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A digital safety checklist as students head back to school

(BPT) - Students across the country are starting school again, and although many will now be in-person full time, technology will continue to play a key role in their education both in the classroom and at home. Research shows children's online safety is a top concern for parents, with many wanting to better educate their children about digital wellness and take action to keep them safe.

With nearly half (44%) of school-age children participating in online learning last school year due to the pandemic, just three in 10 parents (31%) saw no increased risk to their children's online safety, according to a McAfee study. Looking ahead to this year, parents are worried for their children's online safety with exposure to scams (72%), sharing personal information (70%), misinformation (68%), illegal content (63%) and cyberbullying (61%) the highest concerns.

Now, as schools go back in-person, over three-quarters (76%) of parents believe that their children should be taught about digital wellness and online safety in the classroom. However, many American parents are already taking action to protect their children themselves. Over a quarter (28%) of parents took steps to educate their family about safe behavior, and an additional quarter (23%) purchased new online security protection.

'Getting students back to school safely is imperative for parents after the disruptions of the last school year,' said Judith Bitterli, senior vice president of Consumer at McAfee. 'We know that many parents want online peace of mind, and so are looking to schools to help them educate their children about safe online behavior. However, it's good to see that many are also doing the same at home.'

Student technology safety steps

Many American schools are not yet teaching digital wellness as part of the curriculum, so parents will need to continue to educate themselves and their families at home. To help, McAfee shares technology tips for parents to help their children have a safe and successful school year:

Get your devices ready: Just like you prepare backpacks with the right supplies for a successful school year, make sure that any devices that children will be using for school or homework are up to date on the latest settings, including security software.

Refresh passwords: Many students will access the same online learning tools from the classroom. With passwords regularly being shared online by cybercriminals, it's good to update passwords regularly. A password manager will help create, organize and encrypt strong passwords to make it simpler to be safe.

Access from home securely: Use a VPN when children are accessing online learning services from home to protect the privacy of the internet connection with bank-level encryption to stop hackers from stealing personal information.

Teach personal responsibility: With misinformation a major concern for many parents, it's important to educate children about fake information and how to spot it. Ask children to question the content they read or watch online to determine if it is credible before making up their minds.

Discuss digital wellness: While it can sound like a boring topic, it's important for families to regularly discuss online safety at home. Parents should talk to their children about how to spot a phishing scam, what to do if there's been a data breach and how to have good digital wellness.

'At McAfee, we know the importance of digital wellness and are here to help parents and teachers educate themselves and their children,' said Bitterli.

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