Back to school looks quite different in 2020 than it has in years past. Millions of kids across North America will be returning to the classroom over the next few weeks—but many will be doing so virtually, either for all or part of the upcoming fall semester.
If anything, that means kids will be using technology more than usual. With school-issued devices in the mix alongside personal smartphones, iPads, and laptops, the need for enhanced security and heightened personal responsibility will increase. Not to mention the extra stress on Internet bandwidth with family members old and young needing steady connectivity throughout the day.
That’s why many of the following back-to-school tech tips apply both to school and work—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the traditional separations between business owner and parent, employee and caregiver, and student and teacher continue to blur in 2020, we all have to go above and beyond to stay productive and secure during these unprecedented times while protecting our information and our systems.
CMIT Solutions understands this need, helping remote workers and learners alike with proactive device protection and security that keeps everyone safe, during normal school and business hours and during downtime. Below are a few of our top tech tips for this unusual back-to-school season.
1. Protection starts at home.
Many school-age children are learning how to navigate new devices for the new school year. While the threat of device loss may be lower with many kids learning from home or attending a hybrid school schedule, don’t neglect physical protection like laptop cases, screen guards, and keyboard covers that can keep school-issued devices in good working order. Strong passwords are also a must, whether a device is kept at home all week or transported to and from school every day. That goes for devices and Wi-Fi networks, too. Secure high-speed wireless capabilities and Internet hotspots are key to make school and office work smoother, but make sure they’re password-protected to prevent security vulnerabilities.
2. Be wary of unsolicited requests for information or too-good-to-be-true offers.
This applies to adults and kids, at home, at school, and at work. COVID-19-related phishing attempts and scam emails have proliferated over the last few months, and they’ll surely increase with millions of North Americans logging in to new platforms and navigating unfamiliar systems for business and education. Bad actors may try to impersonate school contacts to glean important user information, while spam messages and malicious ads promoting back-to-school technology deals and virtual education services could entice users to click on illicit links.
3. Take extra precautions with unfamiliar emails.
Remind everyone in your household to be wary of email messages that look suspicious or don’t seem normal. Never open ANY attachment or click on ANY link if the sender is not recognized and if you weren’t expecting the email and attachment, regardless of how compelling the message may be. And even if you do recognize the sender, be careful with links to Google Docs or other shareable files. Hover over all links and look for legitimate web addresses as opposed to a string of random characters or unrecognized addresses.
4. Get everyone on the same schedule.
Every household uses a different method: dry-erase boards, paper calendars, free online apps. On the flip side, popular programs like Microsoft 365 and its built-in email, calendar, and contact management workhorse Microsoft Outlook offer infinite organizational options for work, home, and school. You can synchronize your calendars with everyone in the family, sharing everything from contacts to updated to-do lists while checking email anytime, anywhere, on any device. That means you won’t miss a single online appointment, videoconference, or virtual class.
5. Back up important data with a trusted cloud service.
With more people than ever working and learning from personal devices, school-issued laptops, and even smartphones, accidental data loss is inevitable—even if it’s in the cloud. That’s why reliable data backup is crucial for day-to-day success. Solutions will vary for personal and business needs, but when you work with a trusted IT provider like CMIT Solutions, you get a personalized, professionally managed data protection kit that meets your needs. Maybe that means automatic processes that perform regular data backups without disrupting your workday. Maybe it’s extra layers of cloud-based accessibility to separate school and business data. Whatever your home or office requires, don’t wait until it’s too late to secure your information.
6. Talk to your kids about parental controls, screen time limits, and other online activity.
Whether your back-to-school preparation is underway with an eager teen or a hesitant tot, the most important tip here is to communicate. That means understanding device permissions, screen time allowances, and web-surfing protocols. Most school-issued machines will have built-in parental controls and limits on non-educational activity. But make sure you and your student both understand how that extends to non-school hours, to personal Internet use on personal devices, and to the healthy boundaries around screen time that can help kids of all ages weather these unusual times. Well-known Internet browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer all offer security options and content filters. And if your kid likes to negotiate, consider trading extra screen time for the use of parent-approved, kid-friendly browsers, apps, and social media networks.
7. Secure the entire home network.
Unmanaged computers and mobile devices can harbor dangerous malware that can jump onto other computers on your home network, including your remote work machine. Schools have limited resources for such IT protection, and most are not able to afford the security layers needed to keep malware off devices. If your home network includes a work-at-home machine, you may need to separate that computer from home and school use computers. Contact your IT professional and ask about segmenting your home network.
These back-to-school tech tips only scratch the surface of the support needed as millions of North American adults and kids juggle remote work, online learning, and hybrid schedules that mix in-person interaction with virtual instruction.
Need help navigating new devices before the school year begins? Unsure where to start with data protection that fits educational and business needs? Don’t have school-age kids but still need assistance with remote work protocols? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We can harness evolving tech solutions to boost productivity, enhance efficiency and keep everyone safe online.