When did you become dependent on the Internet as your primary source of entertainment, communication, and information? Given the demographics of PCMag.com’s readers, it’s safe to assume that many of you were adults by the time social media and massively multiplayer online gaming began to dominate the zeitgeist. I came of age in the age of social media, so I already had a well-established circle of friends that I interacted with offline, but I also had the opportunity to seek out new friends and experiences online.
Today’s kids can’t separate online and offline friends. Teens are always connected to everything and everyone online. Children use the Internet all day at school, and when they return home, the online world is where they consume many forms of entertainment, form relationships, and begin to create their personal identities. According to McAfee’s global survey(Opens in a new window)many of today’s children started using the Internet regularly on their mobile devices between the ages of 15 and 16. It’s early enough to have full access to everything the internet has to offer.
I recently spoke with Sachin Puri, VP of Marketing at McAfee, about the results of the security company’s 2022 Connected Family Study. He told me that kids want to avoid common online dangers like cyberbullying, online account theft and unauthorized use of personal information, but they may not know how to protect themselves. Puri said, “Of the people surveyed, 73% of children said they look to their parents for resources to help them stay safe online.”
Teens want to be safe online, so they make it easy for their parents, right? Of course not. The study shows that more than half of teen respondents (59%) say they hide their online activity by clearing their browser history, hiding or deleting chat messages and videos, browsing the web in incognito mode, using a device that their parents don’t check, or simply lie or withhold details about what they do online when talking to their parents.
So what can parents do to protect their secretive teens while they’re online?
Establishing secure connections
The best answer to the above question will probably be a little different for each family, but it should probably start with a long conversation. Puri said, “Parents need to create an environment where children feel comfortable having open and transparent conversations about online activities. Understanding the habits and behavior of family members online will only help all family members. It could be talking about time limits on gaming devices or it could be talking about installing software to keep everyone safe.”
Next, parents should consider family safety rules on the Internet. The survey found that only 56% of parents say they password protect their smartphone, and that number drops to 42% for smartphones owned by their children. Failure to protect devices or online accounts with the best available protection can lead to data theft if an unlocked smart device is lost or stolen, or if accounts are compromised. Use a password manager to keep track of all your family’s online credentials, install an antivirus to protect your kids from accidentally infecting your home devices with malware while browsing, and use parental control software to block kids from accessing dangerous websites .
Finally, Puri told me that it’s important to teach all children how to respond to threats like cyberbullying, hacking attempts, and phishing. He said: “Our research shows that their parents are generally more protected online than boys, but it is boys who are more likely to get into trouble online. About 23% of parents say they will check their daughter’s web browsing history and email on their computer. , aged from 10 to 14 years. For boys, only 16%. This disparity appears again, with 22% of parents restricting access to certain sites for girls and only 16% for boys. We have to do better. We have to protect all children. I recommend that parents make a plan so that you can prioritize what steps to take together as a family.”
How to protect your family online
What will your family plan look like? Here’s a list of six tasks to get you started.
Learn how to protect yourself.
Antivirus is the cornerstone of online protection, but a security software package that covers both your computer and mobile devices casts a wider safety net. The best security packages come with firewall protection, a password manager, phishing detection, and a VPN.
Learn how to protect your identity online.
A McAfee study found that 15% of children have experienced an account hacking attempt, while 28% of parents have reported it to them. Privacy Services monitors your family’s accounts and personal information for unauthorized or suspicious activity.
Take the time to protect your devices.
Lock your family’s mobile devices with a PIN or other security like facial recognition or fingerprint scanning. For apps, use multi-factor authentication where possible.
Protect your accounts with strong passwords.
Use a unique password for each account. This makes it difficult for hackers to hack multiple accounts. A password manager will do all the work by creating and storing strong, unique passwords for you.
Update your software and devices.
Keeping your operating systems and software up to date will keep you up to date with the latest features and improvements, and help you stay one step ahead of hackers. Many operating system and application updates include fixes and security improvements that can prevent attackers from taking advantage of any exploits or loopholes on your devices.
Keep in touch with your family.
As you talk to your children about their day, ask some questions about what’s going on online. What are their favorite games and apps right now? What shows do they watch? Have a funny post or video they want to share? These questions will help you understand their world a little better and make it easier for teens to communicate with their parents about their private online lives.
Recommended by our editors
Like what you read? Get an extra story delivered to your inbox every week. Subscribe to the SecurityWatch newsletter.
What else is happening in the security world this week?
Hackers attacked wedding site Zola to steal users’ funds. Zola says the targeted victims used the same username and password combinations on other websites. In response, the wedding company initiated a mass password reset for its users.
Google: Spy Company Exploited 5 Chrome, Android Zero-Days in 2021. This time it was not NSO Group.
FTC cracks down on educational software that engages in data tracking. Virtual education providers cannot deny a child access to educational technology if the child’s parents or school opts out of excessive data collection policies, the FTC said.
Cyber attacks on Ukraine: not what you think. Ukraine almost constantly suffers from cyberattacks attributed to Russia. However, experts say that almost none of these attacks directly support physical attacks.
Russia is getting a taste of its own medicine as hackers attack the country. Vladimir Putin believes that the solution is to switch to “home appliances”.
Like what you read?
Subscribe to SecurityWatch newsletter with our top privacy and security stories delivered straight to your inbox.