ConnectSafely’s Summertime Tips for Online Safety and Security
For many kids, summer vacation has long been associated with hanging out with friends and playing games. That is still true. Now, however, an increasing amount of that free time is facilitated by computers and mobile devices ‒ social networking sites and apps allow young people to stay in close touch with classmates and family even from afar. But some thought needs to be given to ensuring that Internet-based activities remain safe and secure and that young people maintain control over who has access to their personal information.
Whether posting pictures on Snapchat, posing questions on Ask.fm or using any of the thousands of other social apps and sites, young people love to share. Internet Safety Month is a good time to remind them to think about what they are sharing.
- Share with care: Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause problems later on. Even people you consider friends can use the information you share online against you.
- Be nice online: Or at least treat people the way you want to be treated. If someone is mean to you, try not to react, definitely don’t retaliate and use privacy tools to block the meanies.
- Be smart about pictures: It is fun to share pictures and, yes, they can sometimes be wacky. But you never know who might see them or how they might affect you in the future.
- Avoid in-person meetings with people you don’t know: It is not necessarily bad to interact with strangers online, but be careful with what information you share and very careful (by letting someone else know or having someone accompany you) before agreeing to meet someone you do not know.
Gaming Safety for Parents and Kids
Regardless of what platform they use, kids are increasingly connected when they play games online. Parents and kids should be aware of what information might be shared online with other players.
- Chat carefully: If a game allows you to chat with other players, be careful about the information you disclose.
- Don’t overdo it: Video games can be fun, but so are physical activity, socializing in person, reading and plain old downtime. It is a good idea to balance summertime activities.
- Know what your kids are playing: Parents should check video games’ ratings and read reviews to be sure they are appropriate for children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board provides game ratings, and Common Sense Media provides reviews of many games, movies and TV shows.
Here are some more “Tips for Smart Videogaming.”
Connected Kids and Phones
Many kids carry phones which can help them stay connected and reach their families in emergencies. However, smartphones also run apps for interactive games that can share locations and so much more.
- Know the apps: Be aware of the apps your kids use. Make sure they are only downloaded from reputable app stores and check their privacy disclosures and settings.
- Be location savvy: Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.
- Lock your phone: Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.
- Know how to locate and wipe your phone: There are free tools like Apple’s iCloud Find my Phone and Google’s Android Device Manager that will help you find your device (if it’s turned on) or wipe it clean if it’s lost.
For more cell phone safety tips, see Tips for Smart Cellphone Use, A Parents’ Guide to Mobile Phones and the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Safety Tips for Mobile Devices.
The Cyber Trip Advisor
Travel has become more digital by the day. During this same time frame last year, 40 percent of Americans took care of their travel reservations ‒ flights, hotels, cruises ‒ on mobile devices.1 Before you leave home and while you are on the go, use the following tips to steer clear of any number of digital dangers.
Getting Ready to Go:
- Keep a clean machine: Before you hit the road, make sure all security and critical software is up-to-date on your Internet-connected devices and keep them updated during travel. It is your best line of defense.
- Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication (also known as multi-factor authentication) for an extra layer of security beyond the password that is available on most major email, social and financial accounts.
- Make sure all devices are password protected: Use a passcode or security feature (like a finger swipe) to lock your phone or mobile device.
- Own your online presence: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices. It is okay to limit how and with whom you share information – especially when you are away.
While On the Go:
- Actively manage location services: Location tools come in handy while planning your trip or navigating a new place, but they can also expose your location ‒ even through photos. Turn off location services when not in use.
- Get savvy about WiFi hot spots: Do not transmit personal info or make purchases on unsecure networks. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) or your phone as a personal hotspot to surf more securely.
- Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when idle: When WiFi and Bluetooth are on, they connect and track your whereabouts. If you do not need them, switch them off.
- Protect your $$$: Be sure to shop or bank only on secure sites. Web addresses with "https://" or "shttp://", means the site takes extra security measures. However, an "http://" address is not secure.
- Never use public computers to log in to any accounts: Be extremely cautious on public computers in airports, hotel lobbies and Internet cafes. Keep activities as generic and anonymous as possible.
- Share with care: Think twice before posting pictures that you would not want certain people (like your parents or employer) to see or photos that would reveal you are traveling.
- Post only about others as you would have them post about you: The golden rule applies online, too.
Here comes the digital bride! According to a 2014 survey by The Knot, wedding planning has gone mobile, with 60 percent of brides downloading an assortment of wedding apps on their devices to stay on top of tasks and to-do lists.2 Follow these wedding-focused security tips to digital bliss:
Digital "I Do" Etiquette
- Get two steps ahead: With so many wedding day details stored on your mobile device, turn on two-step authentication on accounts where available to add a layer of security. Check out the Two Steps Ahead campaign to learn more.
- Make better passwords: Protect your wedding site or app with long, strong passwords, combining capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols for better protection.
- Unique account, unique password: Set up unique passwords for all of the accounts you use for wedding planning, such as email, social media and your gift registry, to help to thwart cybercriminals.
- Back it up: Capture and save the precious memories from your bachelorette party photos, wedding day and honeymoon memories to a secure cloud site or another drive where they can be stored safely.
- Update your online photo album: Be mindful of your guests' privacy while posting pictures and videos of the big day. Delete less flattering photos: in addition to not showing your best side, they take up space.
- Wait until you get back: Posting pictures while you are on your honeymoon could alert criminals that you are away from home. Maintain your digital bliss, and wait until you return to post your photos.
Upcoming Event and Resources
- In celebration of Internet Safety Month, ConnectSafely and NCSA will host a briefing session on June 8 at 3 p.m. ET at the Cannon House Office Building, Rm. 122 in Washington, DC. Please RSVP here: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, see NCSA's Events page.
- The Department of Homeland Security offers a suite of multi-audience resources and tools at dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
- Read NCSA's Privacy Tips for 2015.
- Check out these wireless safety tips for travelers from Private WiFi and STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
- Watch the Consumer Federation of America's identity theft video focusing on WiFi safety and other issues for young people.
- Identity theft can often take place while you are traveling and constantly providing credit card information. Get resources and assistance from the Identity Theft Resource Center.
- Find books and videos that teach your children about Internet safety through iKeepSafe.
1 Venturebeat.com http://venturebeat.com/2014/09/19/travel-bookings-by-mobile-devices-in-u-s-now-at-40-percent-and-growing-report/
2 The Knot and Mashable http://www.xogroupinc.com/press-releases-home/2014-press-releases/2014-07-21-tk-mashable-social-wedding-survey.aspx
National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) is the nation's leading nonprofit public-private partnership promoting the safe and secure use of the Internet and digital privacy. Working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), private sector sponsors and nonprofit collaborators to promote cybersecurity awareness, NCSA board members include representatives from ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast Corporation, EMC Corporation, ESET, Facebook, Google, Intel, Logical Operations, McAfee, Microsoft, PayPal, PKWARE, Inc., Raytheon, Symantec, Verizon and Visa. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, nonprofit and academic sectors, NCSA's mission is to educate and empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely, protect themselves and the technology they use, and protect the digital assets we all share. For more information on NCSA, please visit staysafeonline.org/about-us/overview/.
ConnectSafely.org is a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security with research-based safety tips, parents' guidebooks, advice, news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy. Find us at ConnectSafely.org, Twitter.com/ConnectSafely and Facebook.com/ConnectSafely