5 Ways to Manage Your Teen’s Technology

Do your kids have their own gadgets — smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. ?

Are you concerned about how the may be using them?

Generally, kids are pretty good about what they do online. You’ve raised them well and they keep those lessons with them. But digital footprints and online citizenship are a different kind of independence, and come with new lessons.

I had the chance to review a new book by Tony Anscombe, One Parent to Another. Tony is the Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies.

I’m going to share five online safety tips Tony covers in his book, but I strongly suggest you download a copy for yourself as these tips just scratch the surface of the information shared in the book. It’s a very quick read — only 75 pages — but it’s packed with information. I was reminded about a few things I need to re-visit with my own teens.

1: Check Device Settings

I usually only think of phones, tablets, and laptops as my connected technology. Can you think of any others? When I looked over the list in the book I was surprised at how many items we have, but I don’t think of as connected.

Technology is so ubiquitous in our lives we forget we’re even using it. If I ask you what “smart” devices you use, would you include these?

  • cameras
  • home phones
  • DVD players
  • gaming consoles
  • cars
  • alarm systems
  • appliances — yep, even new models of refrigerators are connected!

Each device is connected to the internet — and probably each other. When you share anything from those devices, any encoded information (like geotagging) is included in the transfer. So if you take a picture with your phone or even a “regular” camera, but you don’t have geotagging turned off, it’s very easy for others to determine where the picture was taken, and possibly find their way to you.

Be sure you’ve read the manual for each device and have studied and adjusted the settings to fit your needs. Talk to your teens about why the setting are configured as they are and why they should not change them.

2. Create Better Passwords

Passwords are the weak link. The one thing that should to be your first line of defense to protect you is often the least effective. Too many people choose simplicity over safety by using passwords like 1234567 or password or something based on your interests that could be easily guessed.

“Automated password cracker software has the ability to trace an individual’s pubic web activity and make associations, and ultimately compromise passwords relatively quickly.”

Tony suggests using upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters (e.g., @ * ^) to create a passphrase code. For example, using this method you could create the phrase D@n(1n6qu3En (or “dancing queen”).

3. Know Your Scams

Sometimes it’s tempting to click on links. They seem to come from legitimate sources, but there’s a nagging feeling that they’re not.

It can be very hard to determine what’s a legitimate request and what’s not. A scam isn’t always a link on a social media platform, it’s very often a link in an email. Those emails may look very convincing and appear to be from a trusted company like PayPal or Amazon — but they’re actually a scam called “phishing.”

“…’Phishing’ lures you to present personal information under false pretenses…[A] phishing email may state that there’s an issue with your account and that [they] need you to send your password to correct it.”

If that email asks you to update your information and provides a link, beware. That link will likely take you a look-alike page. When you log in with your username and password, the phishers now have your information.

For more important information about phishing (and how to safely use email), read Chapter 3 of Tony’s book. This chapter was my favorite because it had so many useful explanations and tips. I’m pretty tech savvy, but after reading Chapter 3 I realized I hadn’t talked to my kids about phishing since they became teens!

4. Watch the Apps

Keep an eye on which apps your teens are downloading, and find out how those apps are used.

Snapchat is a popular app because you can take a picture, then it disappears after 15 seconds or so — it’s only seen by people you send it to and it isn’t stored on your phone. Teens think this is a great way to get around apps like Instagram (where photos are public and kept long-term unless you delete them) and texting (where the pictures live on your phone until you delete them). A lot of teens are using Snapchat to sext, thinking the pictures are being automatically deleted.

They were wrong. Nothing dies on the internet. Once something is published it has a digital footprint. Not only is that picture still stored somewhere, but teens are pretty quick on the draw and can take a screenshot before the image goes away.

5. Know Your Boundaries – And Their Consequences

Talk with your teens about what they’re sharing, who they’re sharing it with, and why they’re sharing it. Most of the time kids aren’t using their tech for nefarious reasons. They’re just connecting with their friends or playing games.

But sometimes it’s too easy to forget that there is a physical person on the other side of the screen — it’s easy to overshare, it’s easy to make a poor judgment call (I know I did when I was a teen!), and it’s easy to lash out at or make fun of someone you dislike.

When I grew up in the 80s and 90s, all of those things — oversharing, poor judgment, and teasing — were no more accepted than they are today. The difference is that we may have had to endure a few weeks of teasing or we would apologize and move forward, but eventually the incident was forgotten.

Since the advent of smartphones the idea that anything will be forgotten is, unfortunately, laughable. Everything you do, share, and say can (and most likely will) be recorded or screenshot. You can delete it, but as I’ve mentioned, nothing is ever really gone. And certainly other teens delight in taking screenshots that will be passed around.

Apps To Help You Help Them

In September I was fortunate enough to visit with the AVG team about the strides they’re making to help parents and teens protect themselves online. AVG has two particulary useful apps to help you set online expectations and boundaries for your children (whether they’re teens yet or not). I’ve listed them below and taken the descriptions directly from the iTunes store so as not to distort what you’ll get from the apps.

