Let’s face it; today’s kids are more connected than ever before. In fact, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children between the ages of 8-18 spend more than 7 ½ hours a day with those electronic devices, not including the hour and a half they spend texting, or the small amount (30 min) they actually talk on the cell phone.
And these kids are truly digital natives. To them, online access is ubiquitous and expected. Internet access is everywhere and like oxygen – they rely on it, crave it. Whether they tweet, text, update statuses, post pictures, chat and video chat, kids are using their devices to connect, to explore, to share, and yes, to learn. In fact, a new study has shown that users of social networking sites (SNS) such as Twitter and Facebook, are better off socially, are more trusting of other people and are more civically engaged. Even in classrooms today, teachers have found that using technology has increased their student’s motivation, provided new outlets for student’s creativity, and helped the teachers become better organized. (Read more)
Nevertheless, as with any tool, it can be used ineffectively and for harm, rather than for good. Understanding what you need to do to keep your children, your family and your information safe is key. And that’s the mission of the National Cyber Security Alliance (www.staysafeonline.org); to help individuals and families, businesses and organizations stay safe online.
So, in the spirit of June being National Internet Safety Month, here are some tips and resources to help you on the road to safer surfing:
1. STOP. THINK. CONNECT. This should be your mantra. Think of it like “stop, drop and roll” as we learned from our firefighters; in this case it’s a quick way for you to be aware of where you are “clicking” while surfing the web.
Also check out the website at: http://stopthinkconnect.org with more tips and advice.
2. Keep your software up-to-date. That seems like a “no-brainer” – but it’s critical to the security of your devices and can protect you against viruses and other online threats. Automate it, if you can. And make sure you have anti-virus software installed.
3. Don’t make it easy for people to steal your stuff. You wouldn’t leave your door open at home, so don’t do it online. Don’t use the same password for your email account, Facebook, shopping sites, etc. Choose STRONG passwords that include a number, a capital letter and special symbol. There are tools to help you remember those – like 1Password, LastPass and others.
4. Teach your children well. As Crosby, Stills and Nash sang, you can guide and nurture them, and help them to be good digital citizens. Remind your children that posting content ONLINE means they are posting it forever and never say something over a text, on a Facebook “wall” or tweet, that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Walk through their privacy settings on SNS, keep the home computer in an open shared space, and speak to them of the dangers of Cyberbullying. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, 32% of all teens claim to have been bullied online. Let’s all vow to not to lose another child to suicide from the impact of cyber bullying. (In fact, across the country, there are now 44 states with laws on the books concerning bullying, and cyber bullying.)
5. Be Aware and Engage. Talk to your children about the Internet; about threats, what to share and not share online, provide them with the critical skills necessary to identify safe websites, from risky ones, and how to avoid downloading malicious software. (“No, honey, you didn’t win an iPad, trust me.”) Teachable moments happen every day – and the conversation should be easy and open. Talk to their school and work with their teachers. A recent study found that K-12 schools feel ill prepared to educate students on cyber ethics, cyber safety and cyber security. You can help by letting your schools know that these are important skills needed to build our 21st Century –ready students. Check out Facebook for Educators Guide, Facebook page and website – there are great ideas there for everyone to use.
Your investment in time and energy will pay off in great cyber security dividends, and could protect you against identity theft, or other malicious activities. Be cyber safe!
For additional resources check out:
- www.staysafeonline.org (NCSA)
- Kids and Tween Cybersafety (Cisco page)
- Microsoft Safety and Security Page
- CyberSmart! Curriculum
- OnGuard Online (FTC)