By Liz Krause
When it comes to the internet, gone are the days when parents know more than the kids – or so it seems. The fact of the matter is, although a child may know how to use the internet faster and quicker, it is the parents’ responsibility to protect them from the dark side of the web.
With an endless supply of information and entertainment, a single user often visits hundreds or thousands of new sites every year. The number of websites is growing exponentially, and the use of the web has found more uses than just retrieving data.
Today the internet is used to locate local businesses, place orders for dinner, it can be used as a home’s phone service, and it is even used to find the love of your life. Unfortunately, the internet is not as safe and rosy as one would like to imagine – especially for kids. With online bullying, prowling child predators and identity thieves, it doesn’t take much to break through into the privacy of your own home and family once the front door is opened.
This article will address some helpful tips to help protect not only your assets and private data stored on the computer, but also your own children.
First, protect the computer itself from prying eyes.
Home users can divide Internet security into seven categories. Each category is a separate step users can take to secure themselves and their computers while on the Internet.
- Anti-virus software
- Clear private data
- Secure wireless network
- Strong passwords
- Limit sites
- Update operating system and browser
Anti-Virus And Firewalls
These two often go together with many anti-virus programs which also include a built-in firewall. Operating systems such as Windows also have a built-in firewall which can be turned off or turned on. The purpose of these two Internet security measures is to prevent viruses or hackers from gaining access to your computer to begin with.
Should a virus make its way onto your system, anti-virus programs provide an extra level of protection by alerting you to the problem and guiding you on how to remove the virus. Whether you use free or paid software, every computer should have both anti-virus software and a firewall.
Clear Private Data
Many browsers store usernames and passwords for filling in forms easily. Storing your passwords on your computer is about as secure as sending a mass email out to a bunch of strangers containing your password and every site you visit. Always clear your auto-fill information, temporary Internet files, cookies and browsing history after each session. For a more secure home environment, turn off the auto-fill for passwords.
Secure Wireless Network
If you have a wireless network in your home, always set up a network security key with WPA or WEP encryption. This prevents outside users from accessing your wireless network. If you do not know how to do this, either call the support line for your router, or contact a local technician.
Strong passwords are an essential part of Internet security for the home. An easy password lets a hacker quickly access your email, shopping sites, banking information and more. The stronger your password, the less likely you are to have your identity stolen while online.
Passwords should be a combination of letters, both upper and lower case, and numbers. If allowed, use a symbol or two, such as % or $. One example of a strong password is taking “cutekitten” and turning it into “CuT3k1tt3N”. Keep your password stored someone other than your computer.
Though this one may seem obvious, many users never think twice about visiting as many sites as possible. Whether a link seems suspicious or reputable, they click out of curiosity. Instead, limit your Internet use to sites you trust or need. There are a few ways to tell a trusted site from a possible suspicious site.
- Numerous pop-ups
- HTTPS does not appear in the address bar when asked to enter personal information
- Jumbled information which is hard to read
- Numerous download links to non-related files
- Pornographic material or ads
- More ads on page than actual information
- Easy to read layout
- Reasonable mix of ads and material (ads do not outshine material)
- Any ads are related to the site’s content
- Secure HTTPS symbol when logging in to enter personal information
- No unrelated pop-ups
Update Operating System and Browser
Most operating systems release regular security updates and patches to keep your system as secure as possible. Always download and install these updates. You do not have to upgrade your operating system. The same thing applies to your browser. Updates and even upgrades are freely available to keep your system secure while on the Internet.
Lastly, educate your children
If you have a very young child, it will not be long until they start asking if the can use the web, get a Facebook account or even play online games. Decide at what age they can start exploring the computer and what features they are allowed to access.
For example, if they want a Facebook account to interact with friends, but you feel they are too young, set up a joint account. Perhaps a family account – or set it up so you are the admin and can keep an eye on what is going on.
Setup a Location
What a young child does behind closed doors is not always what they would do if they had a parent in the same room. Therefore, having a computer in an open central location in the house, rather than in their bedroom is a good idea. Here, the child can do research for school, keep in touch with friends via email, or other means – but all under the watchful eyes of…you.
Setting up specific times when a child can use the computer is a sure way of preventing late night chats and surfing to take advantage of a child’s innocent curiosity. In addition, without these time frames, it becomes very easy for a child to spend hours away from the family – this can also apply to adults. Instead, during the times when the computer is “off limits” choose to do things together as a family and work on building better interpersonal relationships.
Start your kids with a family email address. Once they have their own personal account – choose a provider which has easy web based email like gmail. This allows you to go online and check your child’s email account should you be concerned of any odd behavior.
No matter how far you decide to take internet security, it is important to teach your children of all the risks – from an interpersonal level to a technical level. The more your child knows the better you and your family will be, and in the end as future years come and go – it may be your child teaching you about new security threats and dangers.
This article was contributed by Liz Krause, a writer for a telecommunications company providing encrypted SIP for Microsoft Lync platforms and other phone systems. Having had her personal computer hacked in the past, she believes internet security awareness is critical not only in business but in the home as well.