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Guidry: Evaluate Internet safety for the school season

Triona Guidry
Triona Guidry

It’s back-to-school season, and a great time to reevaluate your family’s internet safety strategy.

Home internet safety starts with the basics. Everyone in the family should use strong passwords that are unique for every account and every site. Password management apps make it easy to keep track. Teach your children how to use password managers, and remind them never to share or re-use passwords.

Check your computer’s antivirus software to make sure it is updated and functioning properly. Also check for updates for your computers, tablets and phones. There have been a number of recent updates for Apple iPads and iPhones as well as Android devices lately, plus some critical patches for Mac and Windows.

Protect your home network by using strong passwords, updating router firmware and disabling remote access.

Are you concerned about the amount of time your child spends looking at a screen? You can limit screen time on Windows and Mac computers by using the built-in parental controls. You also can set content filters, disable app store access and minimize access to settings. Third-party parental controls give you more options, including the ability to obtain detailed activity logs.

I strongly advise that you keep any device with a camera out of your child’s bedroom. Put tape over camera lenses except when they are in use. Sexting is a real danger to children and teens. Talk with your kids about the risks of sexting and how quickly even supposedly “private” photos can proliferate online.

Secure smart home cameras by changing default passwords and changing settings where appropriate. There are malicious websites out there dedicated to streaming content from insecure home cameras.

If cyberbullying is a concern, encourage your kids to tell you about anything they see on the internet that makes them uncomfortable. Remind victims of cyberbullying that it is not their fault. You can use parental control software to monitor your kids’ social media use. Taking breaks from social media is a wise strategy to avoid the 24/7 deluge of the internet. Stopbullying.gov has a great deal of information that can help with cyberbullying.

How often do you ask your kids about what they do online? Familiarize yourself with the YouTube channels and social media accounts they follow. Know which video games they play, and monitor what happens in multiplayer sessions.

Parents are sometimes surprised to find out that their kids behave much differently online than they do around family members. Keeping computers and video game consoles in public areas such as the living room makes it easier to understand what your kids do online.

It’s never too early to teach your kids about internet safety.

Explain why you’ve established these rules and offer them the opportunity to discuss age-appropriate limits and content. Even young children can learn the basics. By establishing a foundation from the start, you can raise your kids to be savvy internet users.

For more resources on family internet safety, see my Tech Tips blog (click keyword “kids” on the right side), including links to “online safety pledges” you can use as talking points with kids of all ages.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer. Her Tech Tips blog at lightningtechsupport.com offers help and advice for Windows and Mac users.

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