Downloading the ‘Big 3 for Privacy’ to Your College-Bound Student

If your son or daughter is headed off to college this month, don’t shrink back on your commitment to family safety online. Being a college freshman at 17 or 18 doesn’t mean their wisdom download is at 100% complete (far from it).

The words “privacy” and “dorm” don’t often show up in same sentence but for this topic, we’ll need to bust that norm right open. The college culture of close quarters, a share-and-borrow-everything mentality, and lots of kids with limited funds will be new territory for your student and requires your immediate (and enthusiastic) commentary.

On top of the many other life transitions taking place this year, the last thing your student (or you) needs is to become the victim of a cyber scam of some kind. With your student now completely on his own to manage his online purchases, shared gaming systems, online banking, and even tuition


transactions, the conversation around privacy is critical. (Unless of course, you think you should be paying even more for college).

So deposit these tips (repeatedly) into your student’s knowledge bank as he heads off to conquer the world.


The ‘Big 3 for Privacy’ on campus:

  1. Log out, change passwords. It’s likely your student will have a campus network that will protect his email and file storage. However, remind your child to log out when using both his personal computer in his dorm room or a campus computer elsewhere. Late study hours can add to the temptation to skip the basics and leave your student vulnerable to the ethics of next person to use that computer.When it comes to passwords, even if your student gets comfortable with a roommate or a study group where files are shared, remind him to keep his digital information private. Trust no one with passwords. Change passwords often and do so privately even if you feel awkward doing so (beware of wandering eyes and someone peering over your shoulder). This applies to social networks, banking information, and accounts like iTunes and Xbox that are very vulnerable to theft. Review the basics on how to create a secure password.
  2. Boost standards on social networks. College life can provide students a very (very) deep well from which to share funny, crazy . . . and inappropriate photos online. Remind your student that everything online is permanent and that college administrators care what’s going on with the students in their community both on campus and online.Also, future employers will be very eager to research a job candidates’ online life when the time comes.Remind your young adult to take charge of his reputation and that ‘no’ is an option when another student tags him or posts a photo that could mar his reputation now or in the future.
  3. Backup and track your data. Okay this is a big deal. Your student will think he knows everything as you begin to talk about ways to organize and protect his schoolwork. In fact, he will hold his hand straight up in your face as if to say, ‘Duh. I got this!’Read this carefully, parent: You must ignore that gesture and repeat this mantra to your know-it-all (albeit deeply loved) student, “Back up and track your data, back up and track your data, back up and track your data, back up and track your data . . .”

    It’s a privacy issue since your student’s work is his original creation and should be secured and treated as copyrighted data. If it’s properly tracked (taken care of and filed) it won’t (somehow) get into another student’s hands—or worse end up online either sold or shared (yes, it happens).

    Storage and organization of data is also a huge academic issue that could end up costing your student his grade and you extra money (to re-take a course) if your student fails to manage his technology/data.

    When the hard drive crashes, the term paper is lost or the three months of lab data “for some reason wasn’t on auto-save,” your very humbled student will kiss your feet for providing that additional hard drive where he later recovered his work. And if you’re lucky maybe you’ll even get a few tears of joy to go along with the feet kissing. Maybe.

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes. (Disclosures)

Leave a Reply