Alexis Aguirre is the Director of Information Security for Latin America at Unisys

How Families and Parents Can Stay Secure While Educating Children from Home

To say that the world has changed dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis is an understatement. But the reality is that many of the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 are still being understood. In particular, this relates to cybersecurity and how we educate our nation’s children – particularly as the hybrid or virtual model for schooling in the fall is becoming a reality for many families.

Consider that months ago, when the pandemic was first breaking across American shores, the immediate concerns, understandably, were around the economy, healthcare infrastructure and familial health. In fact, the Unisys Security Index, the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, showed that only 70% of consumers expressed serious concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s education, suggesting many may have had a false sense of security while working, shopping and schooling from home.

Now more used to social isolation, students seem to spend much more time on their computers. We warn of the risk of cyber threats, which can even affect other family members who use a shared Wi-Fi network.

For families to stay safe as they navigate this new environment, whether educating children from home or just continuing to shop, share and interact online, there are a few things people can do to stay safe online.

  1. Look for software support. – If a parent is unable to fully supervise a child while they’re doing school work, there is “nanny software” that people can invest in that helps monitor what their families are doing. This software can be used as a lesson to teach kids what websites are or are not appropriate as well as provide a regular report on a child’s online activity.
  2. Talk to your children about cyber safety.It’s important to build trust so that if your child is concerned about something they see on the internet, they can ask you without fear of reprisal. Help them understand the dangers that can come with being on the web, and don’t be afraid to ask them if they’ve come across anything out of the ordinary online.
  3. Verify all hyperlinks. If you have doubts, look at the domain in the URL and use online search engines to verify it independently. Before clicking links that are sent to you, hover over the link with your mouse arrow and ensure it is taking you to the intended website.
  4. Secure your hardware.- Make sure you are protecting your Wi-Fi network and devices around the house by patching and updating to the latest firmware and checking the brand and model for security risks. It is also important to change default passwords and use passwords of significant strength (greater than eight characters with three of the following four (upper case, lower case, number, special character). Do not use words or deviations of words as passwords.

The world is now at a critical moment. As work and online schooling become more common, we tend to become more comfortable and unaware of the possible risks. Reality demands that we all rethink how we approach security. And the topic becomes even more important when we talk about educating our children and helping them prepare for the future.

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