Category Archives: Child Safety Internet

Tips For Using Instant Messenger Applications Safely

imageIn a recent Symantec survey, which questioned computer users on the most likely routes cybercriminals use to drop malware on unsuspecting users, one resultant statistic made me sit up a little straighter. Just 3.9% of survey participants believed that Instant Messenger applications had a role in malware distribution.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), I was more than a little surprised at this unrealistic response.

We’ve talked about IM security a number of times here, but this recent statistics indicates, a quick refresher might be in order.

The reality is, from a security perspective Instant Messaging applications can present considerable security risks. Security breakdowns can occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases, entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware and scams.

Just a few days ago, for example, a Trend Micro analyst discovered an IM variant of the “Solve the IQ test”. Had he followed the instructions, he could have let himself in for a series of monthly charges of $9.99–$19.99 a month, automatically added to his cell phone bill.

Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications, are extremely popular with users who want real-time contact with each other and (no surprise here), this makes them the perfect vehicle for cyber criminals.

Hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of virus, Trojan, or spy ware within an infected file, and the use of “socially engineered” text with a web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL which connects to a website that downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans then typically propagate, by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.

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The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

Don’t click on links, or download files from unknown sources. You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links, or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files, or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links, or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords, and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Protect personal and confidential information when using IM. Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, can make you an easy target for Internet predators.

For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Instant Messanger changed Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs.

The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable individuals. The risk is low of course, but……..

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software, Parental Control Bar,  to help you do just that.

Readers with younger children, please read, KidZui – Free, Safe Internet Browsing for Kids, on this site. This guest writer article, by Silki Garg of the Internet Security Blog, provides a comprehensive review of KidZui.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

"Big Brother" isn’t the only one watching you. "Uncle Nasty" is out there prowling the Internet too!

image Widespread publicity, generated by the use of so-called “legitimate” spycam software in the ongoing “Pennsylvania High School Caught Filming Naked Teenage Students In Their Bedrooms”, class action lawsuit, and more recent reports from around the world of stealth webcam-activating malware being used to spy on young girls and boys, should be waving a bright red flag warning about the potential for webcam misuse. But, statistics show that most people pay little, or no, attention.

Average PC users don’t seem too concerned about webcam vulnerability, or worried by the fact, that some lowlife grub could be watching them as they read this page.

“It can never happen to me because I have the free version of AV-Poopscan installed” … right ?

WRONG!

“No LED / No Warning” Trojans, that switch on your webcam by stealth, were once a closely guarded secret. So closely guarded, that some “computer security expert” journalists, refused to believe they existed, and filed reports about them in the urban myth basket, along with hardware-destroying viruses, and alligators in the New York sewers.

But the fact is, organized gangs of professional cyber thieves have been using surreptitious webcam activation to steal identities, personal information, banking information, credit card numbers, etc for years. “Uncle Nasty” jumped on the bandwagon when stealth webcam Trojans turned up as free downloads on underground websites, last year.

Their use as “perv cams” has skyrocketed in the past few months, and now, hardly a week goes by without another privacy invasion horror story – some of them involving hundreds of unsuspecting teenage victims.

A few weeks ago, Audrey wrote to me:

Hello Bill,

I think your readers need to know about this. I downloaded the free Zemana Antilogger program you offered last month.

After what happened tonight, saying I’m impressed with it would be the understatement of the 21st century.

My 12 year old daughter uses her laptop in her bedroom (don’t they all?) and earlier tonight she called me in and showed me that Antilogger was blocking her webcam from starting.

When I let it run to see what it would do, someone, or something, activated the webcam without the warning LED lighting up to show that it was switched on.

With a bit of fiddling, I was able to bring the video of me looking at myself to the screen, but there was still no indication that the webcam was running.

I deleted the Antilogger allow rule so whoever or whatever it was is blocked in future, but I’m stunned that someone, or something, could remotely switch on the webcam like that.

They might have been trying to steal credit card numbers, which seems to be quite common these days, but what if it was some sicko pervert?

My daughter gets out of the shower and gets dressed in full view of that webcam. She could have been plastered naked all over YouTube and FaceBook by morning.

