The purpose of Safer Internet Day is to educate young people about safer internet usage. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring Change’ with learning based around making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online.
In this technology-driven day and age, keeping young people safe online is paramount. Mobile phones and electronic devices are important for children’s learning and are now an integral part of their lives. They are used in school and at home for education, communication and entertainment, and while there are many benefits, there are of course lots of risks associated with their usage.
Scams: Unfortunately, there has been a massive increase in online scams over the last number of years and it’s a frightening experience which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere! However, there are things you can do to try and prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Don’t open email from people you don’t know, be careful with links and new website addresses, secure your personal information, use strong passwords and keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs. Educate your children so they aren’t unwittingly volunteering information to a hacker by clicking a malicious link in an in-game chat box or opening an email attachment and falling prey to a phishing attack.
Parental controls: Thankfully most mobile phones and electronic devices come with built-in parental controls. This means you can limit your child’s access to certain apps, content and websites. Be sure to check that these are switched on when buying a new device for your kid. SafeSearch is a fantastic tool which enables parents to filter explicit Google search results. It’s turned on by default for children under the age of 13 who are signed into an account and can be managed with the Family Link app.
Phone Security: Teaching children security measures now will help to keep their electronic devices secure in the long term. There are measures you can take such as not sharing passwords with friends or strangers, don’t overshare online, password protect your phone so that if it’s lost or stolen it can’t be easily accessed and don’t connect to public wi-fi where possible.
Using public wi-fi: Hackers can take advantage of public wi-fi’s lax security to spy on you and steal personal information and passwords. Identity theft is the biggest risk when using public wi-fi and if you aren’t using a VPN (virtual private network) to hide your information, hackers can easily pinpoint information about you. If you need to use public wi-fi however, use a VPN when connecting to any hotspot (including your own). A VPN connection will disguise your data traffic online and protects it from external access.
Oversharing online: Sharing pictures of ourselves, family and friends and events in our lives is commonplace on social media accounts. And while it’s great to keep in touch with friends and family who we don’t see often, many people forget that social media sites are still a public domain and can be accessed widely. Sharing too much online can make us an easy target to identity theft, fraud, phishing, cyberstalking, and other cybercrimes. Be careful about who you are sharing information with and only share with people you absolutely know and trust on secure platforms which have a privacy setting you can control.
Antivirus software: Don’t neglect security internet security and make sure to run regular antivirus and malware protection scans frequently. Your antivirus software should be set as default to check for updates at least once a day. You can also run on-the-spot scans at least once a week to check for the latest threats.
There are lots of ways to get involved with Safer Internet Day and excellent resources for children and young people online. For further advice and learning head to www.saferinternetday.org