Safer Internet Day

Stuart Blodgett- IT Manager

Safer Internet day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and inspire a national conversation.

Children are bombarded with technology more than any generation before them. They have tablets at school, phones and computers at home, and while this is convenient, it is also scary. Figuring out how to give your children access to all of this information while keeping everyone safe is a challenge. Connectsafely.org provides useful information on how to stay safe on the Internet with “The Parent’s Guide to…” Kik, snapchat, Cybersecurity, social media, Instagram, TikTok etc.

Kids are smart, often using technology better than we can! Giving some guidelines will help protect them from online threats and keep their information secure. Children need to learn to not believe everything they see on the internet. Anyone can create a web page and publish inaccurate or false information.

Remind kids to never share personal information such as social security numbers, birth dates or addresses. A child’s identity can have more value than an adults due to the frequency of credit checks. Child identity theft victims are often unaware of the crime until age 18 when they start applying for credit. However, parents can place a freeze on a child’s credit by contacting the 3 credit bureaus.

Using free Wi-Fi in public places like airports and restaurants is very convenient, especially with young children but not very secure. Due to the nature of open wireless networks, it allows for snooping and could be full of compromised machines. To help protect yourself on public Wi-Fi hotspots, make sure that the websites you visit use SSL security (https rather than http).  You might also consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when connected to public networks. The VPN will encrypt your internet traffic to keep you safe from prying eyes. Speedtest by Ookla offers an app for iOS and Android devices that contains a limited use free VPN service.

WI-FI connected devices in your home can also be at risk. Many Wi-Fi enabled devices are manufactured with a default administrator user name and password. If the password on these devices is not changed, it could allow others to connect to and control those devices. Make sure you change the administrator passwords on your devices at home, including video doorbells and alarm systems, and even your Roomba.

Keeping your sensitive information private is one way to protect your family from cyber criminals. Make it a priority to use strong passwords that have both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.  Try to avoid using birthdays, zip codes, pet names or simple words. Coming up with a nonsense phrase that means something to you can sometimes be the best password, i.e. JoeLikesToRun2timesbackward!

Always evaluate emails that you receive for strange attachments or links especially if it is from someone you do not know. You can hover over the link to see if it is taking you where it says it is. Also check the senders email address, often hackers will change one letter to make the email address appear real. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and will likely consume more of our lives as time goes on. Hopefully these tips help you to be more aware of risks that come with it.