Safer Internet Day – Online safety tips for families

Today is Safer Internet Day and is an opportunity for parents to reflect on the changes that are affecting the way we live with technologies and the growing dangers attached to that. The Internet touches our lives every day: we email to stay connected, share photos and videos, pay bills, and shop online, but sometimes these very experiences put us at risk. From toddlers playing with tablets to tweens on social networks – the generational gap of internet knowledge and access between older siblings and younger children is huge – let alone the parents trying to make sense of it all. Baby Boy Child Childhood Computer Concept

I have looked into current trends and suggestions on the market and some of the most worrying stats come from the annual consumer online safety behaviour research (across 20 countries / regions and over 10,000 people) published today by Microsoft. The survey reveals that:

• 5% of people surveyed reported being a victim of a phishing attack with an average loss of £100; this is quite common, in fact I have been a victim myself of this crime and I can tell you that it is quite stressful to get over it;

• 2% said their professional reputation had been compromised with an average loss of £100;

• 3% said they had suffered I.D. theft with an average loss of £100.

• Yet, despite such losses, only 34% percent said they limit what strangers see on social networks and the amount of personal information that appears online.

• Similarly, only 30% percent admit to changing their social network privacy settings, 33% use a PIN (personal identification number) or password to lock their mobile devices, and 39% use a secured wireless network when engaging online.

Worryingly, safety behaviour is not improving year on year.

trend micro girl safe on internet

Parents who use the internet and allow kids to also use it can help better protect their online activities by downloading information from the most authoritative sites on this subject that provide a range of hints, tips and guidance such as the Microsoft guide to be safer online as well as the Yahoo Safety Kit.

Here are a few online safety tips for families summarised from the various websites and resources:

1) Help guard your devices and online accounts: Secure your personal details first of all. Use a unique four-digit PIN for mobile devices and strong passwords for online accounts. Privacy settings vary between sites, can be different on PC and mobile and change over time.

2) Be a role model for your kids: Show your children what type of content you share on social media networks from the various devices and explain that it is important to only share quality content. Whatever their age this is a concept they will understand.

3) Perform sensitive transactions over secured networks. This includes paying bills, banking or shopping. Don’t share personal account information over “borrowed” or public Wi-Fi connections.

4) Don’t share if you want to keep it private! Always remember not to post content that you may regret having shared ‘publicly’ including images of your children. Do you know that Facebook owns all the pictures we post onto their network? So do all the other social media networks. With this in mind, try to be more cautious about sharing. To help protect your social circles you can use privacy settings to manage the information you share and with whom you share it. Be selective about what you post and accepting friends. It is so obvious but still who doesn’t occasionally fall into the trap of sharing and accept new unknown ‘friends’? The social media make it too easy to do it so it is not entirely our faults.


With regards to Facebook privacy in particular there’s a new application available called AVG PrivacyFix, the first privacy application that uses Facebook’s ‘social graph’ to make Facebook a more secure and private place for families to share information. Not surprisingly, in a recent survey 58% of parents admitted that they felt uncomfortable about their children sharing personal information online and this app goes some way towards giving parents the guidance they need to make better privacy decisions – for them and their children – on Facebook.

5) Take charge of your online reputation. Discover what information about you is on the Internet, periodically re-evaluate it, and remove unwanted or inaccurate content to cultivate an accurate, positive reputation.

6) Talk openly to your kids about the risks of the internet. Check the video I produced a few years ago while I explained the the 5 years old son about online safety. You don’t need to be a safety engineer to explain these things to the children.

One of my favourite books on children’s online safety is a new parent’s guide written by AVG Technologies’ senior security evangelist and father, Tony Anscombe called ‘From One Parent to Another‘ available to download (free of charge) here (click the link).

Key chapters include:

· Cyberbullying – Understanding, identifying and dealing with cyberbullying

· Everyone on their best behaviour – Best practices for children and parents

· Parental controls – Managing a child-friendly web: what to control and why

If you are not a bookworm then check these videos of myself and Tony together with other bloggers discussing online safety tips for families.

Here is the first Discussion video: Do parents share too much? The idea of having a digital footprint was a key concept in our Digital Diaries research.

Discussion on Online safety tips for families: What do parents do to protect their kids online?
When it comes to looking after our kids online, how do we balance the need for monitoring, educating.

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