This sneaky webcam stuff takes “upskirt” to a whole new level.

That says it all.  Perv cam is the new Upskirt!

Just yesterday, here in Toronto, a pervert was arrested and charged with peeking up women’s skirts with a video camera, in a busy downtown subway station and mall. (Source: Toronto Star)

To protect your kids from “Uncle Nasty”, Zemana is offering Tech Thoughts readers a free 60-day AntiLogger license. Grab it while it’s hot!

Download the program from Zemana, here.

Then, download your free activation key from this special page Zemana has set up especially for Tech Thoughts readers.

This offer will expire at the end of this month. So, grab it while it’s hot!

To read my full review of “Zemana AntiLogger – An Ounce of Prevention”, go here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Software, Software Trial Versions, System Security, trojans, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

The Internet is NOT Childs Play – Internet Tips for Parents

imageIn the last year,  McAfee Inc., the well known provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, released research which indicated that most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.

So, were these mothers concerns justified?

You bet! While it’s true that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience for children, and teenagers, it is virtually impossible for them not to be exposed to,  “the underbelly of the internet”.

One of the more harmful urban myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

I fully understand where this idea of the tech savvy generation comes from – just listen to the mainstream media. The media constantly pontificates on how technically literate today’s young people are. The dichotomy is, these are the same young people whose literacy skills are insufficient to deal with their own education, never mind the complexities the techno world presents.

If you think this is an overstated argument, then consider this: According to a study of more than 19,000 college graduates, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31 percent can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. Without doubt, the world of Internet security is the most complex world I have ever inhabited.

Staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Lacking in appropriate literacy skills makes the job of accumulating that knowledge a difficult undertaking.

It’s no wonder then, that the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

Let me ask you this question – would you drop off your child, or teenager, in a neighborhood where more than half of the buildings were adult stores, and which was potentially full of predators?

In my view, if you allow your child, or younger teenager, to interact with the Internet unsupervised, or without having communicated to your child information concerning potential on-line dangers, this is what you may well be doing.

How much do you know about where your child goes on the Internet?

What social networking sites does your child subscribes to?

Who are their online friends and acquaintances?

What does your child post online and where is it posted?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know.

It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.

Additional study statistics:

Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.

Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.

Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study, reported having done so.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

So what’s a concerned parent to do?

fbi_logo 2

You can bring yourself and your teenager up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.

Then, follow the advice offered by the FBI in the United States, which lists some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your teenagers possible victimization on the Internet.

According to the FBI, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

Parental Control Bar 2

An important aspect of ensuring that your child is safe while using the Internet, (recommended by child safety experts/organizations), is the installation of parental control software.

Parental controls will provide you with the advantage of being able to:

Block access to materials (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.

Permit access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.

Specify what types of materials are appropriate for your child.

Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later.

Set different restrictions for each family member.

Limit results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids

Enforce time limits set by parents.

If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Sexting, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Sexting is NOT Sexy

The iPhone App Store likes to say, that they have “Apps for Everything”. So, while doing some research on iPhone apps a few days ago, I wasn’t at all surprised to see a so called “safe sexting app” called, appropriately enough – “Safe Sexting”.

The application allows users to cover their “naughty bits” using selectable boxes – Small Box, Large Box, Head Box, and as one pundit put it a “teasing semi-transparent Red Silk”.

image

Now, I’m no moralist, since I do subscribe to the French philosophy – Chacun son goû (each to his or her own taste) . But come on here – the use of this application is an invitation to an accident. And there will be accidents.

What kind of a company would develop an application that supposedly takes the sting out of an activity that is generally regarded as unsafe, illegal, and could have lifelong consequences – like a criminal conviction for possessing/distributing child pornography?

If Apple has an ounce of common sense, they will pull this application just as they did with the infamous “Baby Shaker” application. It should be noted however, that it took considerable pressure from child protection groups before Apple relented, and put the boots to this app.

Sexting is an issue that continues to be addressed regularly in the news, and it seems like an appropriate time to repost an earlier article:

Sexting – A Real Problem or An Overreaction?

Sex and the City According to sexologists, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists, a common denominator amongst humans is the degree to which they think of sex.

