Helping children choose safe passwords and screen names
By Keir McDonald MBE
Children will need to choose safe screen names and passwords as soon as they start exploring online. But when it comes to choosing screen names and passwords, many children, especially younger children, need some guidance. Protecting children and the family’s personal information should be top priority.
Here are 4 easy tips parents and teachers can use to help children choose and maintain safe screen names and secure passwords for social media and other online applications.
Explain WHY Screen Names Should Not Contain Personal Information
When choosing a screen name, first be sure to let kids know they should only share content that they are comfortable with others seeing. This includes all information that is public via a screen name or profile.
This is a good time to encourage children to think about any and all public information about them online. While it may seem like a long way off, explain how future employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view postings and even a child’s screen name could impact future relationships. Encourage children to think about the impression that screen names could make now and in the future.
Strong Passwords are the Foundation of Online Security
Next, teach children how to choose passwords that are difficult to guess, including making use of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers.
A password should be easy to remember but tough to hack. One easy way to remember passwords is to replace a letter with a similar-looking number. For example, using a “1″ in place of an “L” or a “5″ in place of an “S” are easy ways to replace a letter for a number. Never use “Password” as the password, or things like phone numbers or addresses.
Encourage your child to maintain a password logbook for both you and your child to have access to, and try to change passwords together every 6 months or so.
Help Your Child Manage Passwords and Keep Them Safe
For younger children, make sure you know all screen names and passwords so you can monitor Internet use. Especially with young children and pre-teens, knowing their passwords for all social media accounts, email, gaming sites, computer, tablet, and phone is important. This will enable you and your child to maintain an open line of communication about what they are doing online and to gain trust in technology use over time.
Do Not Choose Screen Names That Contain Personal Information
Your child should choose screen names that do not include personal information, such as first name, birth date or last name. Begin by helping your kids understand what information should be private so they can make safe screen name choices.
Information such as full given name, Social Security Number, street address, phone number, and family financial information is all private and should stay that way.
Help your child think of a screen name that is fun and impersonal that he or she can remember.
Regardless of age, it is important to always keep an open line of communication with your child about Internet safety. Talk to your children about the dangers of sharing a password with anyone besides you, even their best friend.
About the Author
Keir McDonald MBE is founder and Director of EduCare, an online training solutions company that specialise in child protection, exploitation and online safety, and bullying and child neglect. EduCare is associated with both Kidscape and Family Lives and customers include over 4000 schools and colleges and 12000 pre-schools as well as councils, NHS, charities and more.