses in 2019 based on the complaints they received alone. This threat has since been exacerbated in 2020 by the increased reliance on the internet in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cybercriminals do operate on the Internet, waiting for someone to slip up, so these lessons are vital for your kids.
What are the possible dangers online?
The Ease of Online Theft
The main point you want your kids to remember is how dangerous the internet can be. If their Blue Trees (savings / investments) are unprotected, it becomes an attractive target of attack for dangerous predators. We tend not to think about it much, but cybercriminals, hackers, and scammers litter the Internet, waiting for the perfect victim. Unfortunately, many kids aren’t aware of these threats, making them a prime target for these malcontents.
It’s important we teach them that cyber-attacks and data breaches could be a single click away.
The Danger of Unsecured Networks
One entry point cybercriminals use to steal data is by seeking out unsecured networks, i.e., networks that aren’t protected or encrypted. These networks—with the right skillset—are extremely easy to access and offer a plethora of opportunities for hackers.
The Best Practices I gave my kids
Continuing the Blue Tree analogy, we have to do as much as we can to safeguard our forest and prevent attacks by predators lurking in the background.
Using Strong Passwords
The first thing you should teach your kids is to create strong passwords. Surveys have shown that many people stick to using the same, weak passwords, like “123456” or “password”, for their accounts. Unfortunately, cybercriminals realize this too. Hence, their common practice is to try existing passwords on multiple online services. Therefore, using a single password across multiple accounts creates a major security risk: if a hacker were to figure out one password, they could access all your accounts.
Teaching your kids easy ways to create a strong password will help tremendously. They could create a secure password using the acronym of their favorite song. Take “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as an example, a simple way is to use the acronym of the lyrics, “ttlshiwwya”, as a password. Adding numbers and special characters to the password would also strengthen security.
Most importantly, make sure your kids understand they should never share their passwords with anyone.
Not Sharing Financial Information with Untrusted Sources
Untrusted sources online are the modern equivalent to the oft-cited ‘stranger, danger’. Personally, as a kid, I had a difficult time keeping secrets. If someone were to ask me a question, I’d answer with 100% honesty, no matter the topic. While this is a good trait to have, it could lead to serious trouble if this is how we deal with personal information.
Kids should know that financial and personal information isn’t something that can be shared with everyone, but only with trusted sites and sources. You can also set clear boundaries for your kids, ensuring that they always ask for permission before any purchases are made or, before sharing financial information online.
Teaching kids the Basics of Security Software
To protect kids from potential threats, I would encourage parents to help their kids use simple security software applications that will give them a boost in cybersecurity that many adults don’t even have! Antimalware and VPNs would be a good introduction to cybersecurity software.
Installing antimalware software is a simple way to prevent and detect malware on a device, while a VPN is an easy-to-use tool for older kids who use free wifi when out shopping at cafes, and even at school. The app can encrypt all their online activities, giving them the protection they need while using unsecured networks. Like so many other topics, don’t just do this for them, make sure you tell them about this so they learn.
image from pixabay.com
Limiting What They Share on Social Media
Like I said before, kids like to share things about themselves because they don’t know better. Because of this, they might not only share personal information on untrustworthy sites, but also on social media.
Teach them about what should not be shared. Once a piece of information is shared on the internet, it is likely to stay there forever. As parents, you can also keep a close eye on their profiles. Threats can range from deranged criminals to as simple as cyberbullies.
How to Enforce Security as a Parent
Enabling Parental Controls
Teaching proper cybersecurity etiquette to your kids could be a lengthy process. Until your kids have a hold of the basics of cybersecurity, you might need to restrict what they can and cannot do whilst on the Internet.
One way to do this is by using parental controls, a set of controls that allows you to choose what your kids can access, view, and download. Most devices come with some sort of parental controls nowadays, and they’re relatively easy to set up.
The above has focused on great ways to prevent any potential risks. The other area is detecting any instances of wrongdoing. One way is to make sure your kids form the habit of looking at their money regularly. Understanding what money they have, and how it changes over time, can make it a lot easier to detect if anything seems different.
There are many instances of people losing money without realising it as they don’t monitor their money regularly. The longer it takes to detect, the harder it can be to resolve the issue.
Talk to your kid about the cyber risks of handling financial information online and the simple practices they can follow to ensure security. Kids are facing numerous risks in the digital era, but if they learn to be vigilant from an early age, they will know the ways to protect themselves as they grow up.
Make sure you use your judgment to find the right balance between letting your kids understand the potential risks without scaring them. For example, you could compare operating securely online to why you have a lock on the front door to your house. The more informed they are, the more likely they are to manage the potential risks.
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