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How to Protect Your Children & Their Laptop

The internet can be a dangerous place if we don’t use cautious when browsing, working, or playing. From time to time on the news and from our friends we hear horror stories of sexual predators or malicious viruses, and while it is easy to feel detached from these stories, it is important to realize that just about anyone can succumb to these threats if they are not careful or prepared. By educating yourself and your children about potential dangers, parents can take a significant step towards reducing the risks of using the internet. To go one step further, there are several ways of preventing unfortunate incidents from occurring. Have a look at some of the helpful hints below and then explore the additional resources for extra information on how to stay safe online.

Protecting Yourself Online

  • Never give out any of your personal information or contact details to anyone online. If a website requests personal information to create an account, check with your parent or guardian first.
  • If you are shopping online, don’t submit any credit card or bank account information unless the website is secure and displays a security certificate symbol. Make sure that it is a well-known and trusted store.
  • Just as in real life, don’t talk to strangers. You never know who they might be and whether they may be a cyberbully, hacker or sexual predator. Never agree to meet a stranger in real life if they contact you online.
  • Parents should install content filtering software on the computer to protect their children from inappropriate content.
  • Use a nickname in forums and chat rooms instead of your real name.
  • Kids should share their passwords with parents and keep their Internet activities open. Remember that keeping secrets from parents can often lead to trouble later on.
  • Make your social media profiles fully private so that only approved friends can see your information. Never post any text or multimedia content that is inappropriate or harmful to yourself or other people.
  • If anyone (even someone you know) tries to bully you or make you feel uncomfortable online, report it to your parents or a website moderator.
  • Parents should brush up on instant messaging and texting abbreviations and slang so that they can understand messages that are sent to and from their children.

Protecting Your Laptop

  • One of the main ways that people unknowingly allow a virus to enter their computers is by opening email attachments. Sometimes these attachments can even come from your friends’ emails even though they never sent them! As a general rule, never open an attachment with a .exe suffix. It is a good habit to ask your friends whether they actually sent you a file before opening it.
  • If you receive a website link in an email from a stranger, don’t click it. Mark the email as spam and delete it right away. If the link comes from a friend’s email, check with them before opening it.
  • Parents should install a pop-up blocker on the browser to help reduce the amount of ads that their children are exposed to.
  • Try to avoid file sharing and downloading from peer-to-peer file sharing programs.
  • Don’t click on text or image ads that appear on websites.
  • Parents should help their children to set up strong spam filters in their email accounts.
  • A very helpful tool is anti-virus software. Parents can install this type of program and set it to run once every day at a predetermined time to check the entire computer and its contents for any harmful files or viruses, and then eliminate them safely.
  • For added protection, ask your parents to set up a firewall. It can help to further screen out harmful files or attackers from accessing your computer.
  • Parents and kids should learn to recognize email and website phishing scams and avoid them completely. Some examples are announcements that you have won a lottery (even though you never entered it!), letters that claim you have inherited a large amount of money in a foreign bank, or a request to confirm your credit card details from an unknown company.

Additional Resources

  • Online Safety Tips – Learn about tools and utilities for your computer that can help to safeguard against inappropriate content, viruses and more.
  • Protect Kids Online – A kid-friendly website for children and parents offers heaps of easy to digest information about Internet dangers and safety resources.
  • Be Net Smart! – A special website for teens is focused on educating them about online threats, how to avoid them and what to do if they are a victim.
  • Cyberbullying – Learn about the different forms of cyberbullying and stay vigilant to ensure your child doesn’t become a victim.
  • Laptop Security Advice – Go through a step-by-step process of securing your child’s laptop before letting them use it, from firewalls to anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and much more.
  • The Youth Pledge – Review a pledge related to online safety with your child and have them sign it to ensure their understanding and agreement.
  • FBI Tips for Parents – The FBI has published a series of valuable information and advice for parents about online dangers their child may face.
  • A Real Life Example – Read and watch a video of how a normal teen can become a victim of an online predator and what parents can do to intervene.
  • Online Parenting (PDF) – Download a brochure with plenty of useful advice on how to effectively guide and protect children through their online activities.
  • Know Your Rights – Find laws in your state that apply to cyber stalking and harassment and know what can be done to stop it.
  • Internet Safety for Parents and Teens - This page provides a lot of tips and resources on how to stay safe online for people of all ages.
  • Internet Safety Resources - This large list of resources provides a great deal of information for kids and parents on how to stay safe online.
  • Internet Safety for Teachers - As the internet is being used more and more in schools and classrooms, it is important for not only parents, but teachers to know how to keep kids safe on the internet.
  • K-12 Internet Safety Resources - Online videos and websites are available on this page and provide all sorts of information to help keep you safe online.
  • Internet Safety for Parents - Parents shoudl also know how to stay safe online and should be able to help their children and teens to do the same.