Password Security for Kids

5 Tips for Password Security: Junior Edition

I recently posted 5 Tips for Password Security, which was targeted at us grown ups who have bad password-making habits.  We get into ruts and repeat variations on a theme until there’s a security breach and we need to change everything.  It’s a bad habit.

So let’s break the cycle by teaching our kids good password security and prevent those bad habits from forming.  As soon as kids start needing passwords, they need to learn about password security.  But how do you teach a kid to use an ampersand if they think a special character is one who makes a crossover appearance?

  1. Teach them what special characters are.  Clear up the crossover confusion right away.  They should know what an ampersand is, parenthesis, etc.  Teach them how to access them, if they don’t already know.
  2. Passwords must have numbers and special characters.  If they learn that’s how the should always do it, they won’t think twice about how difficult it is to incorporate them.  It’ll be second nature.
  3. Make passwords that they can remember, but others can’t guess.  Something like “I started kindergarten in 2010 at Washington Elementary School” can easily become “iskn2O1O@we$” by using the phrase-to-password method.
  4. Don’t fall for “phishing” attacks.  Teach them to be wary of links in emails.  If the email doesn’t look like something their friend/aunt/neighbor would have sent, don’t open.  Furthermore, no one should be emailing them asking for their passwords or personal information.  A legitimate company already knows your password and pertinent personal information.
  5. Don’t tell anyone your passwords.  They shouldn’t be sharing them with their best friend, teacher, or boss.  They are still learning what “privacy” means, exactly, and let them know that passwords are something to keep private.  As a parent, it is your prerogative to insist on digital transparency.  If you have them share passwords with you, make sure they know you are the exception, not the rule.

And a bonus tip for parents:

Kid-proof your passwords.  Kids are pretty smart.  If they’re trying to get your password to make an in-app purchase or intercept an email from a teacher, they may try some basic hacks.  (Didn’t you ever do anything less than honest to your parents?)  They know your personal information, so they can make the easy guesses.  So don’t make your password a variation on your spouse’s name, city you grew up in, or — duh — your kid’s name.