Protecting Children from Online Cybersecurity Risks

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Remote learning has moved classrooms online and have students connected to their home networks for the majority of their day. Even outside their virtual classrooms, children often remain online, whether it be streaming television shows, playing video games, or browsing through social media. Cybercriminals have honed in on the influx of new devices connected to the home network as an opportunity to execute ransomware attacks, steal information, or compromise public school district’s security defenses. As a result, young children have become an especially vulnerable target for cybercriminal, due to their lack of knowledge of cybercriminals and their tactics. This is why it is critical for our children to be educated about Internet safety from an early age and have a foundational baseline of cyber awareness.


A Guide to Internet Safety for Children

As part of Fortinet’s efforts to teach children cyber safety from an early age, I co-wrote “Cyber Safe: A Dog’s Guide to Internet Security.” This book is geared towards raising cyber awareness amongst children ranging from 7 to 12 years old and teaches how to stay secure online. The story follows a cyber smart dog, Lacey, teaching her cat friend Gabbi about the possible dangers to avoid when using the Internet. The book provides a simple introduction to risks for children connecting online for school, video games, streaming shows, and more. The content is easily comprehensible to children and also includes a guide for parents with details what they should be looking out for when their children are online.

Fortinet’s Network Security Expert (NSE) Training Institute’s Program is focused on closing the skills gap. Through this initiative, Fortinet is continuing its commitment to educating the global community on cyber safety, regardless of age, background or life experiences. 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.

Keeping Children Safe Online

Many organizations and school districts have decided to remain fully remote or to do hybrid learning until the end of the calendar year. Online activity on home networks is unlikely to decrease any time soon and children from an early age should know basic cybersecurity safe practices to protect themselves. And parents should also have a fundamental understanding of the risks that come up when their kids are online and what they’re exposed to. Below are key things for parents to consider to ensure their children are using the internet safely:

  • 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 follows, 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 asphishing Make it clear that no one should click on a suspect link or open unexpected attachments.
  • Encouraging children and teens to come to 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.

Online Learning Resources for Children

Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute offers free cyber awareness courses – NSE 1 and NSE 2 – 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 as the courses provide foundational cyber awareness courses for children to learn about bad actors and put learning to the test through levels NSE 1 and NSE 2.

Find out more about Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute programs, including the Certification Program, Security Academy Program and Veterans Program, which provide critical cybersecurity training and education to help solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.


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