Category: Online Safety for Kids

Important Safety Tips while Using Public WiFi

Safety Tips while using Public WiFi

You do not have very go far these days to access free public Wi-Fi. It is available in airports, libraries, cafes, hotels and government buildings. This is helpful but it is important for both adults and kids to make sure they do not trade safety and security for convenience. Just because the public building you are in is reputable, does not mean the Wi-Fi connection is secure.

When using your smart phone or computer in a public hotspot, you need to be careful to ensure the Wi-Fi network is encrypted. Otherwise, it opens you up to the risk of having your online accounts hacked. This could result in cyber thieves stealing your personal information.

Here are two basic safety tips to keep in mind to protect your information.  And then we will explore additional ways to stay safe while online in public.

1.  Check to see if the Public Wi-Fi Network is Secure.

As mentioned, we are not worried about the people who control the Wi-Fi network.  The risk is when others around us are in the business of hacking into the personal accounts using the network.  It could be the person sitting across from you in a coffee shop, or just outside on the street. 

If the public Wi-Fi network does not ask you to enter in a WPA or WPA2 password, the network is not secure. As you are probably thinking, this is most places.  The most common public Wi-Fi networks that require a password are internet providers with home you have an account.

2.  Make sure any website you are on has https at the beginning of URL.  

An example of this is https://youraccount.com or https://yourbank.com.  Secure websites will encrypt your information as you use the site.  Unsecured sites do not have the “s” in them, such as http:// (your information is not encrypted and kept safe if you don’t see the “s”)

Unsecured websites will also show a padlock that is unlocked.  Here is an example of what a secured website looks like.  Notice how with website URL with https also has a closed lock.

secure encrypted website

Clicking the lock will reveal more information about the secure site.  Now you can be sure you are on a secured website.

On a mobile website, it will look like this.

secure encrypted mobile website

If you are using a site that is not secure and locked, you open yourself up to hackers that can access your personal accounts and steal your data.  This could mean your name, address, phone number, address book and photos.

Hackers need see you on a public WiFi to be able to monitor our activity, so one sure fire way to to prevent this (regardless of being on an unsecured network) is to encrypt your data by using a trusted VPN. It can be turned on when you wish, such as when you are in public or traveling.

Here are ore ways to protect your personal information when using public Wi-Fi.

  • It is good idea to have different passwords for each of your online accounts. This way if a cyber thief gets a hold of your email and password on one of your accounts, they will be unable to log into other accounts using the same password.
  • Educate yourself on the various ways cyber attacks happen even when you are in the safety of your own home network, such as Phishing, Vishing and SMishing. Hacking through public WiFi is less common than these other methods used.
  • Do not email important information about yourself for any reason.  This includes credit card details, bank account information and your personal government ID number. You should never do this even if a network is secure, not even from home.
  • When accessing accounts in public, whether it is your own computer or a PC in a library, always log out when finished.
  • Take advantage of 2 step verification methods being offered within your personal accounts.  This will add further security because 2 step verification means you cannot log in until you enter a secret code that is sent to you by text or via the Google Authenticator App.

If you are in doubt about the security using any public Wi-Fi network or website, it is best to restrict your activity online to general use, such as searching Google while you are not logged into your Google account.

Do not log into any personal accounts and if you find it necessary to do so, disconnect from Wi-Fi and use your personal cell data.  Even then, it is always important to ensure the websites on your account pages start with https in the URL.  Most major accounts websites are secure, but if you do not see https something may be wrong.

If you are in doubt about the security using any public Wi-Fi network or website, it’s best to restrict your activity online to general use, such as searching Google while you are not logged into your Google account.

Don’t log into any other personal accounts and if you find it necessary to do so, disconnect from Wi-Fi and use your personal cell data.  Even then, it’s always important to ensure the websites on your account pages start with https in the url.  Most major accounts websites are secure, but if you don’t see https something may be wrong.   

