School has officially begin for most districts in our area, and most have incorporated some form of online learning into school programming. This means teachers, administrators, students and parents are having to adjust to an unusual first semester. This also means internet predators are lurking, and BBB encourages school faculty and parents to teach children to be on the lookout for online scammers.

“Our time spent online will undoubtedly increase this year,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas “ This likely means we will see an uptick in the occurrence of online scams and scam victims.”

Tips for parents

 Know what your child is doing online: Keep track of the social media sites and accounts to which your children have access.Many sites are designed to collect and sell unauthorized user details and behaviors to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. Make sure your children are aware of the existence of online predators.

 Contests and giveaways: Contests and giveaways often collect a hefty amount of personal information on their entry forms. Many are thinly disguised ways of collecting personal or financial information that could lead to identity theft. Make sure your child doesn’t have access to banking or credit card information, and supervise the filling out of any forms.

 Phishing: Adults aren’t the only ones who receive spam and junk mail. Kids receive it a well, and they are likely to be susceptible to click on links and answer questions they probably shouldn’t. While some emails may be legitimate, the last thing parents want, or need, is a bill from a fraudulent website or to have your personally identifiable information end up in the wrong hands.

 Understand apps. Certain apps might collect and share personal information about your child or target your child with ads. Even free apps may include paid features, which children may not understand. This could result in a hefty bill at the end of the month. Remember to turn location settings off, or at the very least to turn them on only while using the app.

 File sharing sites: Many websites allow children to download free media. Unfortunately, these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus, allowing identity thieves to access the gaming device, personal computer or even cell phone that’s being used. From there, the cyberthief can track financial transactions, physical location or even tap into the household Wi-Fi without anyone knowing it.

Read privacy policies together and understand privacy settings. Teach children to read the privacy policies and terms of use of any apps or websites they want to use. Although lengthy, remind them of the importance of knowing what they are signing up for and insist that they are read. Then, take time to learn and understand the privacy settings on each of the apps and games. Less is more when it comes to sharing information.

Use parental controls if necessary. Although the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, parental controls provide a second line of defense. Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features which allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities. Third-party apps are available as well.

Tips for teachers and administrators

 Videoconferencing tools: Make certain the online software used to deliver lectures, classroom work and other online interactions is secure. Zoom bombing, phishing and other forms of cybercriminal activity are here to stay.

 Evaluate and update cybersecurity plans: It’s important for educators to create a plan to notify students, faculty and staff should there be a data breach or security problem. Conduct drills to test their ability to maneuver through a cyberattack.

 Keep a clean machine and update devices which connect to the internet: Regular backups along with up to date software and a well-informed team/family are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

Read more on keeping children safe online. Visit the National Cybersecurity Alliance for the latest information. For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge.