A back-to-school checklist for online safety


The first day of school is fast approaching. Whether it relieves you, gives you chills or both, we’re here to help families with one important thing: Internet safety.

For parents, thinking about the dangers of the web can be scary. But it doesn’t have to. Although the internet isn’t perfect, it’s also a wonderful place to learn and connect with others. Here’s what families can do to make the most of it while staying safe this school year.

Credit: Nick Velazquez/Mozilla

1. Configure new passwords

Back to school is a good time to update passwords because students often log into the same learning tools they use at home and on campus. It’s important to teach children the basics of password hygiene, including keeping passwords in a safe place and changing them regularly.

2. Check the privacy settings of your devices

Whether you have a preschooler who uses the family tablet to watch videos or a child who is finally ready for a phone, be sure to set up these devices with data privacy in mind. Determine – together, if possible – what information they share with the apps they use.

Do you have school equipment? Take the time to review the settings and don’t be afraid to ask teachers and school administrators how the tools and software used in classrooms process student data.

3. Protect your child’s browsing information

An investigation by The Markup, in conjunction with Mozilla Rally, revealed how applications for federal financial aid automatically sent students’ personal information to Facebook, even if a student did not have a Facebook account. This is just one example of how pervasive big tech data tracking has become. One way to reduce the amount of information companies collect about your child is to protect their internet browsing data.

Firefox has full cookie protection enabled by default for all users. This means that when your child visits a website, cookies (which store information that a page remembers about them) remain on that website and out of reach of companies that want to track their online behavior and target them with advertising.

How to make Firefox the default browser on desktop:

  • If you haven’t already, download Firefox and open the app.
  • In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click firefox > Preferences.
  • In the general panel, click on the Default button.

How to make Firefox the default browser on mobile:

  • Download Firefox.
  • On an iOS device, go to settings, scroll down and click firefox > Default browser app > firefox.
  • On an Android, open the app. Click the menu button next to the address bar > Settings > Set as default browser > Firefox for Android > Define by default.

Find more information on setting Firefox as the default browser on iOS and Android here.

Make Firefox your default mobile browser.

4. Discuss parental controls with the whole family

Relying on parental control settings to limit kids’ screen time and block websites can be tempting. But no tool can completely protect children online. One thing that researchers and advocates agree on when it comes to technology: open communication. Parents should ask their children whether or not they should use parental controls and why. They also need to come up with a plan to ease restrictions as children learn to manage themselves online.

Ready for this conversation? Here are some Firefox extensions to consider with your family:

  • To take down
    Specific to YouTube, Unhook removes much of the site’s distracting “rabbit role” elements, including suggested videos, trending content, and comments.
  • Tomato clock
    Based on a renowned time management method (Pomodoro technique), this extension helps a user to focus on the computer by dividing work intervals into defined “tomato” bursts. While this productivity extension can benefit anyone, parents might find it useful in helping kids stay focused during online school hours.
  • Block the site
    Try this add-on if your family has agreed to put restrictions in place on specific websites. With its password control feature, not only can parents continue to visit these websites, but they can also leave personalized display messages if their child tries to access a restricted site (“Busted! Don’t shouldn’t you do your homework?”), as well as redirecting from one site to another (e.g. Roblox.com to a public library website).

If you’re new to extensions, you can learn more here.

5. Have the “technical discussion”

Of course, besides weak passwords and schoolwork-related distractions, there are plenty of age-appropriate topics that parents may want to talk to their kids about. “It’s helpful to talk about values ​​first and then brainstorm — in developmentally appropriate ways, depending on the stage of the child’s life — how to put those values ​​into practice,” said Leah A. Plunkett, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who teaches a class. on youth and digital citizenship.

Another idea: consider writing down what your family has agreed on and have everyone sign it. Or use a template like the one from Common Sense Media, which also lists things parents can agree to do, like acknowledge the role media plays in their children’s lives, even if they don’t fully understand it.

As with any other aspect of parenting, providing children with safe and healthy experiences online is more complicated than it seems. The process won’t be perfect, but learning together – with the help of trusted sources – can go a long way.

The internet is a great place for families. It gives us new opportunities to experience the world, connect with others, and simply make our lives easier and more colorful. But it also comes with new challenges and complications for parents raising future generations. Mozilla wants to help parents make the best online decisions for their kids, no matter what, in our latest series, Parental control.

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