Sunday, December 8, 2013

Practicing online safety for children

Kaspersky's Lab Research

We keep on hearing how online safety is crucial and how parents should keep their children safe when using the internet, social networking websites and online gaming.
But what is exactly online safety? And why now?
Well, sooner or later you will find that your kids consume more and more media. Whether it’s browsing on the internet, watching YouTube videos, playing with apps or socializing online.
There is plenty of advice out there that will help you better communicate with your kids. And some more advice about how to be prepared towards what you are facing. But from where do you begin?
Like everything—you start from the very basics.
We have gathered for you the best practices on the web from some leading organizations:

1.      Common Sense Media:
·        Visit only age-appropriate sites. Check out the site before your kids visit it. Know what features and what content exist and make sure they’re good for your kids.
·        Search safely. Use safe search settings for young kids or think about applying filtering software to limit inappropriate exposure.
·        Avoid strangers. Tell your kids that people aren’t always who they say they are in cyberspace. Explain that if someone they don’t know talks to them, they shouldn’t respond but should let you know.
·        Be a good cyber citizen! Remind kids that an Internet playground is still a playground and they need to play nicely. A good rule of thumb: If they wouldn’t do something in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. Find out how your children can report mean behavior or unkind content on their favorite sites and teach them how to do it.
·        View your own habits carefully. You are their role models.

2. SMART rules
·        Safe: Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information when you’re chatting or posting online. Personal information includes your email address, phone number and password.
·        Meeting: Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’ permission and even then only when they can be present.
·        Accepting: Accepting emails, Instant Messenger (IM) messages, or opening files, pictures or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems – they may contain viruses or nasty messages!
·        Reliable: Information you find on the internet may not be true, or someone online may be lying about who they are.
·        Tell: Tell your parent or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

3.      Netsmartz:
·        Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
·        Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.
·        Remember that Internet technology can be mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops.
·        Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online.
·        Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social networking, instant messaging, e-mailing, online gaming, and using webcams.
·        Continually dialogue with your children about online safety.

Do you have your own best practices for online safety? Share with us!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do You Know Where Your Child Is (Online)?

**A guest post by Ginger Kadlec** 

"Here Aunt Ginger, let me show you."
...offered my 14-year old nephew who subsequently held my hand and walked me through the ins-and-outs of my new iPhone. Sending texts, organizing photos and downloading apps such as Instagram, Emoji and even Gas Buddy were something he knew all about. Let's face it... kids are "digital natives" and often seem more comfortable using technology than we adults do. While that's helpful as we test drive our new Twitter account, the downside is that children and teens don't always understand how exposed they can be online.
Online predation is real... 1 in 5 children between the ages of 10-17 will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation, predominantly through chat rooms or email. Another 1 in 25 children in that same age range will be asked to meet face-to-face with an online solicitor.
While online teen usage is trending towards Instagram, Twitter or even, for "tweens" (kids ages 10-12) Facebook remains the most popular social media used. While Facebook users are supposed to be at least 13 years old, 85% of tweens admit to having a Facebook account and a similar percentage say they use it daily.
Alarmingly, most tweens (82%) feel completely safe sharing personal information via social media accounts and more than half say they purposefully hide their online activity from their parents. Research also indicates that teens aged 15-17 are most likely to take risks of sharing personal information online or agreeing to make personal contact with someone they met online.

What can parents do to help protect their children in the digital world?
In simple terms, roll up your sleeves and start learning more about the technology your children are using. You can start with these 5 simple steps...
1) Keep computers in a "public" area. Be sure that children only have access to computers in common areas of your home, rather than in unsupervised areas such as their bedrooms. This helps you keep an eye on the activity on their screens.
2) No phone is their own. More than 1/3 of American teenagers have a smartphone. Define a family policy where you as parent can access your child's phone at any time... and then do it! Make it a point to occasionally check emails, texts, tweets and other activity as part of your efforts to be sure your kids are using technology in a safe way. Any and all application passwords must be shared with you (include that provision as part of your family policy).
3) Try it for yourself. I highly recommend having your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Snapchat or other social media accounts that your child may be using. While you don't need to spend hours playing around with these various forms of social media, having some working knowledge of them can only help you protect your child.
4) Check out "Webwise". A great resource to learn more about social media is Webwise, a site tailored to parents and teachers which profiles all kinds of social media and apps teens and tweens are using. I will also highlight some social media facts in future blogs that I hope will be helpful to you.
5) Install monitoring software. There are all kinds of monitoring software you can install on your computer, tablets and smartphones that will alert you to the online activity of your child. Keep in mind... monitoring really needs to be done without your child's knowledge. If your child knows their online activity is being monitored, they may find a workaround (i.e., go to a friend's house to use the computer, etc.) and it will defeat your purpose. A police officer I know cited a story where a father installed monitoring software and saw that his child was calling him all kinds of names in emails to his friends. The officer reminded the father to keep quiet and not "blow the mission" by busting his kid. As hard as it may be, don't pick on little things your kids are doing online... only address issues of safety as they present themselves. A couple of monitoring software programs I've heard good things about are SpyAgent and Spector Pro. There are a variety of other programs that have received solid reviews, too.
So, hang in there and do your best to have a working knowledge of the social media your kids are using. Your entire family will benefit from it.

About Ginger
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at or find her on Facebook at