Staying safe online requires range of skills and attributes from technical knowledge to critical thinking and empathy. These 5 tips introduce some of the key skills for engaging safely online.
Tip 1 - Password Security
The first step in staying safe online is a good password. As a minimum, your password should be at least 8 characters long and combine uppercase, lowercase, alpha numeric and special characters.
Many of us still follow use standard password protocols, however, passphrases are now considered to be the first line of defence. The Australian Cyber Security Centre advises people to use passphrases and they are most effective when they are:
- used with multi-factor authentication
- unique – not a famous phrase or lyric, and not re-used
- longer – phrases are generally longer than words
- complex – naturally occurring in a sentence with uppercase, symbols and punctuation
- easy to remember – saves you being locked out
They also say that passphrases are:
- harder to crack against common password attacks
- easier to remember than random characters
- meets password requirements easily – upper and lower-case lettering, symbols and punctuation
Read the What makes a good password article to learn more about passwords, passphrases, and password managers.
Tip 2 - Don't fall for fake
Keeping your data safe online means you need the skills to spot a fake. One way scammers steal your personal information is through ‘phishing’. The Australian Cyber Security Centre defines phishing to be “a method of stealing confidential information by sending fraudulent messages to a victim. It is one of the most prevalent scams reported in Australia".
Follow these simple steps to help prevent phishing scams:
- Don’t click on links in emails or messages from people or organisations you don’t know.
- Examine the email and URL for misspellings.
- Check for the padlock at the top left of the URL bar and for https. The ‘s’ stands for a secure connection.
- Use a search engine, such as Google or Bing, to search for the specific content of the text message or email. You may find it reported as a scam.
- Search the Australian Cyber Security Center for any reported scams.
Learn more about phishing from the Australian Cyber Security Centre
Tip 3 - Share with care
When we post online we need to think about the other people involved. Part of being respectful and responsible online is to respect other individual’s wishes about their digital footprint. Always check with your friend, child or other person whether they are happy for you to post a picture or something about them. Increasingly, children have been critical of material posted without their consent by family members.
Read more about consent and sharing at the eSafetyCommissioner.
Tip 4 - THINK
A common acronym used in Schools is THINK. This acronym stands for, is it: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind. This tool is used to help students filter what they might say and do in the physical space, but it is equally relevant in the online space. This is can be used like a checklist to help decide whether something should be posted, or it could be used to scaffold a conversation about whether something should have been posted online.
The lesson resource Making good choices online uses the think, evaluate, choose (TEC) model. The lesson explores three different scenarios asking students to place themselves in the shoes of Tom’s character and decide what he should do in each online situation.
Tip 5 - Talk it out
It is really important that children feel safe to talk to parents, adults and carers about the online space. We need to encourage children to understand that speaking and seeking help about something is a brave and courageous thing, and it is not a sign of weakness or something to be embarrassed about.
The eSafetyCommissioner lists the following tips about how to talk with your child about the online space:
- Plan what you want to say and how you want to say it.
- Listen, don’t judge.
- Ask questions about how they feel and avoid lecturing.
- Get help, if you need it from a counsellor or Parentline.
You can find more detail about these at the eSafetyCommissioner.
Curriculum and syllabus links
NSW Syllabus outcomes
Australian Curriculum content descriptions
- 'Phishing' Australian Government Cyber Security Centre, accessed 14 May 2020
- 'Small Business Cyber Security Guide', Australian Government Cyber Security Centre, accessed 11 March 2021
- 'The hard-to-have conversations', eSafetyCommissioner, accessed 14 May 2020
- 'Consent and sharing photos', eSafetyCommissioner, accessed 14 May 2020