On October 22, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a reminder for parents to urge their children and teens to protect their personal and financial information. The IRS Security Summit offered tips for parents during National Cybersecurity Month.
With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, notebooks and computers and mandatory online education for young students during COVID-19, many young people are at risk. They use computers and smartphones at home for entertainment, online shopping online and social media. Because many young individuals do not understand the potential cybersecurity risks, they may unknowingly share personal information that will be used by scammers and fraudsters.
The Security Summit highlights five tips for online security. Parents should share these concepts with youth and teens and urge them to protect their personal data.
- Recognize and Avoid Scams — Each year, there are billions of phishing emails, phone calls and texts from thieves. Many of the identity thieves claim to be from the IRS, law enforcement, the DMV or other official organizations. Youth and teens should not click on links or download attachments in emails if they do not know the identity of the sender. A downloaded attachment may install malware on the computer and give a thief access to your personal data.
- Security is Important — Parents should caution children and teens to be careful not to reveal their personal information. They should not disclose birthdates, home addresses, their age or financial information. Young individuals have Social Security numbers and may also have bank or savings accounts. They should be cautioned to protect this information.
- Public Wi-Fi Networks — Many coffee shops, restaurants or malls offer free Wi-Fi. However, there is no guarantee that the connection is appropriately secure. Many cybercriminals monitor the information on these public Wi-Fi networks. Youth and teens should be cautioned not to send emails and personal information over public Wi-Fi networks. They may also consider using a virtual private network (VPN) in order to connect with public Wi-Fi.
- Security Software with Firewall and Anti-Virus Protection — All computers should have security software with automatic updates. Most anti-virus software will update daily. If a file is sensitive, it can be encrypted or protected through passwords. The best solution is to avoid placing sensitive data in the public arena. Social media sites and email are potentially accessible to large numbers of bad actors.
- Passwords — Youth and teens should be encouraged to use strong passwords. A strong password includes both upper and lowercase letters, one or more numbers and special characters. The password should not include information that is easily connected with the young person, such as his or her name, address or city.
Millions of students became familiar with online education during the COVID lockdown. As a result, there is widespread use of electronic devices by individuals in grade school, middle school and high school. Parents should educate students about the importance of cybersecurity.