Apparently, if we’re not thinking about sex, we’re talking about sex. If we’re not talking about sex, we’re engaged in sex. If we’re not engaged in sex, we’re thinking and talking and planning on becoming engaged in sex. Whew – no wonder I’m so tired all the time!

Given that we all seem to have this supposed preoccupation with sex – is it any wonder then that the Internet, and its associated connected devices, have become a common outlet for erotic fantasies.

Sex and tech, it seems, have come together, and that has generated a Pandora’s box of problems and issues that need to be resolved socially, legally, and morally.

One of these  problematic issues, is the issue of sex, tech, and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting.

imageIf you are the parent of a teenager, it would be difficult not to be aware of sexting – the practice of sending suggestive photos and videos via text message.

It’s an issue that has been a focus of attention in the news recently – at least here in North America.

So is teen sexting a real problem, or is it an example of adult hysteria and overreaction?

Consider the following points:

The sad reality is, contrary to the myth that we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation – the majority of teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

Recent survey results released by the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy seem to indicate that teen sexting is a problem, and not just an overreaction.

Survey statistics:

15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages.

71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.

66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.

52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.

40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”

34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”

12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? As a good starting point you should consider pointing your child to Think Before You Post, an online resource from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The following tips are included on this online resource for your teenager to think about.

Caution:

Use webcams or post photos online only with your parents’ and guardians’ knowledge and supervision.

Ask yourself if you would be embarrassed if your friends or family saw the pictures or video you post online. If the answer is yes, then you need to stop.

Be aware of what is in the camera’s field of vision and remember to turn the camera off when it is not in use.

Be careful about posting identity-revealing or sexually provocative photos. Don’t post photos of others — even your friends — without permission from your friends’ parents or guardians. Remember – once such images are posted you give up control of them and you can never get them back.

What to report:

Anyone you don’t know who asks you for personal information, photos or videos.

Unsolicited obscene material from people or companies you don’t know.

Misleading URLs on the Internet that point you to sites containing harmful materials rather than what you were looking for.

Anyone who wants to send you photos or videos containing obscene content of individuals 18 and younger. (The possession, manufacturing, or distributing of child pornography is illegal.)

Online enticement for offline sexual activities. (No one should be making sexual invitations to you online – and it’s an especially serious crime for adults to do it.)

If any of the above happens to you or a friend, tell an adult you trust and report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.

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Filed under Cell Phone Apps, Child Safety Internet, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, social networking, Software, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Avoid Worms – Instant Messaging Tips

image I wrote earlier today about a new worm currently circulating on the Internet, which Panda Security identifies as the MSNWorm.GU.

This worm uses MSN Messenger, and other chat applications, to spread. It infects systems silently, and without any visible symptoms.

Infection occurs when the victim clicks on a download link contained in a message received from a contact. Clicking on the link installs the worm on the target system, and the infection begins.

So, is there anything unusual about this worm; is it just a one off occurrence? Not at all – instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware. In fact, recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use instant messaging applications to spread.

Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable security risks. Security risks increase  substantially when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

image

The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations can make you an easy target for Internet predators. For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however, do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable, or even dangerous individuals.

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.

image

Click here: “Parental Control Bar”

On the whole, the best protection against Instant Messaging threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to guard your security at all times. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on free security software and download those you might find useful.

Click here: “Best Free Security Applications”

For information on how Skype has become open to scamming, read the article Skype says I’m infected with malware … by my tech wizard friend Techpaul.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Communication, Don't Get Hacked, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Panda Security, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Surf Safely This Summer – PandaLabs’ Safe Summer Web Guide

PandaLabs’ Safe Summer Web Guide

pandasecurity_logo Courtesy of Panda Security.

Although most of us like to relax during the summer, computer security is one area in which you should always keep your guard up. Remember, cyber-crooks don’t take holidays.

The summer period often sees people using computers for more leisure-oriented activities than during the rest of the year. The use of services such as chats, online games, software downloads or online stores increases as users have more time on their hands. Children also tend to spend more time in front of the computer during the summer.

