Back-To-School: Protect More Than Just Their Stuff!

As technology becomes more and more commonplace, so do the risks that come with it. With college students using social media and technology daily, parents need to be aware of the potential risks involved. While there is plenty of advice on how to protect your belongings, it’s just as important to protect your child from the many cyber threats that exist. Awareness of these dangers can help keep your child safe while away at school.

The problems with modern technology are more apparent than ever before. Students and parents find themselves too connected to their smartphones, tablets, or laptops at all times of day- even when they’re sleeping! The result? A new term has been coined: virtual addiction. It is an inability on our part to stop using these devices because there’s always something else available for us on this world wide web connecting everyone through information gateways like TikTok (or whatever social media site you prefer). It is rare to find a college student who does not use technology in this digital age. Whether they are considered an addiction or not- most have become very heavy users of modern gadgets in their lifetimes!

Today’s college students face many more risks than their predecessors in decades past- some even say this generation has been at greater risk due to technology and social media usage! For example, consider the following risks that can arise from the improper and unmonitored use of modern technology at every student’s disposal:

  • Breach of privacy: A breach of privacy is when someone accesses or discloses information without the consent of the person who owns that information. This can happen when a hacker gains access to someone’s private account or when a friend posts something without the person’s permission. In either case, it can violate that person’s privacy rights.
  • Computer malware or virus: Computer malware is any software designed to damage or disable computers or computer systems. Viruses, Trojans, and worms are all types of malware.
  • Stolen personal information and/or identity
  • Misuse of social media that can cause harm to another: Posting private information about someone without their consent, such as their address or phone number.
  • Texting, emailing, Snapchatting, taking selfies, or just plain talking on a cell phone while driving.
  • Sending, receiving, and or forwarding illegal content
  • Phishing scams: Phishing is a type of cyberattack that uses email or text messages to trick people into clicking on malicious links or attachments. Attackers pose as a trusted entity in an attempt to gain access to sensitive information like passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers.
  • Ransomware or social engineering: Social engineering is tricking someone into giving you their confidential information. Attackers use social engineering techniques to manipulate people into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. They may also use it to install malware on a victim’s computer.
  • Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is using technology to harass, threaten, or embarrass someone. College students may be targeted for cyberbullying because of their personal beliefs or affiliations, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or because they are perceived to be different from the attacker. Cyberbullying can take many forms, such as sending threatening or abusive messages, spreading rumors or sensitive information about someone, or creating a fake profile to humiliate someone.
  • Hacking into smart devices

The insurance industry can help parents and students to better prepare for the above issues and several others. This helpful article from Chubb offers practical protection insights for those seeking to protect their children in college. In addition to having a complete discussion with your college-bound student about the risks that can arise from their misuse of technology, the following are additional specific protection recommendations I can also offer:

  1. Make sure the homeowner policy that provides primary liability protection for family members includes coverage for “personal injury” related risks: libel, slander, defamation, and other verbal torts. Be sure to supplement this primary liability protection with adequate excess liability insurance.
  2. If your college student is at school using a car, install a device that restricts their cell phone use while operating that car! Several apps exist to prevent texting while driving and promote safe driving practices in general. And why not take this step for those children driving cars while at home? Preventing distracted driving is achievable.

While several risks are often left unexamined when children leave home for college, the personal risk advisers of Watkins Insurance Group are here to help clients address those risks.

 

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