There is nothing more important to every household than the protection and security of the family within. One threat that you cannot forget about is already inside your home, in the form of electronic devices and the internet. If you are not careful, improper use of the internet could lead to cyberbullying, cyber breaches, and identity theft.
However, just because these threats exist doesn’t mean that you can’t be thoroughly protected with proactive measures. Parents must watch what their kids do while also remaining security-minded themselves, and with a few simple steps, you can explore the online landscape without worry.
Monitor Your Children
Although you want to trust your children and allow them time to explore new things on the internet, there are still many threats looming, so parents should make it a point to stay abreast of what their children are doing online. It is always a smart idea to set time limits for how long they should be online and when they can be online. You might also install website monitoring software or at least block the sites that you don’t want them to visit.
Unfortunately, bullying has evolved along with technology, and cyberbullying is surprisingly common among kids and teens. Again, it all comes down to awareness. Cyberbullying can come in many forms, from repeated harassment to exclude each other from social groups or chat rooms. In most cases, your children won’t come right out and tell you that they are being bullied, so keep a lookout for the signs, including sudden mood changes, becoming withdrawn, and suddenly spending less time on the computer than is typical.
Keep in mind that it is not only kids who attempt to bully and harass online. Adults are just as involved in online harassment and bullying, whether it’s toward strangers or people they know in person. Everyone in the family should be vigilant in how they are spending their time online, and know when to disengage from a situation.
Adults Should Beware As Well
Adults need to be just as careful when going online because a cybersecurity threat to your private information or financials could cause an issue for your whole family. Start with creating complex passwords for everything from your email to your computer login screen. Good passwords have a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
Most people do their banking online, and if you do, security is extra important. If possible, never do your banking out in public, but if you must, be sure to use a secure server that you know and trust. It is also a good idea to choose a bank that uses two-factor authentication, which has you enter your strong password, followed by a second code provided by a device that the bank offers. No matter where you are, always log out of your banking account when you are finished.
Since many people communicate via email, it is crucial that you are aware of phishing scams, which are a common tool for cybercriminals. Basically, they have the appearance of real email, but they are designed in such a way to entice you to click on a link or open an attachment, which gives them access to your computer. From there, they can give you a virus or copy your personal information. Some of the signs of a phishing email include:
- Emails with an address at the top that looks real but is off by a letter or two.
- Emails that ask you to provide private information.
- Emails that have many spelling errors.
- Emails from unknown senders that are designed to cause panic, such as your information being compromised.
Never click on a link or an attachment in an email unless you know it is coming beforehand and that it is secure. Make sure that you have antivirus software installed that is updated regularly so you can catch any foul play before it is too late.
Protecting Yourself When Out and About
In an urban environment, when people are usually out at local establishments from coffee shops to bookstores, many people consider public wifi and wireless internet to be a must. However, hackers love public wifi as well because it gives them easier access to your phone, laptop, or tablet. They use many malicious tactics, including man-in-the-middle attacks that create a fake website that looks just like the real one, except they use it to steal your information. They can even use fake wifi connections that look just like the real deal.
So, when you go into a public establishment, before giving the phone to your kids, verify with the store owner if the wifi you are connecting to is the correct one. You might also want to install a virtual private network on your device, which camouflages your real location, so the hackers aren’t aware of you. When you go on websites, make sure that it says HTTPS before every web address, including sites for kids. The “s” stands for secure, which means that the connection is encrypted.
It is also a good idea to turn off location services, especially on your children’s devices, because those with malintent can use that signal to tell where the phone or tablet is at that moment. In addition, when you have those services turned on, your data is being continuously collected by advertisers and can also be used for identity theft. In one case, geotracking was used to give the location of those protesting after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Many see this as a breach of your basic civil liberties. The point is that in most cases, people outside of your family do not need to know where you or your children are, so stay safe by turning off these services.
The advancement of technology is very exciting, but it also opens loopholes for those who mean to cause trouble. Be smart and proactive about your internet use, and your family will thank you.
Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn't frantically updating his news feeds, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the beach and read detective novels from the 1930s.