This is why you should check your child’s passwords

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A new survey of 1,800 college students found that children often use ineffective passwords.  (Photo: Getty)

A new survey of 1,800 college students found that children often use ineffective passwords. (Photo: Getty)

Although many children today are tech-savvy, they still face the same cybersecurity threats as adults.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently conducted a study about the password habits and behavior of children in the 3rd to 12th grades. Researchers found that children follow some best practices, including remembering their passwords instead of writing them down. But the study also found that their behavior sometimes seems to conflict with their knowledge.

The data was collected from more than 1,500 children ages 8 to 18 who attend schools in the South, Midwest, and East of the US. , video games, names, animals, movies, titles (such as “princess”), numbers, and colors.”

Password strength improved somewhat for teens, the study found. For example, middle and high school students tended to choose longer passwords, such as “Aiken_bacon@28,” although not all were technically secure.

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In general, children understand the importance of creating passwords.  (Photo: Getty)In general, children understand the importance of creating passwords.  (Photo: Getty)

In general, children understand the importance of creating passwords. (Photo: Getty)

In the study, children were also asked what they thought of passwords. The researchers found that elementary school students understood that passwords were entered for their online security. Younger children also relied on their families to create and maintain their passwords — which in its own way is a vote of confidence for parents.

Middle and high school students focused more on the fact that passwords meant privacy — which makes sense, given that middle and high school students are becoming more independent of their parents. But they also had some bad password habits, like sharing their passwords with friends. “For adolescents, building trust is an important part of building friendships, as evidenced by the sharing of secrets,” wrote NIST researcher Yee-Yin Choong. “Their perspective is that sharing passwords is not a risky behavior.”

Parents and adult guardians can model good password habits for children.  (Photo: Getty)Parents and adult guardians can model good password habits for children.  (Photo: Getty)

Parents and adult guardians can model good password habits for children. (Photo: Getty)

How to teach kids to stay safe online

Tpp #1: Be honest with them

Talk to your kids about why using easy-to-guess passwords isn’t safe and explain what makes a password more secure. Encourage your kids not to reuse common words like birthdays, pet names, and favorite foods as they are easy to guess.

Tip #2: Teach children to recognize good password hygiene

Kids need to know proper internet etiquette. For example, never share your password information or send it to anyone by email or text. Make sure your child knows that the rules apply, whether they are close friends or classmates. Model good password behavior by using a password manager. (No more writing passwords on sticky notes!) A password manager like LastPass Premium keeps your family’s sensitive information private, while allowing you to safely and securely share passwords when needed.

To attempt LastPass Premium, part of Yahoo Plus Secure, risk-free 30 days.

A password manager can help your kids practice good cyber habits.  (Photo: Getty)A password manager can help your kids practice good cyber habits.  (Photo: Getty)

A password manager can help your kids practice good cyber habits. (Photo: Getty)

LastPass Premium is a good tool to keep track of your passwords. You can set up multiple users so that each person has his or her own unique credentials. This means that no one else can access your personal information without your permission.

Tip 3: Don’t try to take full control of your teen’s passwords

Doing this will not make your teen safer online. Kids know it’s a cinch to change passwords, create a new account you know nothing about, or simply block you from ever seeing anything he or she posts. Instead, work together to ensure that your children develop their own sense of responsibility and try not to have a parent-versus-child dynamic. Have them check in regularly, review their password setting procedures, and encourage them to use a password manager like LastPass. The software enables families to generate and store passwords more securely, while automatically tracking potential data breaches.

To attempt LastPass Premium, part of Yahoo Plus Secure, risk-free 30 days.

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