Stories about kids and teens who have had Facebook or email accounts hacked, personal details shared, and other embarrassing consequences are everywhere.
When your kids set up their accounts on social media or personal blogs, they may have been tempted to leave the default login values in place or to use the same login/password combination for everything. Most people have a difficult time coming up with ‘good’ passwords – besides, it’s just a little blog, or a teen’s Twitter account, right? Who’s going to try to hack into it?
You’d be surprised.
Why is Password Security Important?
Think of it this way: Leaving your accounts unprotected is like leaving the front door of your home unlocked and open.
Teach your kids computer safety now to save trouble later. The first step: come up with a great password and protect it.
If your kids are low on enthusiasm, remind them that without good security, anyone could hack into their computer and read their journal – or gain access to their personal social media accounts and make fake posts.
A “Good” Password is Unique
Do your kids know what makes a bad password? You may find that when your kids set up accounts on social media sites or email providers, they’re using easy-to-guess passwords like a pet’s name, their birthday, or other common personal details. Nip that bad habit in the bud, and you’ll save your kids distress down the line.
What makes a good password? A unique combination of letters and numbers that is meaningless to anyone but you.
For example, she might create an acronym from the second letter of the middle names of her three best friends, with each letter followed by the number of years that she has known that friend, or he might phonetically spell the last name of his first grade teacher, exchanging letters for similar-looking numbers or symbols where possible. (Smith might look like 5m1th, for example.)
The point is to make the password obscure enough that no one will ever guess it, yet meaningful enough that you can remember it. If you can’t come up with anything, there are plenty of password generators online that will create a password for you – and these passwords are so obscure, no one will ever guess them.
Once you and your kids have created the perfect password, make sure that you protect it.
Protecting Your Password
After you enter your new password into the account, write it down on a piece of paper or a post-it-note for a short-term solution. Although many people “protect” this vital slip of paper by sliding it under their keyboard or mouse-pad, these are not secure locations for long-term or short-term storage.
The most secure long-term method for preserving the passwords is in your own memory. Your child or teen will most likely be logging in every day – it won’t take long for him to remember even the most complex password. If it’s an account he doesn’t use very often, suggest that he log in once a week, to keep the password fresh in his mind.
Retain physical copies of the written passwords for important accounts such as banks as well, in case of emergency. To protect this vital information, keep the password with other important and sensitive files in a document safe or other secure location – not in a wallet or purse, or attached to your computer.
Computer Security for Kids
Today, kids are going online from very early ages – if they’re going to be online, it follows that they also need to learn about computer security and online safety. Teach your kids about the need for proper passwords and how to protect themselves and their information, and reduce their risk of being the next target of a hacker.
Random. Password Generator. (2013). Accessed August 28, 2013.
Passwords Generator. Strong Random Password Generator.