There’s a lot you can do to help protect children—and teach them so they may protect themselves.

With the new school year starting, now is a great time to speak with your children about cybersecurity and to make sure you’re doing all you can to help keep them safe.  

Whether your children are on their first mobile devices or striving to be social media influencers, what they do and say online can affect them and your family, now and into the future.

So here are some tips that can help protect your children—and your whole family.  

The most important action you can take is to establish an open and ongoing dialogue with your children about cybersecurity, discussing the positives and negatives of being online, stressing the fact that “online is forever” and offering some cautions about strangers. Speak with them about:

  • Reputational risk—Emphasize that “forever” applies to their texts, comments in online gaming networks, email, video and posts to any social media. At the same time it’s great that they are learning how to express themselves, they need to understand that any negative, inflammatory or intimidating comments they make about a topic or person can have serious reputational consequences, affecting their future applications for scholarships, colleges and jobs. 
  • Fraud, identity theft and old-fashioned burglary—Hackers may use information that children divulge in their social media posts make you and your family vulnerable to cybercrime (and house break-ins). Educate your children not to reveal upcoming vacation plans, check into locations online or post real-time photos of themselves while away from home.
  • Physical safety—Of course, you’ll want to warn your children against interacting online with anyone they do not know. Your children should be communicating only with trusted and designated individuals. You might even consider setting up approved contact lists on their devices.

Ask the administrators of your child’s school: What are the school’s rules, and what are they teaching about cyber safety, social media and cyber bullying?  

Your children may already have a presence online and on social media. That means their identity and information may already be at risk. And compromised security can go undetected for years.

Some precautions you and your children can take should go a long way toward protecting them: 

1. Account names and passwords

  • Work with your children to make sure their online accounts do not use their personal information as part of an email address or user name. Instead, use names such as JumpingRope123, soccerchamp33!!@xmail.com.
  • Help them use strong passwords on their devices and accounts. That means using a minimum 10 to 15 characters as well as a mix of numbers, upper- and lowercase letters and symbols. Advise them to use different passwords for different sites.
  • Depending on your children’s ages, consider asking them to keep you up to date on the passwords to their devices and social media accounts so you may monitor their activity.
  • Warn children of all ages against sharing their account and password information (including gaming accounts and streaming services) with anyone else (including friends and babysitters). 
  • Consider using a password manager so the whole family can share certain accounts without difficulty, and without everyone knowing all passwords.
  • Enable two-factor authentication for any online site that offers it, including email and social media sites, including email and social media sites, to avoid account takeovers.

2. Location. Review the apps on your children’s devices. You can help protect your children by limiting or turning off location tracking for unnecessary apps.

3. Social media. Review social media privacy settings on a regular basis, as updates may change the visibility of your child’s information. Make sure your child’s settings are set to private, not public.

4. Online activity. You may want to set time and content limits for how your children can access digital media and devices, including mobile phones, tablets and computers. You can monitor the content your children are accessing by using the content filters available on most devices. If you are not sure what is appropriate online time and/or activity for your child, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines on how children should use devices, as well as resources to help build a family media plan. Visit https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media.

5. Devices. Review new and hand-me-down devices to ensure they are set up securely. Keep devices and operation systems up to date. Install antivirus software and set it to “auto update.”

6. Public Wi-Fi and unknown links. Teach children public Wi-Fi is not safe. If they have to use it, they should enable a virtual private network (VPN), even for gaming sessions. Also warn them not to click on unknown links.  

7. Credit. Even though your child might not have a credit rating yet, it’s important to protect it. You can protect your child’s future credit by contacting each credit bureau (e.g., Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). That will prevent a person, merchant or institution from opening a new account in your child’s name and using their credit before they become adults and need a credit rating.  

It often helps children comply if the whole family is subject to the same rules. Here’s a sample list of rules to help you craft your family’s cyber guidelines:

  • We do not make negative or inflammatory comments online.
  • We never divulge the identities of family members or friends via public posts or images.
  • We do not share personal details about family members (e.g., anniversaries, birthdays or pet names).
  • We avoid revealing the locations of our homes, vacation spots or business offices.
  • We do not post travel pictures (including locations) or plans until after a trip has ended.

Cybersecurity is a key concern for J.P. Morgan; we are dedicated to protecting your financial life. If you want to learn more about cybersecurity for your children, please contact your J.P. Morgan representative. Be sure to ask for a copy of our workbook, Teaching your children about wealth, which includes cyber tips for every age group.