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Are Your Kids Your Biggest Online Security Risks?

The Short of It

You're probably making complex passwords, using anti-virus software and worrying about hackers and identity thieves, but it turns out one of the biggest threats to your online security could be your kid.

The Lowdown

In a new Wall Street Journal article, Alexandra Samuel, a technology researcher and the author of "Work Smarter with Social Media" points out to parents that kids can cause quite a few security problems when they use computers and other devices.

"They inadvertently download viruses. They work around security to visit sites their parents don't want them to. They run up huge bills using their parents' one-click ordering," Samuel writes.

Sounds scary, but she says you can do some things to cut down the risks:

  • Create separate profiles for kids. That way, they can log into educational apps and games but not anything administrative—that should be reserved for you.
  • Know your kid's skills and temperament. Many of them can hack into programs, change settings and alter devices; some of them are infinitely curious and test limits. You'll want to be stricter with your security if either are the case with your kid.
  • Check devices. Periodically, take note of any new apps that have been downloaded, and look for any "gaps" in browsing history. Kids tend to know how to cover their tracks.
  • Add greater security. Use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to create secure passwords your kids can't hack. Make sure files are password protected. Disable one-click ordering. And backup your devices in case one of them gets a virus and crashes.

The Upshot

Even when you're taking all the proper security measures, the most important thing you can do is to teach your child about what online behaviors are risky and why, says Samuel. Knowing the reasoning behind your limits and warnings can definitely motivate them to actually follow them.

And now the part that's probably scariest for many of us parents: "And yes, awkward though it may be, talk to your teen (or even preteen) about pornography," says Samuel. "Chances are they will stumble on it or go searching for it themselves. So teach them how to avoid stumbling onto disturbing imagery, browse anonymously, stream rather than download and avoid clicking on any link that could introduce malware into your system."

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