Internet Safety & Online Matters
During these unprecedented times we have all spent more time online, whether this be working, schooling, for fun or purely to get required essentials.
With this in mind we have put together a small guide of useful online safety links, tips and information to assist our parents/ carers and students.
- Protect your personal information - you would not easily give out your personal information to someone on the street so don't make it available to the millions of people online. Everyone from criminals, hackers, marketing companies, future schools/colleges, future employers, friends, family, and strangers can access your personal data if you make it readily available. Once the data is out there it is almost impossible to completely recover it. Social media can be a minefield so best practice is to only share with those in your social circle and never make posts public. With a public profile, it is very easy for someone to build up a picture of you, your family, your friends, your interests, your beliefs, and importantly your locations.
- Safe Browsing - Always make sure you are using the latest version of your preferred browser, companies spend a lot of time and money updating this software in an effort to make your browsing as safe as they can, but you still need to be aware of the dangers. Only ever visit sites you know and or trust, never click a link on a dubious site as it might infect your device with Malware. Depending on your device, having some anti-malware or anti-spyware software installed is a good consideration, most anti-virus software these-days comes with one or both of these options.
- Turn on Privacy settings - If your device, browser, or application has them. These may sometimes be hard to find as some companies want your information to be open so you can be targeted for marketing and advertising purposes.
- Choose Strong Passwords - Passwords are perhaps the weakest point in technology, people are creatures of habit so they tend to use familiar words or numbers which can make them easy to guess or hack. Try making complex passwords by using a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters and by using as many characters as possible. One good suggestion is to pick three random words such as bed garage lion and make them more complex i.e. B3dGar4geL!0n this makes it impossible to guess. You can use a password randomizer or you could use a website like https://www.my1login.com/resources/password-strength-test/ this will test your password and predict how long it would take to hack. bedgaragelion would take 17 hours to hack whereas B3dGar4geL!0n would take 3 months! If you use a completely random set of characters it is even longer i.e. Dg4a23!zm would take 233 years. Never write down passwords
- Secure Purchases - When buying online always make sure that you purchase from secure sites. You can tell these by the address bar as they will start https you may even see a locked padlock symbol. Anything that just starts http is not a secure site.
- Be Careful Who You Meet Online - It goes without saying that not everyone you meet online is decent or honest but you would expect them to be real. Hackers and cybercriminals create fake social profiles with the intent of gaining your trust so they can hack you, your accounts and your identity.
- Be Careful What You Post - Anything you say or post online is potentially there forever and can come back to haunt you. Even if you delete a post or a tweet or a comment someone else may have already copied it and then it is too late. The best guide is to treat people online as you would treat them in person. Be careful of the images you post online, a portrait or family picture may seen harmless enough but there have been cases of these being copied and used for advertising without the owner's consent. There have also been cases of people losing out on employment opportunities because the prospective company looked at the candidate's social profile and decided that the images they were seeing would not make that person a good representative of that company.
For more information we recommend looking at the UK Safer Internet Centre https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/
We can control access to the internet, we can control age-appropriate content searched for in a browser, we can set time limits for apps and devices, but how do we monitor and control what happens on those devices and within those apps?
There are countless social media apps available whose terms and conditions impose age restrictions before using them, but in practice, it is very easy to circumvent these. Anyone can set up an anonymous email account and use this to verify a social media platform application process. Once an account has been set up what then happens within that platform?
How do you control who your children interact with once online?
There is a social media platform out there whose tag line is ‘Talk to strangers’!
This platform does not require an account to login, and you have the option to either download the app (this is something that can be controlled under parental controls) or, you can just start chatting online which cannot be controlled or monitored.
Games can be equally as dangerous, there are cases of online multiplayer games where adults specifically join to target young children, gather information about them and their locations.
The games themselves can have an adverse influence. There is a franchise currently that is 18 rated but much younger children have had access to and played this and its many sequels. These games glorify violence, theft, drug use, prostitution, torture, murder, and the degradation of certain members of society.
Terms such as cyberbullying, sexting, trolls, phishing, spam, online grooming, have become all too familiar as technology has advanced and it is harder than ever to protect from these. So what is the option?
We have to educate ourselves and our children about the dangers and pitfalls of technology, of our social footprints, our online influence.
We live in an age where our children are arguably more up to date with modern technology, social platforms, and trends than adults are and as such are in danger of thinking that they are safe because they have this knowledge.
