You’ve loved, shaped, and equipped your child to succeed in college and move in day is finally here. But there’s still one variable that can turn your child’s freshman year upside down, and that’s technology.
That’s right, that essential laptop and indispensable smartphone your child owns could also prove to be his or her biggest headache if not secured and used responsibly. College students can be targets of identity theft, malware, online scams, credit card fraud, property theft, and internet addiction.
The other part of this new equation? You, parent, are no longer in the picture. Your child is now 100% on his or her own. Equipping time is over. Weekly tech monitoring and family chats are in the rearview mirror. Will they succeed? Of course, they will. But one last parenting chat on safety sure can’t hurt. Here are a couple of reminders to share with your college-bound kids.
1. Minimize use of public computers. Campuses rely on shared computers. Because campus networks aren’t always secure, this can open you up to identity theft. If you have to log on to a public computer be it a cafe, library, or lab, be sure to change any passwords each time you return. If you are working with a study group, don’t share passwords. Public devices can be prone to hackers seeking to steal login credentials and credit card numbers. If you do use public devices, get in the habit of browsing in the privacy mode. Clear browser history, cookies, and quit all applications before logging off.
2. Beware when shopping online. Online shopping is often the easiest way for students to purchase essentials. Be sure to use a secure internet connection when hitting that “purchase” button. Reputable sites encrypt data during transactions by using SSL technologies. Look for the tiny padlock icon in the address bar or a URL that begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secure) instead of “http.” Examine the site and look for misspellings, inconsistencies. Go with your instincts if you think a website is bogus, don’t risk the purchase. Online credit card fraud is on the rise, so beware.
3. Guard your privacy. College is a tough place to learn that not all people are trustworthy — even those who appear to be friends. Sadly, many kids learn about online theft the hard way. Never share passwords, credit card numbers, or student ID numbers. Be aware of shoulder surfing which is when someone peers over your shoulder to see what’s on your computer screen. Avoid leaving computer screens open in dorm rooms or libraries where anyone can check your browsing history, use an open screen, or access financial information. Also, never lend your laptop or tablet to someone else since it houses personal information and make sure that all of your screens are password protected.
4. Beware of campus crooks. Thieves troll college campuses looking for opportunities to steal smartphones, laptops, wearables, and tablets for personal use or resale. Don’t carry your tech around uncased or leave it unguarded. Conceal it in a backpack. Even if you feel comfortable in your new community, don’t leave your phone even for a few seconds to pick up your food or coffee at a nearby counter. If you are in the library or study lab and need a bathroom break, take your laptop with you. Thieves are swift, and you don’t want to lose a semester’s worth of work in a matter of seconds.
5. Use public Wi-Fi with caution. Everyone loves to meet at the coffee shop for study sessions — and that includes hackers. Yes, it’s convenient, but use public Wi-Fi with care. Consider using VPN software, which creates a secure private network and blocks people from accessing your laptop or activity. To protect yourself, be sure to change your passwords often. This is easy if you use a free password manager like True Key.
6. Social media = productivity killer. Be aware of your online time. Mindless surfing, internet games, and excessive video gaming with roommates can have an adverse effect on your grades as well as your mental health. Use online website blockers to help protect your study time.
7. Social media = career killer. We can all agree: College is a blast. However, keep the party photos and inappropriate captions offline. Your career will thank you. Remember: Most everything you do today is being captured or recorded – even if you’re not the one with the camera. The internet is forever, and a long-forgotten photo can make it’s way back around when you least expect it.
8. Don’t get too comfortable too fast. Until you understand who you can trust in your new community, consider locking your social media accounts. Disable GPS on mobile apps for security, don’t share home and dorm addresses, email, or phone numbers. While it may be the farthest thing from your mind right now — campus stalking case are real.