Promoting Good Cyber Hygiene At Home


Just like the routine of your own personal hygiene (brushing your teeth, showering etc) cyber hygiene is necessary to thrive in today’s digitally-connected world.

What is it?

Cyber hygiene refers to best practices and activities that computer users can undertake to improve their cybersecurity while engaging in common online activities, such as web browsing, emailing, texting, etc.

Why It’s Important (Especially Right Now)

With entire families now sharing home networks for school, work and personal use, there has never been a better time to remind everyone in your household about the importance of secure practices.

This quick guide will help you discuss cyber safety with your family. And while these messages are geared to children, they apply to almost anyone!

Ages 5 to 9

When it comes to online danger, kids aged 5 to 9 can be easier to protect. Not only are their online experiences less independent than older age groups, but there are also a lot of good parental guidance apps that help protect them. However, no app is 100% effective. As many people have realized, inappropriate content can pop up unexpectedly, even with the best parental controls in place.

The best defence is arming your children with knowledge. The cyber hygiene you want to use with this age group is:

  • Limiting their screen time and encouraging play that doesn’t include screens.

  • Giving them their first lesson on fake news - just because they see it online, doesn’t mean it’s true.

  • Asking them to tell you when they come across a negative experience online, whether it be an image or someone reaching out to them.

  • Explaining to them that there are some parts of the internet that can be harmful to children, and even adults.

  • Telling them that not everyone they meet online is a friend and honest about who they say they are.

Ages 10 to 12

Many kids between 10 to 12 get their first smart phone.  The independence and autonomy that comes with having the device makes monitoring their online activity challenging, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to teach them how to be responsible in the digitally-connected age.  
The cyber hygiene topics for this age group are:

  • Bullying is unacceptable whether in person or online.

  • If they are cyber bullied, they need to tell you right away.

  • Not everyone they meet online is a friend or honest about who they say they are. If a stranger reaches out to them online, they need to tell you right away.

  • The importance of balancing screen time with physical activity.

  • Cyber criminals are not only looking for money but also sensitive information like your address or the name of your school.

  • It’s also worth explaining how location apps work. (Apple’s Find My Friend, Google’s Trusted Contacts, or the independent Life 360 for example.) These are good at providing an invisible layer of protection so parents know where their kids are and that they are safe.

Ages 13 to 18

This age group is the most complicated to parent in the digitally-connected world, and the stakes can be much greater than with younger children.
The older kids get, the more they want their freedom. Giving them independence, both physically and digitally, while attempting to keep them safe becomes a delicate balancing act.
The digital world topics for this age group get more complicated as the concerns become more serious. These talks need to revolve around the following themes:

  • What they post online is there forever.

  • Sexting can have horrible, unintended consequences.

  • Bullying is unacceptable whether in person or online.

  • If they are cyber bullied, they need to tell you right away.

  • Talk to them about cyber crime; give examples of how real it is and how often it happens - not just to government or businesses, but individuals everywhere at any age

  • Explain what cyber criminals are interested in stealing and why.

  • Talk about the approaches cyber criminals use to steal from their victims.

  • Talk about where we are most vulnerable to a cyber crime.

  • Talk about what to do after a cyber breach. (Don’t hide it, they need to tell you immediately!)

With so many people at home, many have questions about the security of their home network. To learn some basics about home network security, download our document Safe Work From Home Practices.
For more information about cybersecurity, check out our post about Phishing.