Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
Do you know everyone your child is communicating with via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
Do you know all the social media sites your teen uses?
Have you read the privacy rules for those sites?
Do your kids have any friends they have only met online?
I recently reviewed a presentation from Brad Gobble, Senior Program Manager for Information Security & Risk Management at Microsoft, and the information he provided made me realize two things: first, I’m glad my kids are too young for social media and second, they always will be.
Okay, that last notion is only wishful thinking – probably – but Mr. Gobble pointed out that there is plenty that parents can do to ensure both they and their children are well informed and prepared to avoid potential online threats. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce the entire presentation here, but I can share the twelve things Mr. Gobble encourages all parents to do.
1. Communicate with your kids about online safety
Encourage kids to tell you if anything on one of these sites makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention. Let them know you will work with them to help resolve the situation for a positive outcome.
2. Set household Internet rules
As soon as your children begin to use the Internet on their own, it is a good idea to come up with a list of rules for using the Internet that everyone can agree on. These rules should include whether your children can use social websites and how to use them.
3. Follow site age limits
According to ZDNet.com, 38% of kids on Facebook are under the minimum age of 13, the typical minimum age for social media sites. If your children are under the recommended age for these sites, do not let them use the sites. You cannot rely on the services themselves to keep your underage child from signing up.
4. Educate yourself about the sites
5. Teach kids to avoid strangers online
Insist that your children never meet anyone in person that they’ve communicated with online only, and encourage them to communicate only with people they’ve met in person. Encourage them to use these sites to communicate with their friends, but not with people they’ve never met in person. It might not be enough to simply tell your child not to talk to strangers, because your child might not consider someone they’ve "met" online to be a stranger.
6. Ensure your kids don’t use full names
Have your children use only their first names or a nickname, but not a nickname that would attract inappropriate attention. Also, do not allow your children to post the full names of their friends.
7. Be careful about personal information
Many social websites allow kids to join public groups that include everyone who goes to a certain school. Be careful when your children reveal this and other information that could be used to identify them, such as their school mascots, their workplaces, or the name of the towns they live in. Too much information can make your children vulnerable to cyber-bullying, Internet predators, fraud, or identity theft.
8. Consider less private sites
Some websites allow you to limit viewers to only people your child knows. With Windows Live Spaces, for example, you can set permissions for who can view your site, ranging from anyone on the Internet to only people you choose.
9. Be smart about photos
Photographs can reveal a lot of personal information. Encourage your children not to post photographs of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, license plates, or school name on their sweatshirts.
10. Warn kids about expressing emotions to strangers online
You’ve probably already encouraged your kids not to communicate with strangers directly online. However, kids use social websites to write journals and poems that often express strong emotions. Explain to your children that many of these words can be read by anyone with access to the Internet and that predators often search out emotionally vulnerable kids.
11. Teach kids about cyber-bullying
It’s important to encourage kids to communicate with other people online in the same way they would face-to-face. Ask kids to treat other people the way they would prefer to be treated. Tell them that if they think they’re being cyber-bullied, they should share this information right away with a parent, or another adult that they trust.
12. Encourage kids to keep passwords secret
•Don’t reveal passwords to others. Keep your passwords hidden, even from friends.
•Protect recorded passwords. Be careful where you store passwords that you record or write down. Don’t store passwords in your backpack or wallet. Don’t leave records of your passwords anywhere that you would not leave the information that the passwords protect. Don’t store your passwords on a file in your computer. Criminals look there first.
•Never provide your password over email or in response to an email request. Any email message that requests your password or requests that you to go to a website to verify your password could be a kind of fraud called a phishing scam.
•Do not type passwords on computers that you do not control. Don’t use public computers in your school, library, Internet cafes, or computer labs for anything other than anonymous Internet browsing.
Finally, the following are a few for-profit companies that market online safety products for home use. At present, I have yet to test out any of these software products and cannot make any recommendations, but they may prove useful for some households.
One of the most established online safety products, Net Nanny is a commercial site that offers a suite of products to help parents protect children but also a very good Learning Center with up to date information about online threats. The website has quick facts, informative blogs, and glossary of online terms and safety tips, and a list of family safe sites with additional information. The Net Nanny product line provides full internet safety on not just the World Wide Web, but also less known but equally dangerous parts of the Internet like the Usenet, Peer-to-Peer downloading networks, Chat Rooms, Instant Messages, FTP, Forums and email.
Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple. Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background.
This is a for profit site that is a subscription security tools set that includes : 24/7 monitoring of a child’s social networking accounts ; Locates questionable content on pages using a customizable database of over 500 key words relating to potential dangers; Automatic e-mail alerts are sent anytime new relevant content is posted; Know who your child’s “online friends” are with Friends Network and Investigate Friend links; Easy access to news articles and resources to educate you and your child on Internet safety, risks and more.
eBlaster, and it’s upgrade product Spector Pro, are active inspection and monitoring software for both PC and Mac. With abilities to Record, Report, Forward, Alert, and Block on a variety of activities, it markets itself as “the most powerful spy software you can buy.”
IamBigBrother is an internet monitoring software available for both homes and business. When using IamBigBrother, one can view exactly who kids chatted with last and be able to read the full conversation. The software runs in stealth mode where it is not detected by the user of the computer. It captures everything from chats and instant messages to email, web sites and much more.
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