Monday, March 9, 2015

Online Safety: Children and Safe Screen Names and Passwords

I am pleased to post a guest blog today from Keir McDonald, MBE. Keir McDonald MBE is founder and Director of EduCare, an online training solutions company that specializes in child protection, exploitation & online safety, and bullying and child neglect. EduCare is associated with both Kidscape and Family Lives and customers include over 4000 schools and colleges and 12000 pre-schools as well as councils, NHS, charities and more.

Keir McDonald, MBE, of EduCare

Helping children choose safe screen names and passwords
By Keir McDonald MBE

If your child is old enough to be online, he or she is old enough to learn how to choose safe screen names, passwords and protect this personal information. But when it comes to choosing screen names and passwords, many children, especially younger children, need some guidance.
Here are 4 easy tips for parents and educators to help children choose and maintain safe screen names and secure passwords for social media and other online applications.
Do Not Choose Screen Names That Contain Personal Information
Your child should choose screen names that do not include personal information, such as first name, birth date or last name. Begin by helping your kids understand what information should be private so they can make safe screen name choices.
Information such as full given name, Social Security Number, street address, phone number, and family financial information is all private and should stay that way.
Help your child think of a screen name that is fun and impersonal that he or she can remember.
Explain WHY Screen Names Should Not Contain Personal Information
Of course kids should only share content, including what is public via a screen name or profile, that you are both comfortable with others seeing. Encourage your child to think about any and all public information about them online.  Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view your child’s postings and even a child’s screen name could make a difference.  Encourage children to think about the impression that screen names could make.
Strong Passwords are the Foundation of Online Security
Next, teach children how to choose passwords that are difficult to guess, including making use of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers.
A password should be easy to remember but tough to hack. One easy way to remember passwords is to replace a letter with a similar-looking number. For example, using a “1″ in place of an “L” or a “5″ in place of an “S” are easy ways to replace a letter for a number.  Never use “Password” as the password, or things like phone numbers or addresses. 

Encourage your child to maintain a password logbook for both you and your child to have access to, and try to change passwords together every 6 months or so.

Help Your Child Manage Passwords and Keep Them Safe
For younger children, make sure you know all screen names and passwords so you can monitor Internet use. When it comes to young children, knowing their passwords for all social media accounts, email, gaming sites, computer, tablet, and phone is important. This will enable you and your child to be open for communication and to gain trust in technology use over time.
Teenagers should of course be allowed some privacy when it comes to social networking. Regardless of age, it is important to always keep an open line of communication with your child about Internet safety. Talk to your children about the dangers of sharing a password with anyone besides you, even their best friend.  

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