Internet security tips for middle school and high school students

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Between the ages of 10 and 11 is, on average, when kids get their first cellphone. So by the time they reach junior high and high school, they likely know more about the technology than you do. But they don’t have your life experience about the kinds of activities that can put them at risk or get them into trouble.

Here’s your back-to-school checklist for online safety. (Need tips for other ages? Check out our posts for elementary schoolers and college students.)

On personal devices:

Install security software. Make sure all devices that can be protected have security software installed. With their constant curiosity, search-engine use and social-media habits, students in this age group get more exposure to malware.

Enable backups. Make sure they don’t lose their schoolwork to a ransomware attack, drive failure, or accidental deletion. Invest in a large USB stick, a portable drive, or, to make things even easier, use an online backup service.

Consider parental controls. Parental-control software can block objectionable sites by category and put other limits on device use, but there’s a risk of overdoing it. Your kids have friends with computers at less-restrictive households. Relax the controls as they get older, as they learn to fend for themselves and make their own decisions (which you hope will be good ones).

Secure webcams. Malware kits that allow online voyeurs to remote control webcams are available online, and unsuspecting teenagers (and adults) have had embarrassing images taken, and have become victims of threats and extortion schemes. Taping over or covering the webcam is an easy precaution.

Keep an eye on their social media habits. It’s how they communicate with their friends, but things said between friends take on a different context when hundreds or thousands of people are watching or listening in. So remind them to:

  • Think before you post. Do you really want this seen or shared by people who don’t know you as well as your friends do?
  • Check the privacy settings in social media apps. Understand what they do, and who can see what. Turn off location tracking unless you really need it to get somewhere.
  • Remember that people aren’t necessarily who they say they are. Social media has become like the school playground: a place for kids to have fun, but also an attractant for predators.

On school-issued devices:

Read our companion post on elementary-aged back-to-school security, for tips on what you can do to protect your children when using school-issued devices. 

You can’t be watching over their shoulder all the time. But security software can look out for them. So, take advantage of our timely back-to-school offer. Right now, we’re offering 50 percent off ESET Internet Security that protects all your kids’ devices with malware protection, webcam control, and parental controls that let you set limits on their device use.