Teach your kids these easy tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

Do your kids know the difference between accessing the internet at home versus on a public Wi-Fi network?

While accessing the internet looks the same wherever you may be, using public Wi-Fi networks comes with some risk. Teaching your children how to use public Wi-Fi should always include education on privacy and safety.

Public Wi-Fi networks are everywhere. Kids and adults alike can access the internet almost anywhere they happen to be. Which is great when you need the answer to a riddle, or to check the movie theatre showtimes. But, public Wi-Fi isn’t always a safe space to access.

Kids are online more than ever before. According to Media Smarts, by grade 8, 75 percent of kids have regular access to a cell phone and over half are engaged in social networking. As part of Media Literacy Week, Oct. 25-30, 2021, I gathered some easy ways to help your kids (and you) stay safe while using public Wi-Fi networks.

Share these safety tips with your kids to help keep them safe while surfing the internet in public:

Know how secure the Wi-Fi network is.

Often the concern with public networks is not the network owner, but rather other individuals nearby who could be hacking into that network in order to steal information. If you need to enter a password in order to access the Wi-Fi network, chances are the network has at least one layer of security.

According to Wired.com, well-known networks, like Starbucks, are likely less suspect because the people and companies operating them are already getting money out of you.

Don’t give away personal info.

“Be very wary of signing up for public Wi-Fi access if you’re getting asked for a bunch of personal details, like your email address or your phone number,” shared Wired.com. “If you absolutely have to connect to networks like this, stick to places you trust (see above) and consider using an alternative email address that isn’t your primary one.”

Visit sites with https in the URL.

For example https://youraccount.com or https://yourbank.com. These sites are secure, meaning they encrypt information while you’re using the site. If the s is not present, the website is not secure and no encryption takes place.

(Note: it is not recommended to access your banking information while on a public Wi-Fi network.)

Secure sites will also display a locked padlock next to the URL – unsecure sites show an unlocked padlock.

Use different passwords.

It’s tempting to use the same, or very similar, passwords for all online accounts. But having different passwords for each account means if one is compromised, the rest are still (relatively) safe. If a cyber thief accessed your email and password on one of your accounts, they will be unable to log into other accounts using the same password.

One last tip – if doesn’t feel right, don’t connect. When in doubt, use your smartphone’s data.

Are your kids spending too much time on their screens? Take a look at these easy ways to reduce screen time as a family.

Remember, any devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets are at risk when using public Wi-Fi. Using free Wi-Fi always comes with the risk of leaking personal information. The tips mentioned above are simple and easy to remember, and can help chidren and youth stay safe and, hopefully, avoid public Wi-Fi attacks.

How do you help keep your kids safe on public Wi-Fi? Comment below to join the conversation.

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