6 Tips for a Safe Back-to-School Season

How to Protect Data, Devices, and Digital Identities

It’s August, which means back-to-school season is right around the corner. And while the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of receding, 2022 could mark the most “normal” return to the classroom for students since 2019.

Still, the last few years of disruptions have radically changed the face of education in the United States and Canada. Students rely on technology more than ever before. For many kids, school-issued laptops, tablets, hotspots, and hardware take up more backpack space than books. And as we all become more connected, smartphones, watches, and other communication devices are in the hands of more kids—at ever-younger ages.

That increases the need for strong cybersecurity protections (implemented by the institutions and parents responsible for these students and their devices) and an enhanced sense of responsibility (from the students using the devices themselves).

CMIT Solutions understands this need, and we’ve worked over the past few years to help school districts, education organizations, and everyday families proactively protect their data, their devices, and their digital identities. Here are a few of our favorite back-to-school tech tips for 2022.

1) Emphasize the importance of data security. After two years of remote and hybrid learning, parents and students are probably thrilled for a full-fledged return to the physical classroom. But protection is still a must, no matter where laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, watches, and hotspots are being used. Everyone should understand the basics of cybersecurity—and how critical it is to apply them to everyday situations at work, school, and home. Those basics, such as using strong passwords, activating multi-factor authentication (MFA) to log in to all accounts, and connecting only to secure Wi-Fi networks, can go a long way toward securing everyone’s data and protecting everyone’s digital identities.

2) Look out for unfamiliar text messages, phone calls, or emails. Anyone with a new email account or phone number knows that feeling of excitement that follows your first call, text, or message. Unfortunately, hackers can take advantage of that feeling, trying to trick new users into clicking malicious links or opening infected email attachments. Make sure everyone in your family and at your place of work—kids, adults, digital beginners, and seasoned users alike—understands how critical it is to NEVER open ANY attachment or click on ANY link in ANY message from an unknown sender. And even if you do recognize the sender, be careful with links to Google Docs or other shareable files. On desktops and laptops, you can hover over links to see if the destination URL matches the one advertised in the message. Each of these tactics can help to keep you safe from unfamiliar messages.

3) Set healthy limits on screen time. According to a winter 2021 survey by DataReportal, the average American spends 7 hours in front of a screen—counted as phones, computers, and TVs every day. Meanwhile, research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in May 2021 found that twenty-somethings used their phones an average of 28.5 hours a week. Scientists fear those numbers will continue to increase, too, potentially affecting the mental and physical health of children and teens. But instead of focusing solely on the number of hours spent on screens each day, health experts say the type of content we consume is more important—as are questions about how screen time affects sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and social interaction. Breaking down screen time into regularly scheduled blocks of education, entertainment, employment, and engagement can also be helpful as you strive to set solid boundaries.

4) Talk to kids about parental controls. Whether your back-to-school routine includes an eager teen or an excitable toddler, the most important thing is healthy communication. Before device use starts up for the school year, talk about application permissions and web-surfing protocols. Most school-issued machines will come with pre-installed parental controls and limits on non-educational activity. But make sure you and your student(s) discuss what happens during non-school hours and what kind of personal Internet use is allowed. Popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer all offer security options and content filters that can be customized by kids and parents. If your learner likes to compromise, consider trading extra screen time for the use of parent-approved, kid-friendly browsers, apps, and social media networks.

5) Make sure data backup is a standard part of the protocol. Even the newest devices sometimes have problems, which is why it’s smart to have a data backup option in place before school starts. Many school- and work-issued devices will automatically back files up to a centrally managed cloud, but it’s always smart to test that backup process—and the steps necessary to retrieve stored data—before you actually lose information. If you’re not sure about the best option between Google Drive, Amazon Cloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and a hundred other consumer options, work with a trusted IT provider like CMIT Solutions to personalize and professionally manage your data protection at home, school, and work.

6) Research your options before purchasing new back-to-school technology. Whether you’re in the market for a new laptop, desktop, or tablet, an upgraded smartphone, an all-in-one printer, an external hard drive, a versatile power pack, a wireless USB stick, a new software suite, or a wearable fitness device, don’t just jump on the newest version of an item. Instead of just following the buzz and paying top dollar for an untested product you may not even need, do your homework, read reviews, research different purchasing options, and enlist the help of a trusted IT partner who can help you make the right choice for your budget and day-to-day needs. Developing that kind of research with a provider can help you ensure the new device is set up and deployed correctly with proper maintenance and support.

Consider these six back-to-school tips just a start as you assess the back-to-school landscape. Every student, school, and family in every corner of the United States and Canada has different IT needs—but CMIT Solutions is ready to help with hundreds of independently owned offices across North America.

Need assistance setting up new devices before the school year begins? Not sure whether data is actually being backed up or not? Looking for a way to boost productivity and increase efficiency at home and in the office? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We take care of IT so you don’t have to, keeping everyone safe with solid cybersecurity protection and back-to-school support you can count on.

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