Summer may be hard upon us, especially here in the very steamy New York area, but it is not too early to prepare for sending kids back to school. In fact, my daughter will return to College and my son will return to High School in just a month and we just did our back to school shopping. In the 21st century, back to school includes laptops, tablets and software.
In my day, buying school supplies meant stocking up on notepads, binders, slides rules, pens and pencils. I hate to even mention whiteout and white strips, which we used to make corrections to documents produced with an ancient impact printing machine called a typewriter. I still have nightmares about College papers that ended up more whiteout than paper.
Thank God for word processing!
In this age where computers and Internet are part of learning and daily life, here are 10 things a parent can do to protect their kids from harm on the Internet. Here are just a few tips that can make a difference.
- Use parental controls on Windows and Xbox: Microsoft Windows and Xbox provide a rich set of parental controls to block inappropriate web sites. Use them!
- Make sure they use strong passwords: A hacker can crack a 6 letter all lower case password in less than 6 minutes. They should use passwords with 8 or more characters that include upper and lower case, letters and numbers and special characters.
- Make sure they do not reveal personal information in their public user names: Tell them to never use personal information in their public user names, such as their name, age, year of birth and address. Predators may be evil, but they can be very clever. Don’t give them clues to find you.
- Tell them not to talk to strangers online: Parents have long told kids not to talk to strangers. Unfortunately, the anonymity of some Internet communication gives kids a false sense of security when communicating online. Predators troll forums and chat rooms where kids congregate and will entice them to reveal personal information, provide photos and meet up.
- Tell them to assume anything they post on the Internet will be seen by their parents and teachers because it could be: Once you post something online, even if there are privacy setting set, you don’t know who will see it. Your “friends” may share, forward it to others or talk about.
- Prior to High School, kids should not have a computer of their own: Younger kids should be restricted to using a family computer in a public room where there are no secrets. It does not matter what they say their friend’s parents allow. It is too risky to allow children to use the Internet unsupervised.
- Ensure they are using spam email filters: Spam mail is a problem for a number of reasons. The content can be inappropriate and clicking on links in spam email can download malware or take them to a malicious web sites. Make sure as much as possible go to a junk folder.
- Monitor their email and instant messaging for inappropriate content and risky behavior. They are not going to like this one, even more than the computer restriction. However, until they leave for College you have every right. Check their email, Inbox, Sent and Trash folders regularly check their Instant Messaging log file regularly. They may cry foul, but protecting them is more important than their feelings.
- Only allow them to use the Comodo Dragon web browser with PrivDog privacy protection. The Comodo Dragon web browser provides security and privacy protection that no other browser offers. You and your kids should never enter information on web site that is not secured with a security (SSL) certificate and the Dragon will warn of risks. It also comes with PrivDog, a browser extension that will block Internet tracking and other threats to your privacy. It can even block infected web ads that may deliver malware. BTW – You can download it free!
- Make sure those new laptops and other computers have the best Internet Security Most computers come with Windows Antivirus and Windows Firewall preinstalled. It is an extremely poor substitute for the protection you get from third party vendor suites. There are some excellent free antivirus software available. Currently, the top ranked antivirus by Matousec.com is available free from Comodo.
A parent that hands a child a computer and walks away is asking for trouble. If you want to give your kids a Back to School present that truly matters, give them the gift of Internet Security.