As many K-12 students head back to school virtually this school year, Virginia Tech cyber expert Aaron Brantly says that parents and teachers should be aware of cybersecurity risks for remote learners.

“Your computer is a window to the world and a window into your home. Treating it as two-way communication rather than a one-way mirror positions parents and children to better protect their information,” says Brantly.

Quoting Brantly

“As students and teachers are increasingly engaging in school activities online the potential for students of all ages to engage in poor decisions online increases,” says Brantly. “Everything ranging from sharing inappropriate messages in chat or in learning management systems, to the loss of account credentials and zoom-bombing are increasingly likely.”

Brantly says that establishing security protocols to protect users is important as are constant reminders to engage in good digital hygiene.

“Encourage all remote participants and their parents to tailor the security of their devices to meet their respective needs. Establish trainings, security requirements, and standards, in such a way to elevate everyone’s cybersecurity,” says Brantly.

Brantly offers the following safety tips for parents to protect children from predators online.

  • Age appropriate monitoring of online activities of children is critical to preventing child exploitation. Discussing with and establishing boundaries for what is acceptable and not acceptable online behavior with children is vital at all ages.

  • Establishing age appropriate parental controls over user accounts on computers can prevent the unwanted downloading and installation of applications that might lead to a loss of data, and result in privacy violations and predatory behavior.
  • Ensuring that computers remain up to date and patched prevents long term exploits.
  • Covering web cameras when not in use and shutting down computers when not in use also prevents unwanted privacy violations.
  • Consistent dialogue with children of all ages on who they are interacting with and creating a safe environment for sharing information can provide early indicators of inappropriate behavior by others.
  • Communication with teachers and staff about concerns of predation online as the need arises is important.

About Brantly
Aaron Brantly, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech and Director of the Tech4Humanity Lab, has worked on issues related to cybersecurity from multiple angles, including human rights and development, intelligence and national security, and military cybersecurity. His interests span the political science and computer science divide. More here.

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