How to Activate Free Parental Controls

Free Parental Control Software Apps Guide

When seeking parental controls to keep your family save online, there is a lot of consider. We’ll start with a checklist of all the devices your child may be using that is connected to the Internet.   Then, we’ll explore free parental control software and app solutions to help you cover all the bases.  Many of these options parental control settings built in.

Lets first define the areas we are dealing with, which are contained in this free parental control guide.

Types of Parental Controls

  1. Installable software for computers and lap tops; PC’s with Windows, Mac desktops and lap tops.
  2. Downloadable Apps for mobile devices; iPhones, Andriods, iPads, Kindle Fire, tablets or any device that has an app store.
  3. Parental controls on game consoles or on Internet based video games, either directly online or via software.
  4. Free factory built-in parental controls that may be limited by still usually available on a particular device or a software program or app on that device.  These include Internet browsers, a social media account or app, YouTube.
  5. Parental controls that are controls by an account with a parental log in and password. (Microsoft, Google or Apple Account).

A typical family is facing these challenges:  One child may have a tablet and an iPhone.  Another child may be working on the family computer and use an Andriod.  You may have a Kindle Fire that all the kids share.  Teens will be playing video games, as well as have a lap top and an iPhone or Android phone. These are just the devices.

Places Kids Need Protection

  1. In their bedroom.
  2. At school.
  3. On the playground.
  4. At a friends house.
  5. On the school bus.

Whether at home on a desktop, or in multiple locations on a smart phone, parents need to individually look at each of device their kids are using and be aware of what they are doing on those devices. And whenever you kids leave your home with a lap top, tablet or mobile phone, the internet goes with them.  This greatly increases the need for parental controls

Kids Internet Activity:  Key Points to Consider.

  • Are they searching the Internet through a browser?
  • Are they searching the Internet through a browser app?
  • Are they interacting on social media on a desktop or via an app?
  • Are they playing videos comes online through an Internet browser or software download?
  • Are they playing video games on a gaming console. Is that gaming console connect to the Internet and interacting with other kids?
  • Are they watching YouTube through their main website or via the new YouTube kids app?

Safe Search Kids has prepared a free parental control guide that covers all of your devices, as well as the various platforms your kids are using to access the internet.

Internet Filtering

Probably the most urgent parental control concern to address is Internet search.  How do you kids search the web?  Which browsers are they using?  Simplify things by guiding them to use only one browser so you only have to set up parental controls for that browser.  A safe search engine like Safe Search Kids is a resource that enhances Google’s filtering but you should still have the basic parental controls enabled for when kids may to go search Google.com.

Our free parental control guide goes through these various options.   Keep in mind that the browser on their lap top will have different settings than the browser app on a mobile device.  It’s also important to note that filtering options on a browser are very limited.

Social Media Monitoring

Without software or a parental control app, parents must monitor a child’s social media manually.  However, there is away to restrict app downloads within the app store.  Our guide reviews these options to that kids can’t download apps you do not approve of.  This option doesn’t not work with all devices.  Beyond that, get to know the apps your kids are using.  What social media programs are they using.  SnapchatTikTok?  Facebook?  Discuss which platforms you will allow according to their age.

Privacy Settings

Look at all your devices, apps and accounts your kids are using and ensure all privacy settings are set accordingly.  While parental controls are all about keeping your kids from accessing harmful material online, let’s not forget about protecting them from those who will want to reach them.  This will also help protect your kids from online predators,  as well as malware, viruses and online scams.

Video Games Consoles

If you decide to use a parental control software program or an app that fully monitors your kids activity online, you’re still somewhat on your own when it comes to gaming.  Software solutions will help if the video game is online, but this is not usually the case for gamers in your family that use consoles such as PlayStation and xBox. This issue includes hand held devices like Nintendo Switch.  Fortunately, our free guide includes parental control instructions for 20 different gaming consoles.  These protections come with each game from the factory.

Free Parental Controls vs Paid Subscription Models

Setting up parental controls on each device and each individual website platform or application on that device can be a daunting task.  It takes research and time.  Our parental control guide reveals these free ways to do it without fully automated parental control software, according to each area of concern.  In some cases, such as with privacy settings, setting things manually do the job.  In other cases, such as internet filtering and app usage, you will only achieve the basic levels of protection provided from pre-existing limits that come with the browser.

