10 Teen Tips for Cyber Safety

Keeping Them Safe Online and IRL (In Real Life)

Shawn Stewart

Shawn Stewart

Mr. Stewart has 27 years of experience with hundreds of international, commercial, military, and government IT projects. He holds certifications with ISC2, Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, ITIL, Novell, and others. He has a Masters in Cybersecurity, a Bachelors in IT, a Minor in Professional Writing, and is a published author.

teenYou are special! The Under 18 crowd is one of the most targeted groups on the Internet. Teens and Tweens (8-12 year olds) are not just under constant bombardment from advertisers, but also hackers. We call them cyber criminals, threat actors, Russians, Chinese, and creepy middle-aged men still living in their parents’ basements. What? No women hackers? Yes, many state-sponsored hacking spies are female. But how many middle-aged American women are living in their parents’ basement with a Star Wars toy in a glass case?

What Teens Have

What do they want? Money, mostly. And your SOUL! Just kidding, there isn’t a market for souls on the Dark Web…that I know of. Learn about the Dark Web here. (Link) How do they make money from you? First, they’re not just after your credit card number or bank account, though they will gladly take both. Most of you don’t have either. They want your identity. Not to be the flyer on the varsity cheer team or captain of the state champion chess club, but your private information.

teenYou don’t know how valuable your private, personal data is. I’m not talking about “important” to a teen. “OMG, stop!” Teen priorities shift with the wind. Popularity is like, up there. If someone asks you for your address, birth date, place of birth, driver’s license number, social security number, or first dog’s name, you probably wouldn’t see the harm. Here are 10 tips for teens (and tweens) to protect yourselves in the digital age.

What EVERYONE Should Know

#1 – NO ONE should ask you for your social security number. Unless you are filling out a government form for a job, you probably have never been asked. You probably don’t even know it! If someone asks for it, uber red flag. NEVER give your social security number to anyone. Parents – if your son or daughter asks for it, find out why!

teen#2 – NO ONE should ask for your driver’s license number. Even as a seasoned adult (sounds like I’m about to be roasted), the only time I’m asked for my driver’s license number is filling out legal forms to prove my identity. Never keep your driver’s license on the back of your phone where someone can take a picture. Your signature is also on the license. They can also scan the code on the back! They can use the info to create a fake ID, impersonating YOU! “Ya sure you wanna do that?”

#3 – Credit and Debit Card numbers are PRIVATE. “Duh!” Did you know if I can take a picture of the back your credit or debit card, I have all the information I need to use it? I can see the numbers and name in reverse and your Security Code. I can even load your card information onto a completely different card and spend YOUR money! NEVER keep your credit or debit cards in your phone case. Cards with chips are the worst! If I get my scan tool within inches of your phone, I can READ THE CHIP without ever seeing the card. I can then use my tool with your card and Tap to Pay for a new Playstation. “Bruh!”

SIDEBAR – Never sign your credit or debit cards. Instead, write, “Please Check ID”. In the old days, your signature verified you for the purchase. Today, that signature can be lifted and used to gain credit in your name. When the judge asks if the signature on the stolen Lambo lease is yours, it will be. Wait! I can get a Lambo?


#4 – NEVER post your birth date online. Yes, you can post your birth month and day if you want to get all those birthday wishes on social, but leave out the year or make it private. Why? Your birth date tells your age but also is used to receive credit. Why do you care, I hear you say? “I’m not old enough to get a loan.” Not true. If I have your name, birth date, and driver’s license number, I can open a line of credit in your name. I can get a credit card, car loan, or store account and buy thousands of dollars in your name and you won’t even know it. That is until you go to open your first bank account and they tell you at age 18 you are thousands of dollars in debt! Read about it IRL. (Link)

Teen Trust Issues

teen#5 – No randos should know where you live. Your address is one of the hardest things to hide and you can blame Google for that. Don’t keep your address written down and, again, don’t show your driver’s license (which includes your home address) to people who really shouldn’t see it. Besides having people show up at your house, the address can be used to impersonate you. “Pookie, no!”

#6 – NEVER give anyone your passwords. I would hope by now everyone knows not to share passwords for their phones, computers, and online accounts. If not, let me say it again. DO NOT share your passwords with anyone. And, please, make your passwords hard to guess. How many of your friends have been hacked on social? Use multi-factor authentication. Yeah, it adds a step but ensures no one is getting on your Insta without your permission. Learn how the Internet works here. (Link)

teen#7 – Not all your friends and followers are your friends. In fact, due to the extreme number of nation-state hackers, I’m willing to bet at least one person on your friend’s list is actually a hacker. Don’t accept random requests from people you don’t know. Also, don’t accept requests from people you do know and thought were already on your list. Don’t be afraid to reach out to that friend and confirm. They might have been hacked or someone is impersonating them. Check your lists now!

Setting An Example For Your Parents

#8 – Passwords should be on ALL your devices. I know, it’s a pain. But you need a password on your phone and laptop or just anyone can see your pictures, videos, and texts. Yes, give your parents access. Why is this important? Someone with access to your phone or computer can plant bugs and malware, which can turn on your camera and audio without your knowledge. Same goes for tablets and laptops, no matter how old they are.

teen#9 – NEVER click on any link in texts, email, chat, or social. Why? Remember those bugs and malware using your camera? This is the easiest way they get in. By clicking on something, you are giving it permission to run. If your parents aren’t using an advanced endpoint protection software, like an antivirus, tell them that Hacker Guy said they need to. The software should auto-update and be on every device, including phones.

#10 – Always update your phone and laptop, even if you have auto-update enabled. Not all phones will do this automatically. Windows and Mac send out updates almost weekly. This means manually updating the phone in the system menu and updating all your apps in either Play Store or Apple Store. Here are the instructions:

Apple Devices (Link)

Android Devices (Link)

Windows (Link)

Mac (Link)

teenBONUS – Delete TikTok. There is a reason the US Federal Government is trying to ban it. It’s spy software. NEVER give any app permission to always access your files, camera, or audio. Always select the option of “Only While Using The App” or similar option. Your devices are always listening. Every talk about something and suddenly everywhere you go you’re getting ads for it? “You’re ruining my life!” Sorry.

While you may know everything already, hopefully these tips will keep you safe. You want more responsibility and to be treated like a mature person? Great! Learn to protect yourself online and IRL. Learn to keep your data safe, even if you aren’t sure why anyone would want it. Ask your parents to check your credit. Because you and your data are important. “Gosh, I know already! Geez!”

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