Cyber-crooks, however, will try to take advantage of all of this to target new victims. Here is a series of recommendations to help you keep your computer protected this summer:

Pay close attention to your email, as this is a frequently used channel for spreading threats, as well as phishing attacks and other scams distributed in spam. Typically at this time of year, waves of spam emerge offering unrealistically cheap holidays. These messages either surreptitiously ask users to reveal confidential data or prompt them to download information, which is really an infected file. So, needless to say, you should ignore all emails from unknown senders.

Promptly install the latest security patches for your applications. Cyber-crooks frequently launch attacks that exploit security holes in commonly-used programs. Developers are continually making security patches available to resolve the problems detected. If your application doesn’t notify you that these updates are available, you should enter the product’s official page occasionally to check whether any patches need to be installed. It is therefore a good idea to update applications on your computer just before you go on vacation and also when you come back.

Don’t download programs from dubious Internet sites – they could be infected. The summer period also tends to see a rise in the number of downloads people make. Yet it is important to take special care with what you download from the Internet. In particular, you should scan all downloads before running them, as much malware is distributed under the guise of files such as films, series etc. to trick users.

Take care with information you enter on social networks. Make sure you don’t publish details like the day you’ll be going on holiday, especially if details of your address are available on the same social network. – Leave your router switched off. This will prevent other users connecting to your network -possibly with malicious aims- in your absence. For example, someone could connect to your network and download malicious code which could remain on the network until you start your computer and consequently infect it.

Take precautions if you use shared computers. Many of us go to cybercafes when on holiday to read emails, chat with friends, stay in touch on social networks, etc. In this case, you should take a few precautions. Firstly, don’t enable any option that saves passwords on the local computer when you are logging into accounts from public computers. This would obviously allow the next user of the computer to access any of your accounts. Also, make sure the computer you use is not infected. At the first suspicious sign (pop-ups, malfunction…), stop using the computer. Finally, never use shared computers for bank transfers.

Use parental control programs. During the summer vacations, children will no doubt be using the computer more than usual. That’s why it is as important as ever to instruct them on how to use the Internet safely. It’s a good idea to set timetables for using the Internet, keep an eye on them when they are browsing and prevent them from accessing certain pages or content that could be unsuitable for them. Given that parents will not always be around to monitor how children use the Web, it is advisable to install a parental control program, a tool that will help establish which Web pages your children can see, and which they can’t, etc.

Make sure your computer has an up-to-date and active antivirus solution installed. There are free antivirus programs available from the Web, such as Panda Cloud Antivirus.

You can receive the Panda Security news automatically by adding this URL to your feed reader.

For up-to-date computer security news go to the Panda Security Twitter.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Free Security Programs, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Online Spyware/Virus Scanners, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

Where Does Your Child Go On The Internet?

You’re a parent, and you actively participate in your child’s life, right? But how much do you know about where your child (you can substitute – teenager – if appropriate), goes on the Internet?

For example – do you know?

What social networking sites your child subscribes to?

Who their online friends and acquaintances are?

What your child posts online and where it’s posted?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know. Ouch! It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.

Contrast this reality with research completed by McAfee Inc., a well known and respected provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, that indicated most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.

image When I write this type of article I sometimes feel as if I’m like the boy who ‘”cried wolf”, but I can assure – I’m much more like the Dutch boy, in the story, who stuck his finger in the dike.

A more recent McAfee/Harris interactive poll suggests that more than half of teens have talked to a stranger online. Given that it’s becoming more difficult to protect children and teenagers from the dangers on the Internet since there are so many dangers, and these dangers are constantly evolving, this is a chilling statistic.

One of the more harmful myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. Knowing how to text message, or loading a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”.

The fact is, the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety. It’s also true, of course that most adults fall into this same category.

Additional McAfee research statistics:

Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.

Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.

Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study reported having done so.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

According to the FBI in the United States, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

image

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

An additional problematic issues, is the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

If you are concerned about your child’s cell phone usage (most cell phones today are really Internet connected devices), please read “Parental Monitoring and Cellular Phones” by my tech wizard friend TechPaul.

You can bring yourself and your child up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Freeware, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, Software, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools