As the key to the proverbial kingdom with regards to protecting your family’s custom safety restrictions and personal information online, the importance of choosing strong passwords can’t be overstated. The damage done should they fall in the wrong hands can take weeks or even years to potentially repair, as we point out in Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide.
Each household should therefore have a clear password policy in place, and should institute individualized passcodes to protect all safety settings, personal accounts and parental controls configurations. In addition to guarding any and all of their own data, parents would do well to claim their right to omniscience when it comes to children’s passwords as well. Many parents we’ve spoken with ensure that they know every password that’s used in their house, including those tied to children’s online and social network accounts, without exception.
Admittedly, others think such actions may be a bit too drastic and also violate the basic foundation of trust one hopes to build with their children. But perhaps the answer lies somewhere in-between: While you absolutely should be aware of kids’ passwords when they first dabble in the online world, you may wish to treat this practice like training wheels, and relax or remove it from your household policies as children get older and become more responsible technology users. Should you request access to children’s passcodes though, be sure to remind them that the reason you need this information isn’t to spy on them or tarnish their online image – rather, to simply monitor and keep them safe.One tip for families who don’t choose to freely share passwords is to set up a regular time with children to access kids’ accounts so you can monitor privacy filters and change settings.
With so many different accounts, though, it can be tough to remember passwords for them all. Experts are split on the best way to keep password logs. Although some experts say real-world versions are unreliable, it often makes more sense to keep such lists as separate from the computer as possible. The downside here is that if you misplace or lose this list you could be giving someone easy access to all of your online accounts, so if you do decide to do this, keep it safe and secret. Likewise, should you choose to store a master list somewhere on your computer – which we do not advise – it should be encrypted and password-protected itself. Ultimately, one thing everyone can agree on though is that you must take simple steps to make your passwords impossible for hackers to guess.
As far as creating effective passwords go, here are some basic tips, courtesy of our friends at eBay, who recommend as follows:
Don’t use personal information that others can easily obtain or guess (example: your name, phone number, or birth date).
The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it will be to guess.
Create a password that’s secure, but still easy for you to remember. To help you remember your password, consider using a phrase or song title as your password. For example, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can become “Sw0tR8nBo.”
After creating your password, protect it. Don’t share your password with others.
Don’t use the same password for your other online accounts, such as email, bank, and social networking accounts.
Common Sense Media points out that it can actually be fun to develop really good passwords, especially if you’re converting phrases that are hard to guess for others, but easy for your family to remember, into a mixture of letters and numbers. In the end, a good password should be at least 8 characters in length; involve a variety of numerals, letters and/or punctuation marks; and not be a word found in your average, everyday dictionary. Many computer programs that hackers use can easily be configured to search for common terms in a variety of forms, including textual (e.g. “ModernParents”) and numeric (i.e. “M0dernP4rents”).
Remembering to log out of active accounts when finished using them is just as important as not sharing your password, too – especially on public computers or networks. If your son or daughter leaves their Facebook account open on a computer and someone else accesses their profile, the results can range from a harmless spoofed status update to a serious breach of privacy and even potential identity theft.
Keenly-attuned to fashion, travel, and nightlife trends, associate editor T.T.’s encyclopedic knowledge of bars and restaurants remains unrivaled – and her word is gospel when it comes to Sunday brunch. Our resident trivia night expert and staff humorist, she’s only been banned from one karaoke joint (that we know about). Also: Dog is her co-pilot.