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?
- home phones
- DVD players
- gaming consoles
- 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.
AVG 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.
AVG 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.