5 Guidelines for Bully-Proof Passwords

How to pick passwords that deter cyberbullying

two upset kids and computer
Nothing is worse than having your child's account hacked by a cyberbully. iStockphoto

One of the ways in which kids cyberbully others is to hack into their online accounts and impersonate them. To keep your kids safe, be sure they are not only using passwords, but also generating passwords that are bully-proof.

Passwords are the first line of defense against cyberbullying and cyber crime. As a result, it is extremely important for teens to have strong passwords for their accounts. Additionally, they should have a different password for each account and device.

For instance, they need strong passwords for their smartphone and iPad as well as strong passwords for their e-mail accounts, social media accounts and even online school accounts. It is also a good idea for them to change their passwords consistently. And of course, they should never share their passwords with friends. Here are five guidelines for creating bully-proof passwords.

Select unique passwords for each account.

Using the same password for each online account may make things easier but it also puts your teen at risk for being hacked. Remember, if a cyberbully gains access to one account, then all the accounts are compromised if they have they same password. While it may be less convenient and more challenging to remember all the passwords, picking multiple passwords will keep your teen safer online.   

Create long passwords comprised of numbers, letters and symbols.

Remember, the longer and more complex your password is, the harder it will be for a cyberbully to guess.

So encourage your teen to create long passwords. What’s more, the strongest passwords contain a combination of numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters. Doing so makes it harder for cyberbullies to guess or crack your teen’s password.

Also, advise your teen not to use obvious passwords like “123456,” “password” or their cell phone number.

The password they choose also should not include publicly available information. Even birthdates can be easy passwords to crack if the cyberbully knows your teen. Passwords should be original and not contain any identifiable information.

Use phrases only you and your teen would know.

One way to develop a strong password is to create a password using a phrase only your teen would know. For instance, if your teen loves ham and cheese sandwiches, their phrase might be “I love ham and cheese.” To turn this into a password, it might look something like this: IluvH@m&Ch33s3!”

In this password, they have taken a statement and turned it into a password. They used the popular spelling for “love” and they have replaced some of the letters with symbols and numbers. The “A” has been replaced with the symbol “@” and the “Es” have been replaced with the number 3. What’s more, instead of spelling out the word “and,” they have used an ampersand instead. Finally, the “H” and the “C” have been capitalized and they ended the password with an exclamation point.

All of these letters, symbols, numbers and mixed upper and lowercase letters make this password hard to crack.

Keep passwords private and safe.

Too many times, teens overshare information including telling friends their passwords. And while they may trust the friend they are sharing with, there is no way of knowing whether or not this teen will then share the password with others or later use it in a way that harms your teen. As a result, it is extremely important that teens never share their passwords with others.

It’s also not a good idea to keep passwords written down on a piece of paper next to the computer or in a notebook they carry with them at school. Even putting passwords into password wallets on their smartphone can be a dangerous practice. If someone sees the paper or gains access to the password wallet, then your child’s accounts are compromised.

Use password recovery options.

With password recovery options, your teen is able to get back into their accounts if they are locked out. So it is always a good idea to use them. This may mean attaching a telephone number or an e-mail address to the account. Another option is to include security questions that your teen could answer.

For instance, some services will send your teen an e-mail to reset his password. Meanwhile, other services will send a text message that allows your teen to reset his password. The important thing is to make sure these numbers and e-mails are kept up-to-date. 

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