A parent's guide to smartphone safety, for you and your kids

Smartphones are the faithful companions of children. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased use of IT tools, most children have been exposed to risks they did not know about: cyber threats on the Internet, cyberbullying on social networks, attempted scams or predators. Benoit Grunemwald, Cybersecurity Expert at ESET France gives some practical advice to follow to secure the use of smartphones by children:

  • Make passwords sacred : Let's start with the ABCs, secure passwords are the first line of defense that will prevent anyone, especially unsavory people, from accessing the valuable data stored in the various applications they use. Prefer passphrases, they are stronger and more secure than a simple password. However, the amount of credentials required is significant, consider using a password manager, these make creating passwords very easy.
  • Lock her screen : If passwords prevent unknown people from accessing your devices, locking the screen is a prerequisite security. This is a process you should immediately explain to your child when they get their first smartphone. There are multiple screen lock choices, ranging from number codes to biometric recognition. If you opt for the first option, it is advisable to create a strong code.
  • Install a security solution : The next step is to secure your children's smartphone using a security solution. This can protect them from most threats they may encounter online, including dubious links that could redirect them to a malicious website that could infect their devices. Children tend to be especially vulnerable, so security software can help you have peace of mind knowing that your children are protected.
  • Use “Find My Device” software : Children tend to be careless with their stuff. They may misplace their smartphones or leave them lying around. So it is better to enable Find My Device option. The two main operating systems for smartphones – Android and iOS – offer their own solutions and some smartphone manufacturers even offer their own version of these applications. Whichever option you choose, make sure it's operational before handing the phone to your child.
  • Set up parental controls : Attitudes towards parental controls vary from family to family. Between parents who tend to see a rosy reality and those judging that “the internet is dark and full of terrors”. The reality certainly lies between the two. Parental controls can then be a handy tool to give kids enough freedom to use their smartphones while allowing parents to set healthy boundaries while teaching them how to navigate the internet safely.
  • Make time for education and awareness : If you want to instill good cybersecurity habits in them, it's better to have them there, whether it's setting up the lock screen, searching common passwords. With that in mind, feel free to discuss the different aspects of social media and the dangers they might face in it. You can start their introduction to social media proper by starting out on one of the social networks specifically designed for kids.

While some of these tips may seem obvious at first glance, the simplest solutions are often the most overlooked. In summary, by following these tips, you'll secure your kids' devices and help instill good cybersecurity habits in them that will help them lead safer and hopefully more private lives.

The editorial staff of Africa Cybersecurity Mag