Preparing your kids for the new school year used to mean buying a new pair of jeans, getting the right pencils, or finding a lunch box that was the perfect fit. While all those things are still important, with the development of information technology, parents have so much more to consider these days. Many schools are inviting students to bring their own devices to school. Technology policies are embracing laptops, tablets and mobile devices as essential learning tools, and while it’s impossible for our educators to provide our students with these devices, they encourage students to bring their own.
While you emotionally prepare to watch your children wander off to school, you worry about keeping them safe, and beyond safety on the school grounds, keeping their devices safe is equally important. This will be a lot easier if you are prepared with a proactive safe guarding plan, and your kids are educated at home as to what is safe, and what is not. Here are some examples;
Unfortunately, the possibility of theft is real, yes, even in our schools. There are a multitude of theft deterring apps that are available, dependent of the device your child may be using. We personally love the find my phone app for apple devices, and (android device manager) for android users. If your device is stolen, users can enter information from another device and remotely lock it from being used, sound an alarm to it that will sound even when it’s in silent mode, and even give you precise coordinates to the device location. Devices can be remotely wiped to prevent loss of sensitive data, and some can even activate the camera to snap a pic of your would be thief.
The moment your children are outside of your home Wi-Fi network, their devices become considerately more vulnerable to intruders from harmful websites and malware. Public Wi-Fi hotspots can intercept traffic going to and from any connected wireless device, therefore, we recommend avoiding public wireless unless you can verify it is a safe access point. If you must use your mobile device to transmit passwords and secure information, consider using a data connection instead of a public Wi-Fi connection.
Keep your updates up to date. We can’t stress this enough. Manufacturers are always on the move, trying to find security breaches before a malicious user can. When you are being notified for a software update, it usually comes with a number of security fixes that are designed to keep your devices and personal information safe. The number one way you can do your part to protect your children’s devices, is to guarantee these updates are always up to date.
There are a number of possibilities to help you monitor the traffic that comes in and out of your child’s personal devices, limit and block activities allowed while web browsing, and be sure they are only using apps you have allowed them access to. We personally like the idea of setting them up with a VPN (virtual public network) which always routes traffic through your home network, where you can easily track usage, common sites being used, and keep all the guesswork out of things.
As parents, it’s important for us to understand threats that face mobile devices, and to educate our children as much as we can. Most of the leading experts recommend that as soon as your child starts using the web, it’s time to start the discussion. MediaSmarts, a Canadian non-for-profit center for digital and media literacy, has online tip sheets that help explain how to tailor these conversations to children’s developmental stages, from ages two to 17. They have some great advice.
Finally, if you feel lost or overwhelmed and maybe concerned it’s just not enough, talk to your child’s educators, they are always happy to answer your questions when it comes to your young student’s safety.
You may not be able to prevent your children from dropping their expensive devices in a mud puddle, but hopefully this should give you some peace of mind to get the school year started off on the right foot.