I remember so clearly the day our daughter left for college. It seemed one day she was a baby and the next she was a beautiful, college bound young adult.
We spent that summer before she left having so many conversations. But, there were so many things I didn’t discuss with her when it came to technology. I know! I preach about essential tech conversations for college bound students. But some of the essentials tech conversations for college kids became apparent to me after my daughter left for college.
I thought our kids would learn simply because we had technology in our home. So we didn’t sit down and formally have some key conversations we should have BEFORE they left. While my young adult children do know a great deal about staying safe online, there were still many things they needed me to share with them. Luckily they didn’t have any major issues.
And now your family can benefit from our experience! So, just like you check off those essential dorm room items like sheets and laundry detergent, check off these essential tech skills for your college bound child.
10 Essential Tech Conversations for College Bound Young Adults
1. Are Your Devices Protected, Up to Date, and Backed Up?
One quick and easy thing you can do to protect your device is set a pin or password lock for it. It’s a simple step, and one that puts a quick layer of protection on your device.
It seems there are frequent updates for applications and operating systems for your device. Don’t ignore these updates. In addition to improving the performance of your device and offering new features, they often contain patches for security issues.
We often don’t think about backing up our device until it’s too late. But, mobile devices rival our computers in terms of the information we store. If your device is lost, stolen, or becomes infected with a virus, having a backup copy of your apps and data will get you back up and running again quickly.
2. Do You Have Antivirus/Anti-malware Software Installed on Your Devices?
Android users are well versed in installing antivirus/anti-malware software. Even die hard Android lovers like me will admit iOS does a great job when it comes to security. But, iOS users, don’t let your guard down. iPhones aren’t 100% safe from attacks.
The majority of internet traffic comes through mobile devices. And a growing number of viruses specifically target both iPhones and Android. There are many anti-virus programs on the market. Many are ineffective. I highly recommend Malwarebytes (aff). It’s worked without fail for our home and business devices. And, it’s available for Windows, Android, and Apple devices. We spend a good deal of money on our devices. It’s worth the small yearly investment to protect yourself and your privacy.
3. Are You Using a Password Generator?
Managing passwords for the many sites used daily is tough. And, having your mobile device automatically enter passwords and log-in information into websites you visit frequently poses a real security risk.
But there are some great third-party apps on the market that can manage passwords securely for you. These work for your computer and your mobile devices. So, you can create secure passwords for all the sites you use. My personal favorite is LastPass.
4. Do You Know How to Find Your Phone If It’s Lost? Or, Remotely Wipe Your Device in Case It’s Lost or Stolen?
We’ve talked about backing up your device data, but do you know what steps to take to find your phone if it’s lost? Or, how to quickly delete the data on your mobile device if you know it’s been stolen?
These video tutorials for Android and iOS showing parents how to locate lost devices for their kids will show you how to do this for yourself. I hope you never have to use these instructions. But, you can rest easy knowing you have a plan in place should you lose your phone.
5. Are You Staying Secure When Using Public WiFi?
Public WiFi hot spots are typically open to everyone and not encrypted. This means anyone with some easy-to-find online tools connected to the same WiFi can potentially see any communication from your devices. This includes websites you visit and any log-in credentials you may use.
Here is a good article from ESET on how to stay secure on a public WiFi connection. As a safety precaution, it’s always a good idea to turn WiFi off on your mobile device when you’re not using it.
6. Are You Using a VPN?
A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a private network that extends across a public network or internet. It enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Think of it as a private lane for only you on a busy highway interstate used by others.
7. Can You Type?
Typing using the pick and poke method might work when you’re typing a short email. You may even pick and poke your way through a short essay. But, you are going to need serious typing skills to keep up with the research and writing that’s coming your way in college.
The average typing speed is 40 words per minute. Typing 40 words a minute would translate to about 2400/hour. When you start breaking down papers you need to write, you can see why typing is an essential tech skill to have in your arsenal. If you are struggling just to peck out an email, consider using the new dictate feature in Microsoft Word while taking some free typing lessons.
8. Do You Know & Use Appropriate Etiquette in Online Communication?
College life will bring many changes. One of these will likely be the way you communicate with others. While texting and social media will continue to be a venue through which you communicate, email and online forums will likely be used a great deal during your college years. Learning how to use appropriate etiquette in online communication is essential for your success.
Emails to professors should have a more professional tone. Be sure to run them through spell check before sending them. Check out these 18 tips for emailing your professors.
I can’t stress the importance of paying attention to what you post on social media. Social media is communication. Your social media pages are your way to communicate your story to the world. What do you love and value? What’s truly shareable? Don’t post something you’ll regret.
9. Do You Know How to Search the Internet for Reliable Resources?
There’s a vast amount of information online. Unfortunately, not all of it is solid reliable research. A 2016 study from Stanford evaluated students’ ability to determine if information sources are real news reports or fake news. Stanford researchers described the results as “dismaying,” “bleak,” and “[a] threat to democracy.” There’s been a great deal of education when it comes to understanding if a source is truth or fiction. So, be sure you know how to tell if something is fact or fiction online. You don’t want your paper to end up in the trashcan because you cited fake sources.
10. Do you know how to edit an image?
Stanford now lists editing an image in its top 5 list of essential tech skills for college students. It’s not surprising, given the latest market research shows 65% of us are visual learners. That means we learn best when text is paired with a graphic. It’s why we love Instagram and Snapchat. We love showing how we feel and what we’re doing more than we like texting it.
The role of college is to prepare you for a career. The Muse now lists image editing as the top tech skill needed. There are many free resources for editing images. In fact, in addition to being free, Adobe Spark and Canva both offer easy tutorials.
It’s easy to think our young adults know more than us when it comes to technology. That’s true in most cases! But don’t overlook the important role you play in their lives when it comes to offering loving support and guidance. Make a few dates to cover these essential tech conversations for college with your young adult. They’ll appreciate you care enough to have some important tech conversations with them.
And, you’ll enjoy the precious extra time you get to spend with them before they head off for college in the fall.
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