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.   

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, one of the social media safety tips 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.

Tech Trends That Will Make the Internet a Safe Place

Tech Trends for Safe Kids Internet

Children nowadays access the Internet daily for school or pastime starting from a very young age. And since they might be too young to understand potential threats and consequences of their actions, parents, educators, and online service providers are obligated to step in and make the Internet a safe place for kids.

If you’re a parent, you already know that keeping children safe in the ‘Internet of Things’ era is an uphill task. However, technological advancement doesn’t only mean more risks or dangers for children online or in an educational setting at school.

Here are some technological trends that are making the Internet a safer place for children.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things or IoT, in short, enables a seamless connection between multiple devices. In a broader sense, everyday devices contain sensors and stream data to and from the Internet.

Ironically, many IoT devices like baby monitors and smart toys have gone from a way to protect children to devices that could put them at significant risk.

Regulatory bodies are continuously making efforts to impose safety standards on manufacturers of such devices and toys. These regulations call for stronger protocols and encryption and more options available in parental controls so that parents can filter out questionable content and the amount or nature of data being collected.

Using apps that sync across devices, parents can access and control many of these devices from a distance. This is greatly beneficial for monitoring which data is being exchanged, through which channels, and ensuring that sensitive data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (or ears). It makes it easy for parents and educators to keep an eye on children’s activities both online and offline.

User and Entity Behavior Analytics

Online parenting forums are awash with hacking incidents where passwords and usernames fall into the wrong hands. Once a hacker gains access to your account or device, they can waltz in and do as they please.

Unfortunately, not all breaches are detected fast enough to prevent damage or data leaks. This is especially problematic if personal data of children are involved.

In the future, such incidents should create less worry for parents, though.

One of the latest advancements in cybersecurity is User Behavior Analytics (UBA). The technology uses data analytics to identify anomalous user behavior and alerts administrators about suspicious activities.

UBA uses machine learning technologies to “learn” about a user’s normal and regular activity pattern. It can then differentiate between a legitimate user’s activity and an attacker who has gained entry by compromising log-in credentials if these activities don’t fit the norm of the legitimate user.

While UBA is still only in the realm of large organizations, its ability to quickly detect and respond to unusual activities in places that children frequently visit makes it a viable solution for minimizing future data breaches and leaks.

Multifactor Authentication

Many applications, websites, and devices use Multifactor Authentication or MFA in short, to improve account security and protect against identity theft. Technically, MFA refers to any system where a user must use at least two authentication forms to access a device, an application, or a website.

If your children use devices or applications, you’ll find MFA handy. Immediately after you log into a device with your username and password, the account server will prompt you to provide a second and independent authentication form.

It’s more or less what happens when bank security asks to see your social security card even though your funds are already secure.

MFA’s concept is that it’s difficult to pretend you’re someone you’re not when you have to prove who you are in different ways repeatedly.

If you’re monitoring how often your child uses a device, MFA will make it hard for your child to use the device even after getting their hands on the device without your approval. Most importantly, it will help keep out those that shouldn’t have access to it in the first place.

AI and ML

AI, along with IoT and other emerging technologies like ML, are continuing to change how we use the Internet. Nearly all modern devices that enter the market are IoT enabled. This includes not only smartphones but also TVs and gaming consoles, as well as almost all Virtual Reality gaming setups.

Together, these technologies are shaping a safer Internet environment for children. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning come complete with advanced language processing abilities. That means that unsafe content can easily be filtered out.

As an example, such technology enables fast image processing that analyses the content of the image and then interferes before a child can see it.

Recently, Instagram updated its filters to remove comments intended to upset or harass its users automatically. The new filter hides negative comments about a person’s character, appearance, and any other content that poses a threat to a user’s physical health and well-being.

Wrap Up

The Internet is an exciting place, but is it really safe? Can you, as a parent, allow your children to use it unsupervised? The answer is probably a resounding no. There are apps available to monitor internet activity in your home and on your child’s phone. 

Online safety is a continuous battle that never ends. Malicious attacks, inappropriate content, and data theft methods continue to evolve along with the technologies intended to prevent them.

So what can a busy parent do? The answer lies in taking advantage of tech trends designed to prevent malicious content from showing up in searches.

Using safe environments such as Safe Search for Kids, YouTube Kids, and implementing all available mechanisms to filter out inappropriate content on devices is a start. Tech progress and trends like some of these mentioned here will contribute to making the Internet a safer place for kids.

About the author:

Ashley WilsonAshley Wilson is a digital nomad and writer for hire, specialized in business and tech topics. In her self-care time, she practices yoga via Youtube. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys trying out new food. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.

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