08/30/2016 08:39 EDT | Updated 08/30/2016 08:59 EDT

Your Password Could Be Safer -- Here's How

password box

Growing up before the age of the internet and social networks has left many older users unaware and unprepared for risks looming in the virtual world. From that perspective, children today are lucky to have exposure to the best cybersecurity practices, such as keeping good password hygiene. For those not as familiar with the dos and don'ts, fear not -- here are the password essentials for both young and old.

  1. Create a unique password for each account and don't share it with anyone.
  2. The rule is -- the longer the password is, the safer it will be. Start with at least eight characters, but prolong the code if it should reliably protect valuable data or accounts. If you are having trouble remembering a complex password, you can also opt for a passphrase or use a password manager (more on those below).
  3. Avoid dictionary words (common words, names, dates, numbers) or obvious choices such as 12345678, password or qwerty.
  4. Add a bit of digital "spice," such as numbers and special characters (@, #, !, etc.), or use them as a substitute for some of the letters in your password.
  5. If you choose the substitution option, don't go for the common misspellings, such as replacing "a" with "@" or "i" with "1" or "!."
  6. Change your passwords regularly. Again, the more important the data it protects, the shorter the interval should be.
  7. One of the most important rules is to never re-use the same password across various accounts. That way, if your password is compromised, only one account is affected.

These tips may sound pretty obvious and straightforward but, unfortunately, most people lack the discipline to implement them day-to-day in the real world. With multiple accounts all needing unique passwords, good password hygiene has become more tedious than flossing.

However, there are simple strategies to stay safe and streamline things for you and your family. Consider using passphrases for family accounts -- they are a great way to create passwords that are easy for the kids to remember, but hard for others to guess.

To get more engagement from your family, ask your children to help define the passphrase -- but avoid the obvious choices, such as famous quotes from fairy tales, movies or books. Apart from that, it can be pretty much any sentence they can come up with. To raise the level of safety, help them add some of the approaches above -- peppering the passphrase with some punctuation, numbers, upper or lower case letters and by using spaces.

Another way to go is to use a reputable password manager. It lets you (and your kids) store all of your passwords in one place, without the need to remember them. They only need to keep one of them in mind, one which will allow them to unlock their entire password database.

Have other ways to protect your family's passwords? Let us know in the comments.

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