Security awareness

Security awareness for kids: Tips for safe internet use

Jeff Peters
February 5, 2024 by
Jeff Peters

The internet is integral to a child's life in schools, at home and wherever they spend their free time. Devices that connect to the internet can benefit learning, enhance social relations and keep young children connected to their loved ones — but they can also be a source of danger and concern for parents and educators. 

It is important to protect children from the everyday dangers of inappropriate conduct, content and contact they may encounter online. But what is the right age to introduce key security awareness concepts?

It should start whenever a child begins spending time online, even when supervised. That’s a fairly young age for most children. By eight years old, children average four to six hours per day watching or using screens. By the time they are teenagers, more than half spend at least four a day just using social media.

Introducing security awareness in children

The first security educators are likely parents or guardians, as they tend to be the ones who introduce children to the online world. Once they are in school, educators are also responsible, particularly as more curriculum moves online and devices like iPads are integrated into students' everyday learning.

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However, not every adult is an expert in security awareness — or even the basics. So, where should you start? As Infosec’s Keatron Evans outlines in the video above, it can be helpful to think in terms of age groups:

  • Cybersecurity for grade school: As kids go online, focus on creating a foundation of good habits. These include not sharing personal information, never clicking on unknown links and only downloading apps from official stores. Guardians can also help ensure that the highest privacy and security settings are enabled, and they can monitor activity for any teachable moments.
  • Cybersecurity for middle school: As children access more devices for learning and fun, they must take more ownership of their security. This includes concepts like separating school and personal accounts, as well as email safety and other forms of phishing. Fraudsters prey on children by building curiosity through emails and other messages that entice them to click, install and share information that they shouldn’t.
  • Cybersecurity for teens: Social media poses its own dangers for teenagers, from oversharing personal information to new avenues for cybercriminals to contact them directly. Help ensure teenagers are aware of the different privacy settings available. They should also avoid using the same login credentials for each site and set up multi-factor authentication on all accounts, when possible.

Parents’ role in security awareness

As a parent, you’re not alone in teaching your kids good security habits. There are a growing number of great resources you can use to educate your children — and yourself. Many have been featured on Infosec’s Cyber Work Podcast and YouTube channel.

Most apps also have some level of parental control. This can be very effective for young children who need closer monitoring. However, older children who are technically savvy may be able to bypass such controls or have access to devices beyond those they own. As children grow older, critical thinking and a healthy foundation of behavior are most important to help them navigate the many online security threats they’ll be exposed to.

Also, children will often mimic the behavior of others in the household, so it’s important to model good security behaviors as well.

Educator’s role in security awareness

Educators also play an essential role in helping children stay cyber secure. As technology is integrated into the classroom, the education system must ensure everyone knows how to use that technology securely.

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Eight K-12 school districts nationwide were affected by major cyber incidents this past year, resulting in four canceling classes or temporarily shutting down. Security awareness education is integral not just for students but also for teachers and staff.

Infosec created a Security Awareness Toolkit for Educators to help launch a program that can easily be integrated into an academic calendar. It includes:

  • An educational video
  • Shareable infographics covering key awareness topics
  • Posters on topics like password security, social engineering, social media and more
  • 1-year sample program plan

Get Free Toolkit

Importance of security awareness for children

Both parents and educators have a crucial role to play in keeping children safe online and instilling good cybersecurity practices.

Parental control software and close supervision can help children avoid many issues while they are young, but long-term success will be determined by giving each child the skills and resources needed to stay safe in the digital world.

Security awareness for kids helps instill those best practices — and helps them take ownership of their online privacy and security.

For more free resources, check out Infosec’s Security Awareness and Training Resource Center.

Jeff Peters
Jeff Peters

Jeff Peters is a communications professional with more than a decade of experience creating cybersecurity-related content. As the Director of Content and Brand Marketing at Infosec, he oversees the Infosec Resources website, the Cyber Work Podcast and Cyber Work Hacks series, and a variety of other content aimed at answering security awareness and technical cybersecurity training questions. His focus is on developing materials to help cybersecurity practitioners and leaders improve their skills, level up their careers and build stronger teams.