Parents know that kids are logging on earlier than ever – children as young as five might have an account on the family computer or on sites like Club Penguin or Webkinz, with their own username and password. Signing up for their first account is a great time to talk to you child about how to keep their information and identity private. While there might be little real security risk for a young child using these services under supervision, it’s important to start building lifelong smart security habits early.
The most basic ground rule is this: NEVER share your password with anyone except your parents. Password sharing with friends and peers is a surprisingly common practice amongst youth. A 2001 study from Pew Internet found that 22% of youth 12-17 who use email or IM have shared a password with others. Often this is seen as a sign of trust between friends and significant others. But sharing passwords put kids at risk for being impersonated online, having their personal information compromised, or being a target of cyberbullying. Sharing passwords makes children more vulnerable to online harassment, as kids will sometimes exploit access to each other’s accounts as a tool for humiliating or damaging the reputation of the target if a friendship takes a turn for the worse.
Make sure your child knows how to protect their online identity. Even young children can understand these password security basics:
- Passwords are secret and shouldn’t ever be shared with anyone.
- Choose a password that’s hard for others to guess, using a mix of letters, symbols and numbers.
- Don’t write your passwords down—make sure it’s something you can easily remember.
For more password safety tips for kids, check out http://www.connectsafely.org/Safety-Tips/tips-to-create-and-manage-strong-passwords.html.