5 Tips for Improving Your Family's Digital Security

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February 12, 2019

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
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This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

5 Tips for Improving Your Family's Digital Security Expert Guest Blog SmartSocial.com

It seems like every month there is a new app or dangerous social media challenge that has kids in a frenzy. Technology and teen social media trends change so quickly that it can leave parents feeling like they can’t keep up with their kids. Digital security can seem daunting to parents, especially if they feel like they aren’t “tech savvy” -- but in reality it can be easier than you think.

So, we asked 5 experts to share digital safety tips that parents can start implementing today.

1. Audit your family’s digital security

Alayna Pehrson headshot
Alayna Pehrson

Alayna Pehrson, Best Company

Perform a family-wide digital security audit. This audit should include checking password strengths, software updates, social media accounts, online security habits, and more. If your children are older, you don't need to necessarily share passwords or sensitive information with one another, but everyone can make sure they take the time to check their individual accounts, passwords, social media networks, etc., in order to find out ways they can be more digitally secure this year.

Conduct in-home digital security training. Although your family may be doing a good job at maintaining a decent level of individual digital security, it's still important that you and your family have in-home digital security training. It's similar to business owners. Business owners who are worried about certain cyber threats invest time and resources into training each and every employee. Parents can do research and continually keep up with the latest cybersecurity news in order to teach their children and other family members about risks and train them on how they can avoid falling victim to certain digital threats. Overall, the more trained a family is when it comes to digital security, the more likely it is to avoid digital threats.

2. The best digital safety resource is YOU

Josh Ochs headshot
Josh Ochs

Josh Ochs, SmartSocial.com

No parental control app or tool is going to be better at protecting your kids than you having a healthy relationship with your student. Teens know how to hide their behavior on social media (sometimes in private messaging features, sometimes by hiding apps), they are constantly downloading new apps, and they learn new platforms incredibly quickly.

It’s important for parents to be on the same apps as their children. Before giving your children access to a new app, do some research independently, learn how the app works, sign up for an account, and determine if the app is safe for your children to download. Parents should regularly Google their children, look for any red flags in their child’s search results, and talk to their children about what they found.

If you want a parental control or monitoring app to help protect your family, we have a free Parental Control Software & Cell Phone Monitoring Comparison Guide. However, keep in mind that even with these monitoring solutions, parents still need to stay on top of their children’s online activity.

3. Don't automatically connect to WiFi networks

Ian McClarty headshot
Ian McClarty

Ian McClarty, PhoenixNAP Global IT Services

Don't auto-connect to unsecured WiFi networks. If you must, use a VPN solution that blocks all traffic unless it's running. The best strategy is to use your cellular data plan. Most cell phones include a tethering option. Make sure your laptops and your tablets utilize the WiFi from this setup and not the free wireless offered through the nearest store or restaurant.

Never leave your phone unattended. Our devices today contain our entire life history, including access to IoT devices in our homes (door locks, lights, speakers, etc.). If your phone is picked up by someone with bad intentions, they could guess a four-digit passcode and access information such as bank accounts, healthcare information, provider information, birthdays, emails, pictures, and even notes that contain the passwords to these sites (provided you're not using a password manager).

These tips are ones that can save you many headaches and certainly prevent the unintended leakage of privileged data.

4. Secure your personal data with two-factor authentication

Jeff Rizzo headshot
Jeff Rizzo

Jeff Rizzo, RIZKNOWS

Reset passwords every quarter for everyone in your family. This keeps the passwords rotating and makes it much harder to be hacked.

Use two-factor authentication. You can set this up in Gmail, most banking apps, and plenty of other sites. What two-factor authentication does is require you to authorize an attempted login with a second device. The beauty with two-factor authentication is that it's free and easy to set up, yet makes your personal data much safer.

Consider using a VPN service for internet browsing when you’re not at home. The VPN allows you to browse the internet in public spaces without the fear of being tracked or the risk of being hacked. The cost-to-value ratio of a VPN is very low, meaning it costs almost nothing, but it can make a major difference in protecting your data.

As far as conversation starters go, it should be well understood that browsing the internet on a personal device is not secure. As such, your family should avoid logging into banking apps and important websites when they're using public Wi-Fi. Without a VPN, this is the easiest way to get taken advantage of.

Beyond that, parents should be mindful of what their kids are doing online and setup parental controls on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers. This is easy enough to do and yet it outright prevents kids from straying too far from recommended, trustworthy sites.

For shared devices, parents should create separate accounts for their kids, which limit the functionality of the account. For example, you can easily setup controls for safe browsing and acceptable downloads.

5. Remind your kids that what they see or read online cannot always be trusted

Chinh Nguyen headshot
Chinh Nguyen

Chinh Nguyen, Finale Inventory

The internet is a busy place especially when you consider young adults, there are plenty of hackers, bullies, and people looking to take advantage of young children and teens.

These are a few safety tips that can make the Internet safer:

  • Don't give out personal information online. This includes last names, addresses, passwords, telephone numbers, or places you frequent or where you attend school.
  • Never post photos or videos without your parents permission.
  • Remember that what you see or read online cannot always be trusted.
  • People can say or pretend to be anyone. A good rule of thumb is don't trust anyone you have never met in person and don’t add them on social media.

Conclusion

Digital safety and security can be easier than you think. When you talk to your kids about digital safety and create a plan, your family is more likely to stay safe online. Regardless of the latest teen social media fad, parents who monitor their kids online will be far more protective of their kids than a parental control app.

What are your best tips for keeping your family safe online? Let us know in the comments  below!


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