For social media monitoring and internet blocking of the darkest places on the web, you may want to consider paid parental control options.  These also including monitoring of suspicious texts, Internet searches and geo tracking for when kids are away from home.  If in doubt, start with free options.  This is the reason we created our free parental control guide. At the very least, every parents should have the available basic protection settings in place.  This is a process you can include your kids in, so they are aware of their boundaries when free parental controls are not enough.

Download the Free Guide to setting up Free Parental Controls on your various devices. It also show you free software and free parental control app downloads to help you explore more automated solutions.

Digital Citizenship: An Overview of The 9 Elements

digital citizenship

Being good citizens can mean connecting with others, exercising empathy, and forming friendships. The concept of digital citizenship is quite similar, but it involves using modern devices like computers to form those connections.

With the world spinning toward virtual gatherings and learning more than ever before, it’s never been more important to understand the concept of digital citizenship

Generally, this can be summed up with nine elements and there are a plethora of activities to teach digital citizenship.

Here, we’re providing an overview of those nine tenets to ensure you — and your tech-savvy kids or students — are mindful of how you’re exercising digital citizenship.

1. Digital access

Not everyone can afford modern technology. We should strive to accommodate people with less digital access by providing alternatives to classroom assignments or making required technology available.

2. Digital etiquette

Those who aren’t used to computers may take online feedback personally. Anonymous online profiles can make people feel combative and negative. However, by teaching digital etiquette, we can learn to treat digital interactions the same as real ones.

3. Digital commerce

Digital commerce has become commonplace — people of all ages buy things online. Without knowledge of digital commerce, people’s personal information can be put at risk. Teaching online safety can help us understand how to avoid putting our personal information at risk.

4. Digital rights and responsibilities

Using anonymity to bully people on the internet takes away their right to be safe online. Teaching digital rights and responsibilities means teaching that respecting people online is just as important as respecting them in real life.

5. Digital literacy

Digital literacy involves spreading awareness of these nine elements and helping others treat the internet responsibly. It also teaches people to recognize fake information. Since so many vital social interactions happen online, staying safe and productive now includes understanding the difference between genuine and harmful content.

6. Digital law

The internet may appear abstract, but it has its own laws that everyone must follow. You can break copyright law by uploading someone else’s content or steal someone’s identity by hacking their email. And these crimes are just as severe as their real-life counterparts. We need to know and respect digital law so we can follow it and keep ourselves safe.

7. Digital communication

Everyone with access to the internet has a digital voice that they can use to express themselves. This freedom can tempt people to express anger or spread misinformation. Respectful, productive digital communication requires thinking of these communications professionally, rather than emotionally.

8. Digital health and wellness

Knowing when to unplug from a device or the internet is another element of digital citizenship. Monitoring the amount of time we’re eying screens and also our ergonomic setups all play into our health and wellness.

9. Digital security

Viruses, scams, malware, and other cyber threats exist. Being a digital citizen means understanding best practices for how to avoid them, including how to protect our devices and respond to digital security issues when they do happen.

Downloadable Resources

The nine elements of digital citizenship teach us how to treat each other and how to stay safe online. The internet can be a productive, amazing place where people make new friends, find new jobs, and learn new things.  If we all exercise these nine elements of digital citizenship, that makes for a more positive digital world for everyone.

Norton Digital Citizenship for StudentsHere are some PDF downloads provided by Norton, who has created the following digital citizen resources for students.

Choose the resources that suit the age of your students.

Snapchat Kids | Is Snapchat Safe for Kids?

Snapchat Kids

Snapchat is currently one of the most popular apps used among teens but it’s even higher up the list of popularity when it comes to usage by tweens, kids aged 9 to 12.  This is the case even though the signup age restriction is 13 and it questionable if anyone under 16 should even be using the app. Whatever the case, parental interaction is advised.

