By Nevin Markwart
As parents, we have conflicting feelings on remote learning. On one hand, we want our children to stay healthy, especially in the midst of a public health crisis. On the other hand, online education opens the door to new threats—including opportunities for hackers, risks to our children’s privacy, and increased online harassment.
Fortunately, we as parents can play a proactive role in ensuring that our children’s online education is a safe and fulfilling experience. Here are several easy steps that you can take to protect your children in remote learning situations:
Creating an open dialogue with your children’s educators is a simple yet effective way to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety and privacy. You should discuss safety protocols with the school and flag anything that concerns you. Confirm the school has privacy policies in place and learn what they are.
Speak with your children’s teachers and meeting administrators about which screen share tool they use and confirm that only the school can control screen share. Learn that program and security features as much as possible.
Make sure the teacher allows students to turn off their cameras after confirming attendance if they’re uncomfortable “going live.” Many adults feel uncomfortable on camera, so imagine how children must feel.
Parents should have ultimate control over what their children use and see online. Know what platforms your children are using, whether for learning or social media. Maintain direct oversight on whom your children engage with online and limit that circle to known friends, family, and acquaintances. Use Screen Time or Parental Controls to restrict the types of online activities your children can do.
You should set up secure passwords for your children to prevent their accounts from getting hacked.Secure passwords are at least 12 characters long, do not include dictionary words, and mix numbers, symbols, and letters (lowercase and uppercase). Turn on your firewall and make sure your children only download files from people or sites you know and trust.
Remember that anything posted online is public, not private information. So, talk to your children about what they’re not allowed to post online. They should never post any sensitive personal information (e.g. social security number, passwords, etc.) on their internet profiles: changing a profile does not delete old copies of it.
Communication is a key step to prevent cyberbullying. Explain to your children that what happens on the Internet can be permanent and damaging. You should treat people the same way online as you would in person: with respect. This includes not saying anything mean or untrue about someone online. Ask your children’s school what disciplinary measures are in place for online misbehaviour.
Report online harassment, including any message that makes your children feel uncomfortable. If the harassment occurred through your children’s remote learning platform, notify their school. You can also report harassment to local law enforcement. Make sure to save and print any records of threatening messages—including screenshots, emails, and texts—for evidence.
Nevin Markwart is the Chief Information Security Officer at FutureVault.