Phase 2 of B.C.’s Back to School Plan provides for mostly in-person learning, with additional plans in place to offer varying degrees of online learning as well. With this in mind, now is the time to review and make online safety a priority to avoid being an easy target for fraudsters. (Photo credit: Metro Creative)

Online safety a priority as unusual school year set to start

More students likely to be learning and studying online, so parents need to put safety first

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and teachers, administrators, and families are adapting to the prospect of an unusual first day out. Classes for elementary, middle, and secondary students will begin under Phase 2 of B.C.’s Back to School plan, which provides for mostly in-person learning.

However, there are plans in place to offer varying degrees of online learning, and more students are likely to be studying and completing lessons and projects online. Better Business Bureau (BBB) is encouraging parents to make online safety a priority and protect their children from being targeted by fraudsters.

Keep track of your child’s activities online. Know what your child is doing online, and keep track of the social media sites and accounts they are accessing. Children have been known to create online accounts using false information such as fabricated birthdates, in order to meet the minimum age requirement for a site, without understanding the risk of their actions. Some of these platforms are ripe with ill-intentioned strangers, while others are designed to collect and sell unauthorized user details and behaviours to advertisers. Consider using parental controls if necessary to help with monitoring their activities. Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features for this.

Warn children about entering contests and giveaways online. The entry forms for these competitions often collect a hefty amount of personal information, which scammers can use to collect personal or financial information that could lead to identity theft. Make sure your child does not have access to banking or credit card information, and supervise the filling out of any forms. This also includes removing credit cards stored on devices your child will be using.

Do not click on strange links. Adults are not the only ones who receive spam and junk mail. Kids often get junk mail, and since they do not have much online experience, they may innocently click on links and answer questions that share private information with the wrong people. Have conversations with your children about how to treat unknown emails that contain links and attachments.

Double check downloads. Many websites allow children to download free media. However, they may not realize that these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus, allowing identity thieves to access the gaming device, personal computer, or even cellphone that is being used. From there, the cyberthief can track financial transactions or your child’s physical location, and can even tap into the household WiFi without anyone knowing it.

Share with care. Help children to understand that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Talk to them about who might see a post and how it might be perceived in the future, and show them how anything they do online can positively, or negatively, impact other people. Sharing personal information can also give online thieves an idea of what login information or passwords might be used for banking accounts or other online accounts.

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