Unfortunately what they will not necessarily have is the knowledge and experience to deal with or even know about the means and methods that unscrupulous people will use to get what they want. They may not be able to discern when someone is fishing for information when someone is being untruthful or when trying to coerce them into something they may not normally wish to participate in.
It is all of our responsibilities to educate ourselves and then our children.
We would recommend downloading the National Online Safety app which is full of very useful and up to date information concerning all aspects of online safety.
Technology has become such an integral part of everyone’s lives it is impossible to imagine being without them, they capture and store so much of our lives.
The result of this is that technology becomes the target of cyber criminals’ intent on accessing your technology either to control it, or to steal the information it contains.
Cybersecurity is concerned with protecting these devices and your information.
Best practices to protect your data include.
Use different passwords for different accounts
Create Strong passwords that are difficult to guess, the current trend is to string together several words that have no relevance to you or each other and then change some of the characters i.e. HouseGrapeFootball
Then to increase the strength you can add numbers or special characters i.e. H0us3GraPeF00tba1!
If remembering your passwords is an issue, rather than have written notes, use your browser to save and store your passwords. Tech companies have invested a lot of time and money in browser security so it should be safe to use this method.
Turn on two-factor authentications if your device or service offers it. This means that as well as your password you have to enter a text or code that would be instantly sent to you. This means that even if someone has access to your password it is useless with that extra code.
Always ensure that your devices and software on them are as up-to-date as they can be. Tech companies constantly send out updates and patches to keep everything secure.
Do not open email links from dubious or unknown sources
Check that the website you are on is secure.
Never give out your information, recently it has been reported that criminals have taken to social media platforms where they befriend you to gain access to certain information. Security questions generally ask for standard information like; first school, first car, middle name, first street, name of pet, mothers maiden name, favorite band, etc.. all of this information can be gathered through seemingly harmless online chat to then build up a picture that potentially can be used against your wishes or to steal your identity.
Device Safety & Parental Control
Parental control for mobile devices
One important feature of modern devices is the ability for parents to run activity reports and then adjust usage depending on those findings. For example, if your child’s browsing report shows they are spending too long on the internet, you can set a maximum time limit and thereby control how long they can browse per day. This applies not only to all apps on the device but the device itself.
On Apple devices like the iPhone & iPad, you can find this feature under Settings>Screen Time
Here you will find such options as Downtime, App Limits, Communication Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions. Each of these can be configured as per your requirements.
It is recommended to set the Screen Time Passcode option (which you will find on that same page), this prevents anyone from accessing and changing the settings.
For Samsung devices, you will find similar options under the Settings>Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls.
Parental control for Computers
Like phones and tablets, computers also offer options for parents to monitor, limit/restrict and control access and content.
For Windows 10 laptops open the search bar and type in ‘family options’. Here you will create an account for your child and then enable parental controls.
Once enabled two features are turned on by default, internet browsing becomes much stricter so no adult content should be displayed in search results, and secondly the InPrivate browsing mode is blocked.
A useful feature of the Windows Parental Control features is that if your child has an Xbox you can link the accounts to generate screen time reports on both computer and Xbox and set screen time limits to both.
One important note Do Not give your child administration rights over their account as they can turn off and undo all of the settings you may have configured.
Apple Mac’s operate in a similar fashion, but it is dependent on what version of the operating system you are running.
Older versions have an option under System Preferences called Parental Controls. Here you have the option to create a new account with parental controls where you can control all aspects of screen time, app usage, and content control.
On the latest versions of the operating system, you will again find this under System Preferences but now it is called Screen Time and will operate in the same way as you would find on mobile devices.
Many parents will, either as a direct result of school having them or because of the low cost, introduced Chromebooks at home. These do not have parental controls as such but the owner of the device can create additional accounts on the device and then set restrictions on those accounts. One important note is that Chromebooks have a guest mode, this allows access to the internet but it does not save any browsing history so this is a function that should probably be turned off.
One way to guarantee some downtime is to restrict access to your home’s wi-fi.
Most home routers allow you the ability to connect to them (either remotely or via a physical connection) and then access and control not only what devices can access to your wi-fi but also how long those devices can access your wi-fi. A good general rule would be to identify your child’s devices and set a turn-off time sometime in the evening and then allow access again sometime the following day.
Due to the number of different service providers and routers available it is impossible to give instructions here. The best option is to consult your service provider or to look up the information on the internet.