I recently did research on cyber law in South Carolina for legal publication, and I interviewed a top mind in cyber security on keeping your family safe. He happens to have both military and civilian, large corporation experience in cyber security. He also happens to be my husband.
There have been a lot of posts circulating about what is and what is not a threat out there. Here’s how parents to all ages can keep their family cyber secure:
1. Do not post nude or partially nude pictures of your child on Facebook
No matter what your privacy settings are and who your friends are, these pictures can end up on pornographic sites without your consent or knowledge. There are so many being added so quickly, you may never know and it is impossible for the FBI to come close to removing them all. Never make the mistake of thinking a photo is too innocent or a child is too young. Always check your security settings, and do not add people you do not know or don’t feel comfortable adding. This happens.
2. Use parental controls
They are on TVs, phones, and tablets. Utilize them.
3. Limit screens and internet for younger children
Too much can become an addiction, and even educational apps can change how the brain processes new information, reducing verbal skills, according to multiple studies. (To avoid in app purchases on games, airplane mode can often be turned on).
4. Educate tweens and preteens on the law and internet safety
Inform them they can be charged with a federal offense for exchanging pictures of underage people, even themselves. Hacking, illegal downloads, etc. are also illegal and can result in having a lifelong ban from certain jobs, scholarships, etc. Did you know smart phones under local law can be computers? Here’s the law.
5. Use good passwords to protect your family
Be sure to avoid websites and links/downloads from strangers or even that look like they are coming from friends but seem out of character. Struggling to find something to use for a new password? Try a part of a number that means something to you but doesn’t have an obvious connection to guess, like your childhood friend’s landline you dialed 100 times or the time of day your kid was born. You could use a favorite book character’s name with the age you first read the book.
6. Have access to your child’s phone and accounts
It is nearly impossible to keep kids off social media; likewise, they will meet friends online. Warn kids not to meet people from the internet in person alone and keep an eye on it. For emergencies, you should always be able to access their phone and accounts. Just following/friending them will not show you anything they try to screen from your view. Also, young adults don’t often talk about being bullied or bullying, but can be seen on their social media and phones.
7. Do not post your location, especially if it is part of your routine or you are out of town
This tells people where you are when. Check in after you leave a place, if you cannot help yourself from posting. Remember, you might trust your friends, but you can trust everyone they might mention it to?
8. Do not share things that identify a child
Requests such as “help us show how fast an image travels” can be dangerous. It takes just moments of searching to locate the class, the town, the school, their name, their likes, the school schedule, etc. These, like locations, are a map to a person that is now all over the internet.
9. Learn how to not just delete or ignore, but to BLOCK numbers and profiles.
Report content, harassment, and threats as needed to social media and when appropriate law enforcement.
10. It’s important that kids know not to give out information in conversation to strangers or assume the information they are given is true.
For example, you might not give your age but answer these questions: Do you have brothers? Older or younger? How old? Do you go to the beach a lot? What sports do you play? School mascot? These questions seem like small talk but can tell me your age and location. Remember, anything someone tells you online might be a lie, even claiming to be someone you DO know.