Safer Internet Day: Making the web better for kids

While kids Australia wide drag their reluctant feet back to school for 2016, you can almost hear the sigh of relief from frazzled parents as the shiny tech devices that pepper their bank statements are bundled into backpacks.

But as your child unpacks their assorted e-things in the classroom, it’s important for parents to both appreciate the educational value of these devices, but to be mindful of the security risks too. 

Safer Internet Day
is back for 2016, encouraging people around the world to ”Play your part for a better Internet.” So as you prepare to ramp up your digital security, here are a few tips to help your family stay safe online.

Water Tight Passwords

It’s been said that you should treat your password like your toothbrush- change it regularly, and don’t share it around.

A recent Pew Internet study revealed that passwords have become the currency of friendship with the teenage crowd, with one in five admitting to sharing their credentials with their besties.

While a private password isn’t the silver bullet for online peace of mind, it’s certainly a good start. To avoid any headaches:

  • Request the log on credentials for all the apps your child uses, and seal these details in an old fashioned piggy bank. This "escrow" system of trust will give older kids the privacy that they crave, and allow you the peace of mind that can you access their accounts, in case of emergency.

  • Enable Two-Factor Authorisation (2FA) on your accounts.  2FA provides an extra layer of security by combining something you remember (like a password) with something you have in your possession (like a text to your phone.) Only after you enter both parts (password + unique code) can you access your account.) The usual suspects have 2FA functionality already (think Google, Apple, Paypal, and Facebook) but you’ll find an exhaustive list here

  • Can’t remember what you had for lunch today, let alone keep track of a barrage of unique passwords? You’re not alone. Consider a free password management tool like ‘LastPass’  (recommended as the current ‘best in show’ in APC Magazine) that will do the remembering for you, while keeping you in the loop about major data breaches and potentially compromised accounts. Convenience too good to ‘pass’ up. (Sorry!) 

You can easily manage what you share to your social networks (eg: Facebook) using privacy settings.  

Getting smarter with your personal data

In the age of social sharing, it’s Canada’s privacy watchdog to the rescue with the launch of House Rules, a new interactive tool that helps parents manage the growing risks their children face online. 

Simply check the boxes relating to your child’s online activities (play games / share photos / download apps etc..) and it will spit out suggestions for rules to police these activities at home.

Print and sign these rules, and you’ve got yourself a family Internet contract faster than you can say your mother’s maiden name. To set a good example online: 

  • Click on the padlock in the upper blue bar of your Facebook profile (on desktop), and select ‘Who can see my stuff?’ Scroll down to ‘What do other people see on my timeline?’ to get an idea of what strangers can see on your Facebook page. Once you’ve sussed out anything you’d like to lock down, you can easily switch this content to ‘Friends only’ by heading to ‘See more settings’ and ‘Limit past posts.’ On mobile devices, tap on the More option on your profile, select 'View Privacy Shortcuts' and follow directions.

  • Hit the cog button on your Instagram account and toggle the ‘Private Account’ button to lock down your happy snaps to approved contacts only.

    While you’re at it, double check your linked accounts (a private Instagram isn’t so secret when it’s sharing publicly to Facebook or Twitter without you realising.)

    Remember that Facebook loves to reinvent privacy settings, so while this advice is current as of today, tomorrow may be a different story! 

  • Your web browser knows all your secrets and will busily track and share that information behind the scenes. Take advantage of private mode and your browser won’t save cookies, searches, or history.

    If you’re using Google’s Chrome, check out ‘New incognito window’, in Firefox, fire up ‘New Private Window’. If you’re using Internet Explorer, it's the 'InPrivate Browsing’ that you're looking for.

    Remember that it’s difficult to be completely invisible online - your ISP can still see where you’ve been, and the sites you visit will continue to see your IP address.

    Also bear in mind that privacy is a double edged sword - installing this feature on your child’s devices will also make them ingognito from you!

Remind your child that Kid’s Help Line is just a phone call away if they don’t want to confide in you personally (and reinforce that’s totally okay.)

When things go wrong

I’m often relieved that my unpredictable teen angst didn’t come with a ‘post’ button.

Often our kids will act without fully thinking through the consequences, leaving a digital paper trail that is hard to remove. 

Remind your kids that ‘what goes online, stays online’ and to stop and think before posting that nasty comment, or sending that Snapchat.

According to the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner, research shows that one in five Australian children aged 12 to 17 have been the target of cyberbullying in the past year; if you’re having issues online:

  • The Children’s e-Safety Commissioner is your first port of call to help you get serious cyberbullying material removed from social media services. You can also visit https://esafety.gov.au/ to report offensive (or possibly illegal) content that you may encounter online. 

  • Delete delete delete! Trawl through social media and delete any questionable content. If that content lives on a webpage you can’t control, ask the webmaster of that site to remove the post. If your private information is being indexed in search engine results, the Remove information from Google tool may help. 

  • Remembering that we’ve all made mistakes, remind your child that Kid’s Help Line is just a phone call away if they don’t want to confide in you personally (and reinforce that’s totally okay.)

So that’s a wrap for now. Stay stuned for more advice on how to ‘be smart and play your part,’ or join Twitter conversation at #SID2016.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a new toothbrush!