Safe browsing


Children are, because of easy access to the internet through home computers and smart phones, migrating to the internet much earlier.  It normally starts with innocent free online games, then they join some social networks, get their first internet iPod Touch with internet access and then they take possession of the family computer for homework and projects.  Before you know it, your kids have more social networks than us parents.  What’s even scarier is the fact that they probably know more about these social networks than us, but with less interest in preserving their privacy, which then opens serious security concerns for your kids and for the family.

It’s becoming more and more important that parents have the serious conversation with our kids about online security and best practices.  How many parents have even had this conversation with their kids and how many have helped their kids implementing safer policies on their Facebook account?

For some kids, taking a photo with their smart phone and posting on their Facebook page is fairly innocent.  But some of these photos should not be shared with the World and may actually cause harm to some individuals, especially if these images are circulated among groups making fun of people – hence the term cyber bullying.

When kids start sharing their private moments with a much larger community, e.g. Twitter, then things can spiral out of control.  We’ve all seen and heard the stories of kids who “unknowingly” participated in some sort of cyber bullying, by sharing / forwarding pictures on the social network, only to have devastating impact on the person being bullied.  Another increasingly popular tool is Instagram, which allows the user to take some cool snaps (pictures) and share these with a large variety of social networks.

Even scarier is the fact that there are predators monitoring these social networks, and picking up on kids who may share information about their mood.  These kids unknowingly start to share their personal information with these predators, and might even share images that should never be taken or shared.

We, the parents, have a responsibility to make sure our children know how to interact with these social networks, to protect them and demonstrate good Internet citizenship.  However, this needs to go further, and schools must take on some of this responsibility to and educate our children in how to behave and interact with people on the net.

Organisations also need to take on some of these responsibilities, by securing and educating staff about these security concerns.  The more the message can be shared and reinforced, the more people tend to comply, and they will also be more encouraged to share these security points if they somehow affect their lives too.

Some online surveys carried out by e.g. Trend Micro revealed that 44% of kids have “friends” on Facebook who they have never met in real life.  It’s even more worrying that half of children, who responded to the survey, use the internet mostly on their own, without supervision.  These kids furthermore admit to not telling the truth about bad or inappropriate online experiences they’ve had.

Sharing information online

In Ireland, Microsoft Ireland employees visited 161 primary schools and met with 16,800 students to talk to them about online safety.  As a result, Microsoft has created some tips and guidelines for kids and parents alike to think about and potentially put into practice when using the web

  1. Defend your computer; Install legitimate antivirus and anti-spyware software. Never turn off your firewall. Protect your wireless router with a password. Think before you open email attachments or links.
  2. Protect sensitive personal information; before you enter sensitive data, look for signs that a webpage is secure.  A quick way to spot it is if the URL starts with HTTPS or if users are required to enter username and password.
  3. Use social networks more safely; check out the settings on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to manage security settings. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard.
  4. Create strong passwords; Make your passwords stronger by creating long phrases or sentences that mix capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords and keep them confidential.
  5. Take extra steps to keep kids safer online; Make online safety a family effort, a mix of guidance and monitoring.
  6. Help stop cyber bullying; while blocking individuals is one form of defence, parents should also consider discussing incidents of bullying with their child’s school.
  7. Use location settings carefully; Consider whether or not to allow geo-tagging or to apply location settings selectively so only friends can see. If you have children, Microsoft’s advice is to disable the location setting completely.
  8. Email scams; learn more about identifying and protecting yourself from phishing scams. Test your spam-spotting skills on ilookbothways.com.

As you can see from above list, these apply to both personal and professional users.  To learn more about internet safety, visit the Home for Internet Safety.

We all need to get much better at protecting ourselves and our companies from online security incidents and at the same time educate our children on how to become good digital citizen. The adults are the role models on internet safety, or should be at least, and kids will emulate our internet habits and perhaps even our at times relaxed attitude towards internet security.

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Filed under 2012, Microsoft, Mobility, Security, Social Media

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