It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Here’s some information to help families stay safe – and keep their kids safe – online.

While parents are busy building a family, supporting a household, and raising good children, one big responsibility is safety. Cyber safety has become an ongoing risk for quite some time now. A 2018 study conducted by Common Sense Media showed that 89% of teenagers have a smartphone, and 70% of teens are on social media multiple times a day. There’s no doubt the Internet is playing a huge role in our kids’ lives on a daily basis. But are you doing all you can to keep your family safe from cybercriminals? Here’s how to get started:

Protect your home network

A strong Wi-Fi connection starts with a reliable router. This connects all of your devices to the Internet. Although Wi-Fi is a necessity these days, it can also pose several risks to your home. An unsecured router could become vulnerable to hackers looking to access your private information. While installing your home Wi-Fi router, you should follow a couple of important steps to ensure it’s protecting your home network. Here are a couple tips:

  • Perform all necessary updates to your router. Not only will this help the router perform at its best, but it will keep your device free from any new threats.
  • Give your router a name (you’ll find this option in the security settings). Try to avoid anything too obviously related to you or your family (i.e. “Smith Family” “Sharon Smith Internet”) Use something basic like “xf456” or any other complex combination of letters and numbers.
  • Always disable WPS (Wi-Fi protected setup). Although this was created for an easier user experience, it’s not always the most secure option. Because the WPS uses a PIN as the login credentials, it can easily be hacked.
  • Establish a guest network. This network will give your guests their own SSID and password but will also block others from being able to access your regular network. Your original password will no longer have to be shared with guests who are in your home further keeping your network private and secure.

Arm smart devices

With the rise of smart devices, and the ability for all children to have access to them, comes the danger of the unknown threats. While children are going to and from school, friends’ houses, and any other public areas, they might be connected to Wi-Fi that is not secure. This could leave them vulnerable to being tracked, hacked, or even followed. Look into installing a VPN (virtual private network) onto your child’s devices so they are protected no matter where they are. The network establishes a private network from a public Internet connection. It also hides your browsing activity including anything you access while connected to the Internet. VPNs should be installed on all devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

Monitor screen time

Allowing children the freedom to explore the Internet can be difficult at times. With the number of anonymous people using the Internet daily, it’s imperative that parents enact smart ways to keep their children safe. Monitoring screen time is a quick way to ensure your children are being smart digital citizens while also maintaining their everyday life and responsibilities. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the ramifications of social media use. This guide can help you tell if social media is harming your child’s mental health.

Here are some ways to monitor screen time:

  • Only allow screen time after dinner.
  • Shut off all devices by a certain time every night.
  • Lock specific games and apps from being used.
  • Only allow screen time on weekend nights.
  • Use parental controls to monitor what your kids are accessing and how they are interacting with it.

Use these tips to teach your family how to be safer while using the Internet. Focus on cybersecurity as another task to accomplish while you’re setting up your family home. Just like locking a door, never forget to lock your Internet connection to keep you and your family safe from cyber harm.