How Students Can Responsibly Surf the Web!


  • Verizon’s 2019 Data Brach Investigation Report identified that 80% of hacking related data breaches were attributed to individuals using weak passwords.
  • That same year, the State of States released a report denoting that “99% of school districts have Internet access at the minimum 100 kbps goal.”
  • In 2020, The Pew Research Center stated that “89% of parents of a child age 5 to 11 say their child watches videos on YouTube, as do 81% of those who have a child age 3 to 4 and 57% of those who have child age 2 or younger.”

This Ask the Experts session stems from a question originally posted on Quora titled “How should you teach pupils to surf the web responsibly and defend themselves from dangers?

Globally, the number of young adults who use the internet daily – for school, leisure, or to stay connected with friends and loved ones, is increasing at an exponential rate. The current pandemic has significantly limited most students’ ability to learn in person; consequently, you realize how indispensable the internet really is. While the internet is a great educational resource (providing students with the ability to conduct independent research on a variety of topics), it can also be a dark place, where children are exploited and abused. Here are three tips that you should share with students to help them navigate the digital realm, known as the internet, safely and securely.

  1. Think Before You Click

Humans are curious beings, by default. This is especially true for young students, who are often trying to ascertain how the world functions. Unfortunately, malicious online individuals recognize these students’ interests, and are experts at exploiting their sense of curiosity. These malicious bad guys, and girls, tend to use buzz words like, “ACT NOW” or “this is a once in a lifetime offer” to short circuit people’s critical thinking abilities. Thus, to capitalize on this convincing time-sensitive offer, the victim quickly clicks on a link provided by the attacker, without hesitation.

The offer was too good to miss, right? By getting individuals to act immediately, the bad actor can trick unsuspecting victims into relinquishing sensitive information, such as, their password(s), address, and even social security number. Additionally, the link may allow malicious software, known as malware, to be installed on the individual’s device. This can result in an entire home or school network being compromised, or may force the student, by proxy of their guardian, to pay a ransom to regain access to the infected device.

Before you click on any link, slow down, take a breath, and think. Trust your intuition!!! If something does not feel right, simply avoid the urge to click on the link. Similarly, you can leverage an online platform, such as, VirusTotal, to analyze any suspicious URLs.

2. Avoid Oversharing

Popularity is temporary, but what you post online can last a lifetime! There have been many instances, where students (and adults) have posted contents online, thinking that only their friends can see what they have posted. Decades later, the same post(s) end up being seen by the Individual’s boss or hiring manager. The post, while old, goes against the values and practices of the company, which employs the individual, and leads to the hypothetical student being terminated from employment.

Another issue caused by oversharing is, it can provide information about you that a malicious individual can use to commit a crime. That crime can be as simple as breaking into your online account because the answers to your knowledge-based security questions are displayed throughout *insert your social media platform of choice; * or burglarizing your residence while you are on vacation. Social media is all about sharing, and that is ok. Just remember, you do not need to share EVERYTHING.

3. Use a Strong Password

This piece of advice seems like a no brainer, right? Well unfortunately, many web surfers use weak passwords. In fact, a 2019 Verizon study determined that 80% of hacking related data breaches were attributed to individuals using weak passwords. So how can you create a strong password? I am glad you asked. While the password length recommendation varies from security professional to security professional, most practitioners recommend that a password length of 12-15 characters is a great start for most users.

Characters, 12–15 in length, balance ease of use and complexity. It is estimated that it would take approximately 2 centuries to crack a 12-character password. Furthermore, there are several websites that cannot handle a 64-character password, like Bank of America, which has a 20-character maximum. One should avoid reusing the same password on multiple websites, as this makes it significantly easier for an attacker to compromise many of your accounts. You should also avoid using your birthday, common dictionary words, and other easily guessable information, as the omission of this information increases the level of difficulty required to guess an individual’s password.

There are many additional tips one can use to secure their online experience however, thinking before you click, avoiding the urge to overshare information, and using a strong password are excellent starting points in the journey to online security and privacy. Have any questions regarding how students can responsibly surf the web? Contact us and we will be glad continue the dialog! Do not forget to click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more information security related tips and tricks.

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