The more technology we have in our daily lives, the more vulnerable we are to dangers that result from that technology. And with kids packing around iPhones, tablets and laptops that they use unsupervised, the risk level can increase dramatically.
When you or your loved ones fall victim to malicious behavior via the Internet, any number of bad things can happen, including compromised information, stolen identities, lost money, malware ruining your computer, bullying, inappropriate images or websites, and so much more.
Home security does not apply to just the physical building that is your home, but to protecting all of your family and assets. So take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the digital threats as much as from the physical ones. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make sure your home WiFi is secure, requiring a unique password to access it.
- Keep all software up-to-date, on any computers, laptops, tablets and phones. Often security vulnerabilities are discovered by the software providers before you fall victim, and they release updates to fix them. Install the updates to improve your security.
- Also keep any antivirus software current.
- Twitter, text, email, messaging—we have so many ways to communicate these days, so teach your kids to be careful about the kinds of information they share via these channels.
- The same goes for social sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. People—especially adults, it seems—can be unabashedly open in the very public forum of the Internet, sharing information they wouldn’t want to divulge if talking to someone face-to-face. Not everybody needs to know everything that goes on in your child’s life, and not every selfie is okay to post. Seriously consider making information private, so only your friends can see it, if someone is being too personal online. At first, you might want to be tracking on your kids until they’ve proven they are making good choices in those environments.
- Teach your kids to be picky about their online “friends.” And you be picky too. Just because you get a friend request doesn’t mean you have to accept it. The more people you’re connected to that you don’t really know, the more vulnerable you are.
- Don’t post, share, text or email private information such as social security numbers, bank account information, or birth dates.
- Change your passwords regularly (and securely) and teach your kids to do the same.
- Teach your children to keep themselves safe when gaming online. Talk to them about the warning signs of bullying and make sure they know they can just walk away from a game.
- Install parental controls on the family computer, and on the computers the kids have in their rooms.
- Check your security settings for your web browser. How you do this depends on your browser, and also the limitations you want to set. For example, do you want to allow cookies or certain websites to track behavior? This kind of cached information can make your browsing more convenient, but it also makes your information more vulnerable.
- Don’t download every app you come across, and delete unused apps from devices and computers.
- Teach everyone in your household to be cynical, skeptical and wary (all that the same time) when faced with a suspicious link or website. When in doubt, don’t click! This could be a link that arrives via email or a text, or a webpage that came up in a search online. It could even be a Facebook scam!
This is only a shortlist of all the steps you could take for digital security for your family. For more tips and information—including a disturbing real-life story—see this Merrill Lynch article on protecting your family in the digital age.