School is back in session, and as we all know, it’s much different than any year before. Schools across the country are adopting various forms of all-digital or blended virtual and in-person classrooms. With this new normal comes an increased use of online learning, which makes it even more important to make sure students don’t get schooled in cyber security by the bad guys!

The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends a few things for students and parents as they tackle this academic year:

Students (K-12)

  • Check before you download. Check with your parents before you open an email attachment or download any software from the internet. These are the most popular ways cyber criminals infect devices with viruses and steal personal information.
  • Block bullies. If a student in your online classroom (or even in your in-person classroom) is making you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult.
  • Research wisely. Need to do some digging for a project? Talk to your teacher or the school’s librarian about safe and trusted sources to use for schoolwork.

Students (Higher Ed)

  • Free swag!? Most universities offer active students free antivirus software for their personal computers. Look into it! There’s no better price than free! (The University of Nebraska provides computer protection software for students and faculty; other schools may offer something similar.)
  • Set the scene. Whether it’s a new app issued by your school, or one you found online that will help organize your hectic class load, take a few seconds to explore the privacy and security settings.
  • Be real. Never trust pirated software. The real deal will keep your device and information more secure, as well as provide you with ongoing updates to make sure you always have the latest and greatest software. The best part? Most universities offer either free or discounted software for their students.


  • New tech? If the school requires software that’s new to you, explore it together with your child. Take that time to also immediately configure its security and privacy settings.
  • Update! Having the latest versions of security software, web browsers and operating systems on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats.
  • Parental controls are half of the equation. Parental controls are a great tool to establish parameters around what your kids can and can’t do online. But, they don’t replace candid discussions with your kids about online security and safety. Kids may not recognize the underlying dangers of visiting unknown websites or communicating with strangers online, so talk with them about these risks.