Category Archives: Teenager Internet Safety Tips

A Parents’ Facebook Safety Primer

imageThe more things change, the more they remain the same – or so we’ve been told. When I was a teenager, I was pretty typical for the times – I knew everything! On top of that – I was convinced that I was invincible! Pretty standard fare when one is a teenager, I think.

Since those days, back in the “dark ages”, the World has changed dramatically – except perhaps, for teenagers’ views of the World. They still know everything; they’re still invincible.

In my day, this overwhelming self confidence in what I knew, and the faith I had in my invincibility, was essentially harmless – other than the inevitable parental conflict it caused, of course.

But today’s young people face a tougher, harsher “World”, the World of the Internet, in which the “I know everything” frame of mind, can lead to consequence which were unknown to those of my generation.

This “I know everything” perspective, is a major stumbling block which impacts a teenager’s ability to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy, and safety. Particularly the Internet phenomenon – Facebook.

The reality is – staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Little, if any, of this knowledge, is acquired through osmosis.

If you’re a parent, you should know that because your teenager may be more comfortable with technology than you, does not makes your teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make anyone “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where the “I know everything” mindset, can lead to negative consequences.

We know from survey after survey, that teenagers have misplaced confidence in their ability to stay safe online. While the majority of teenagers say they are confident they can remain safe online, survey results continue to show a wide chasm exists between the perception, and the reality.

So, how can you, as a parent, help your teenager acquire the knowledge needed to enhance overall personal security in todays “wild west” Internet environment?

A great place to start is – not only read, but share with your teenager,  a 32 page PDF guidebook for parents’ – A Parents’ Guide to Facebook, released today by Connect Safely, an Internet resource “for parents, teens, educators, advocates – everyone engaged in and interested in the impact of the social Web.”

As well, Connect Safely has a ton of social-media safety tips for teens and parents, the latest youth-tech news, and many other resources.

Visit Connect Safely.org, where you can read this handbook online, or better yet, print out the guide for continued reference.

From the site:

Welcome to our guidebook for parents! It’s designed to help you understand what Facebook is and how to use it safely. With it, you will be better informed and able to communicate with young Facebook users in your life more effectively.

That’s important because 1) if something goes wrong, we want our children to come to us and 2) as the Internet becomes increasingly social and mobile, a parent’s guidance and support are ever more key to young people’s well-being in social media and technology. The guidebook is published in partnership with the iKeepSafe Coalition.

About the Internet Keep Safe Coalition:

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe.org) is an international coalition of more than 100 leaders worldwide with a shared vision of seeing generations of the world’s children grow up safely using technology and the Internet.

Coalition members include policy leaders, industry, public health, child advocacy, law enforcement, and education experts, working together to bring all communities into full digital citizenship.

Internationally, iKeepSafe has outreach programs in Australia, China, Dubai, Nigeria, the UK and US. IKeepSafe is a member of Egypt’s Cyberpeace Initiative with First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, the EastWest Institute’s Cybersecurity initiatives, and the International Telecommunication Union’s Child Online Protection Initiative.

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 FaceBook, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Parenting Help, Social Networks, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Sex (ting) – Who’s Really Doing It? It’s NOT Just Teens!

Sex and the City

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!

According to sexologists, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists, (and other …ists, I’m sure), a common denominator amongst humans is the degree to which they think of sex.

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.

The meshing of sex and tech, has generated a Pandora’s box of problems, and associated 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.

It’s an issue that has been a focus of attention in the news recently (today in fact, on CNN) – at least here in North America.

And, in typical fashion in matters dealing with sexual issues, law enforcement officials, in many areas, have  abandoned common sense and regularly charge teenagers who exchange consensual nude photographs of themselves, with the production, dissemination, and possession of child pornography

So, is this just one more example of “officialdom’s” hysteria, and overreaction on sexually related issues? Or,  is sexting, particularly teen sexting, a real problem that requires the harsh application of punitive measures to eradicate?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy,  weighed in on this issue in a recent survey; a survey which seems to indicate that teen sexting is a problem. You should be aware that additional independent statistics suggest; 28 per cent of parents are sexting fans.

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 boys 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.

Apart from the legal issues, which can have grave lifetimes consequences, teenagers engaging in what they may consider harmless fun, run the risk of having to deal with the outcome of present day “harmless fun” in the future, which could impact their lives in ways not yet considered.

Think Before You Post, an online resource from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, designed specifically for teenagers, should really be a required component of everyone’s online education – not only teenagers.

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

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. Checkout our recent article on web cam safety – “Big Brother” isn’t the only one watching you. “Uncle Nasty” is out there prowling the Internet too!

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.

Recommended parental resources:

Text Ed – The LG Text Ed program will tackle pressing issues such as tween and teen sexting, managing children’s phone usage, the importance of self-esteem in a wireless world, recognizing potentially harmful and hurtful mobile phone behavior, and other concerns facing parents and their children.

Cyber Summer Safety Challenge for Kids & Teens – The Cyber Summer Safety Challenge was developed to get parents, teens and kids to start a dialogue about Internet safety, social networking, online threats and what they can do to protect themselves and their computers.

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 Bill's Rants, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, Privacy, Sexting, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, 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.

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 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

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

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, (the pun is not intended), and that has generated a Pandora’s box of problems and issues that need to be resolved socially, legally, and I suspect for some; 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.

For additional information on teenage cell phone usage, checkout “Parental Monitoring And Cellular Phones” on fellow Blogger TechPaul’s site.

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Filed under cell phone, Child Safety Internet, Digital Media, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, Privacy, Sexting, Teenager Internet Safety Tips

Instant Messenger Clients – How Safe?

Fellow Blogger TechPaul, has advised his readers this morning, that chat messages are scaring users into installing malware in his article – Skype Phishing Returns. If you use Skype chat, or for that matter any other chat application, you need to be aware of this information.

This presents an opportunity to re-run a popular article previously posted on this site, setting out the precaution we all need to take when using any type of chat client.

instant messanger 2

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.

But, and there always seems to be a “but” lately – from a security perspective these applications can present considerable security risks. Generally, security risks occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware.

As Wikipedia explains it, 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 that connects him or her, to a website that then downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans typically propagate by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.

Follow these tips to ensure you are protected when using instant messaging.

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, or even dangerous 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.

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

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Instant Messaging – Tips You Need to Know

instant messanger 1 I’m always amazed when I see my younger friends communicating with each other using instant messaging applications.

Their use of instant messaging for rapid communication, as opposed to voice contact, is a phenomenon that I must admit has never appealed to me.

I excuse myself on this one by convincing myself that I’m an ancient fossil; after all my computing experience goes all the way back to the dark ages of MS-DOS 1. Not quite the days of the Dinosaurs; but close.

My comfort zone in communications is a telephone, used the old fashioned way for immediacy, or email where immediacy is not an issue. The reality is however, that programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications, are extremely popular with the younger generation, like my younger friends, who want real-time contact with each other.

Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable security risks. Generally, security risks occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases, even entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware.

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

Follow these tips to ensure you are protected when using instant messaging.

  • 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 or even dangerous individuals.

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

ParentalControl Bar, a browser toolbar, is one solution provided free of charge, by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, and effective Internet control tools.

Check out my review of this free application on this site “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

For information on monitoring your child’s cell phone usage (most cell phones today are really Internet connected devices), see “Parental Monitoring and Cellular Phones” by my tech wizard friend TechPaul.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Malware Advisories, Mobile Applications, Parenting Help, Software, Teenager Internet Safety Tips