5 Ways to Manage Your Teen's Technology -- AVG Family Safety AppAVG Family Safety

A free, secure, family-friendly web browser, which helps protect your children from inappropriate websites, while also keeping your whole family safe from scam, fraud, phishing, and potentially malicious online content. This app includes AVG’s Do Not Track to help you identify sites that are collecting data on your and your online habits.

5 Ways to Manage Your Teen's Technology -- AVG Privacy Fix AppAVG Privacy Fix

AVG Privacy Fix is the simple way to manage your online privacy — one dashboard that shows you quickly and easily what you’re sharing on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn and with one simple click, take you to settings where you can fix it. Get alerted to privacy risks as you visit sites and know when policies change, and control website tracking.

I’ve been using Privacy Fix since September. It’s installed on each phone in the house and we check our status every month. The first time you use it, you’ll be surprised at all the applications you’ve allowed to have access to your profiles! It’s a bit of work to get everything disconnected, but it’s worth it. And once that’s done, you can just maintain those settings by checking every few weeks and cleaning up as needed.

How are you talking with your teens about technology? Do you monitor their accounts or give them more autonomy? Tell me in the comments! I’m interested in how different families handle this situation.

AVG Technologies provides products and solutions that protect you from malware and data loss. AVG sent me a copy of One Parent to Another — Managing Technology and Your Teen and asked me to review it. I felt it was very relevant to you, my audience, and agreed. I was not paid to write or share this post.

Why Your Brand Needs to Hire a Community Manager Now

Why Your Brand Needs to Hire a Community Manager NowIf you’re looking to use social media to grow your brand’s presence you have probably heard of online community management, but you may not be sure if you need to hire a community manager for your business. After all, you take care of updating your Facebook page and Twitter account, what else do you really need?

A common misconception is that community managers do little more than Tweet out links for the brand. If this is the case for you, please join me now as I take a look at what community managers really do, and how they benefit the brand.

Community Management isn’t Just Twitter

If someone is trying to sell you on the idea of hiring him to manage a Twitter account, he’s not a community manager. He’s a person who tweets on behalf of others. Community management is a strategic role more than anything else. Most community managers work closely with the marketing team, content team, advertising team and PR team to plan campaigns and drive sales. Your community manager will help you to:

  • Grow your fan and follower base. I don’t care what anyone tells you, very few brands start a Facebook page or create a Twitter presence and have one million fans overnight. Very few brands even reach tens of thousands of fans. Growing your numbers and keeping your community interested is something a community manager is trained to do. If you want your numbers to seriously grow, you’ll need to call in a professional.
  • Understand who it is who makes up your community. No one knows the people using your brand better than your community manager. He is the one who talks to them every day, researches their demographics and deconstructs their feedback.
  • Plan an editorial calendar for your social media accounts. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instragram, the newsletter, and any other platform your brand uses to produce content also takes careful planning. The last thing you want is to share the same message across all social networks. Your community manager will roll out a strategy for best reaching each individual community.
  • Determine and implement the content that works best for your community. Many community managers help the marketing team with a content strategy if no content team is in place.
  • Create brand awareness. A heavy online presence means better brand awareness. When people see your brand name often they’ll feel as if they can trust it, even if your product or service isn’t something they used before. Brand recognition means when a community member or potential customer needed a product or service similar to yours, they’ll at least look into what you have to offer because your name is familiar to them.
  • Analyze numbers and demographics. Your community manager will provide deep analysis and demographics for all your social media platforms, and help you to use what you learned to best reach the people in your community (and attract new community members).

The above is a small sampling of a community manager’s tasks. It’s a full time job, one that takes careful planning and implementation. It’s not Twitter and it’s not Facebook, but both are incorporated into the bigger picture.

Your Customers Will Appreciate Knowing One Person They Can Trust

When you have a regular community manager who is someone people can count on, she’ll be the go-to person for questions, feedback, complaints and concerns. He or she will also be the face and voice of the brand. Your customers and community members will feel more secure knowing there is someone online who has their back. When people trust the brand they not only use the brand, they recommend it to others as well. Which brings us to…

“Community” Can Be Another Word for “Brand Advocate”

Customers buy. That’s great, but very few customers become so enamored of the brand that they rave about it online or to their friends and family. However, if you grow an awesome community online, you also help to create passionate brand advocates. Because you’re giving folks an outlet to discuss the brand, giving them a place to offer feedback, and having a regular conversation with them, the folks who are using your product or service become more than customers, they become community. When that happens, they spend more time online with your brand and share news and information about your brand with others.

A Social Media Account Doesn’t Guarantee a Personal Connection

Not to keep harping on this trust thing, but establishing a personal connection makes a big difference. Having a Twitter account doesn’t mean you made a personal connection with your community. It simply means you have a Twitter account. It’s the person behind the accounts that turns a Tweet into an engaging conversation. You won’t establish community by randomly tweeting out sales come ons or blog posts, and you certainly won’t establish community if no one is responding to people who are reaching out to you online. Having a regular presence, someone your community knows by name, makes all the difference in the world.

Community Managers Work Offline Too

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