We make assumptions about our children’s tech knowledge

As part of my Cybersecurity Best Practices course, I talk about kids. For example, I suggest that you don’t log into work on the same computer that your kids use to play Fortnite. I suggest that no matter how savvy you think your kids are, they have likely introduced a large amount of malware into whatever system they work on inside your home.

But this week, I began to learn that I was making assumptions about what the kids knew. The nine year old couldn’t care less about phones or computers except that she can play music on them and occasionally chat with her friends. But the twelve year old had many, many misconceptions about how things worked:

  • While we were driving in the car, he asked if he could play some music by playing the videos on YouTube and having the music play through the car stereo. I said that I didn’t want to spend the data. He said, “but YouTube is on your phone! You don’t have to use data to use it!” He had missed the idea that once an app is on your phone it still used data to access the internet when outside the house. I assumed that he knew this but realize I never explained it to him.
  • The poor kid mislaid his phone at school and thank goodness someone turned it in to the office. I drove him back to school to look for it and waited for him to go in and get it. He eventually called me to come in and help. Apparently the phone was in a metal desk and the lone office worker told him he could have his phone if he could make it ring. So an uninformed office worker and my uninformed 12-year old were at a standoff with him trying desperately to make a cell phone ring in the bottom of a metal desk. We later discussed how that was never going to work.
  • At a dance event over the weekend, one of the other boys backstage convinced him to turn on his hot spot for a minute so that he could download something because the kid wasn’t able to do it with his own service. Then (and trust me, I am embarrassed to admit this), my kid went on stage and left his phone backstage and unlocked. The other kid got into his phone and reconnected to the hot spot, downloading FIVE GIGS worth of data. This is, naturally, something my own son will never EVER do again.

But will yours? Would you ever have thought to tell your own child not to turn on his or her hotspot for another person? Or to make sure to lock the phone, always, when leaving it alone. We make these huge assumptions about our kids, because they are growing up in a connected world. But they are still children, and they don’t know everything there is to know about keeping themselves and their devices secure.

As for the five year old, he has learned a little bit about cybersecurity, but he doesn’t know enough to bring it to a good conclusion. Give him time.

Do you have anything to add? Let me know! We know so much about locking down devices, protecting our kids from sites they should not see, and keeping them away from predators, but we need to learn from each other’s mistakes and teach our kids about how things work so that they don’t make mistakes that will cost them (and their parents) in the future.

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