Snapchat is based on the ability for users to send pictures and videos instantly to friends with the added twist that those pics and vids will only be seen from 1 to 10 seconds, then disappear.  The user decides how long their followers will be able to view the content.  This feature is what first attracted youngsters. It garners instant attention with friends and also has a chat feature for instant communication.   The problem is the short time limits that an image is available on the app for all to see can also give kids a false sense of security.

When Snapchat first came on the scene it mainly went unnoticed by parents because let’s face it, a few years ago we were not as savvy at keeping up on the latest craze in social media networking apps.  Facebook was king and other social media platforms were not in the forefront people’s minds when it came to protecting kids online.  Today, parents and guardians are more in the loop and aware of the due diligence needed to stay on top of evolving technologies.  We also use apps as much as kids do, just not the same ones.

Before we speak to possible solutions to either block a Snapchat app download or restrict it’s use, let’s look at the current status of Snapchat dangers and pitfalls.

The Dangers of Snapchat

One the attractive things to teens about Snapchat in the early days of the app was that kids were always told that “anything they upload online will be there forever, even after you delete”.  This is still true in many cases.  However, kids need to know that sending an image to all your followers even for just a second doesn’t mean some of those connections will take a screen shot of that image before it disappears.  This results in that seemingly instant photo being in the possession of others for as long as they wish to keep it or share it with others.

The bottom line, Snapchat is not any more dangerous any other app where kids are connected to other kids except that is may embolden users to take greater risks with the images or videos they create and send out into cyberspace.  So, while each parent should decide how old their children should be before they go on Snapchat, an open conversation about online behavior has never been more vital.  Online security and privacy protection may be increasing in the technology but it’s often only as good as a users behavior on that technology.

It’s also important to note that while images may not be readily available online there are ways to recover images from the users computer or phone even after they have be removed from the Snapchat app.  We all need to take a lesson and pass it on to kids.  Digital footprints online and even on our own private computers, the cloud, and on phones stress the importance of being responsible with our pictures and private information.  The lesson to be learned by parents and to be taught to our kids is the same for all online activity online. “Be responsible and don’t do anything that may come back to haunt you later in life”.

Monitoring Snapchat Usage

Like any website, app or anything kids do online, the standard rules apply.  Families need to have educational conversations about what they share online and who they share it with.  Beyond that, the only way to truly have control over your child’s web surfing habits and social media usage including Snapchat, is to install parental controls.  With these controls you can monitor and have a say in all online activity.  This includes setting restrictions at various levels according to the ages of family members, while blocking the worst of the worst content at all times.

Safe Search Kids restricts the all harmful content while searching Google from the top of our website, but it doesn’t prevent users from leaving our website to search elsewhere.

Parental control means you can decide to block all app downloads or only those specific apps you may deem too young for your kids.  After a child has permission to download and use an app, parental control software allows parents to manage and monitor the usage.

It’s not just control over Snapchat, it’s any
social media app
including Tiktok, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, even WhatsAppand the next big social media fad we don’t even know about yet.  New ways to connect with friends will always be attractive to that kids who want to connect with their friends online without parental supervision.  It happened to Facebook when young people left the world’s #1 social media platform for Instagram.  It’s totally natural.  The older kids get the more they want to forge their own identity.  Parents just want the internet savvy and tools to guide kids in a safe and healthy manner as they explore their world online.

Parental Control App

Wondershare has a wonderful (pun intended) parental control app that gives parents complete control within their home and everywhere else a child’s phone may roam.

It’s called FamiSafe and features include:

  • App usage and blocker.
  • Screen time controls.
  • Web content control.
  • Parental alerts.
  • Family locator.
  • Activity reports.
  • Custom settings for each individual family member on multiple devices.

FamiSafe can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android phones, tablets, Kindle Fire.   It’s secure and trustworthy thanks to the Wondershare name, a software company that has been around for years building quality and user friendly programs for multiple purposes.

Learn more and
Download Wondershare FamiSafe
for your individual family devices.

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