Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids Sponsored Content

Why Should You Care about Internet Privacy?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

This content was provided by our partner, TechWarn and I am being compensated in the form of a VPN subscription to protect my family.

Why should you care about internet privacy?

Even as parents, we rarely pay attention to the ‘terms and conditions’ before logging into an app for the first time, how could we expect our children to practice digital privacy? But practice they must.

Today we live in a world of zero privacy. Social media behemoths take advantage of our innate desire to connect, turning platforms into mega data centers to ruthlessly monetizing our personal lives. Sadly, they don’t seem to be particularly cautious with our sensitive information either, as a security breach late last year reported a hack affecting nearly 30 million users.

If your children are on social media or are regular internet users, understand the risks involved to help them steer clear of privacy breaches and their accompanying risks.

Your privacy is always at stake

The devil is always in the details. Buried deep inside the service terms are often invasive clauses claiming to collect, access, stored and analyze your data ‘for an improved experience’. Opting to keep private info private, and you will be forced to quit the app or leave the platform, leaving you with no choice but to oblige.

What’s rather unfortunate is the fact that we do not have any control over what the companies choose to do with the data they access. There have been numerous cases of accounts hacking, impersonation and other cyber-crimes. Even with these happenings, we keep signing in into mobile phone applications, programs and software, and subscribing to websites without giving much care to the security concerns.

Your data is sold, but you won’t get a penny for it

As the old saying goes, free things are expensive. The paradox in this statement continues being evidenced in the online platforms that claim to be ‘free’ but end up making billions of money by selling out your personal data to advertisers. It’s how Facebook and Twitter make money anyway. How else do you think that you have your timeline hit with adverts of items, products, or services you recently discussed?

Each time you log in to the ever-emerging web platforms, you are providing them with your information and to advertisers; this is a badly needed necessity. The only way to limit how much information and private data these services will be getting from you is by checking your internet privacy.

Technology evolution leads us to be more reliant on the internet

Just like the internet, IT gadgets are going through a major evolution. Newer and sophisticated gadgets are released on a regular basis. Communication is taking a shift, you do not necessarily need to load your mobile phone with airtime; with an internet connection, you are able to make a call online.

Think of the host of websites that allow you stream sports, music and more. We are slowly but steadily bidding goodbye to the old-fashioned computerized gadgets and embracing highly advanced ones.

Smooth operations of these devices require an internet connection. For instance, smartphones require regular software updates. With this level of reliance on the internet, it is important that one puts up reliable privacy protection measures in place.

If stolen, your current private data could haunt your future

Some people rubbish the need to have internet privacy measures in place, claiming they have got nothing to hide. Which is okay; but this may not last for long. When companies access your data (let’s say private and confidential information like call logs or messages content), you have no control over what they might choose to do with them.

Without huge aspirations at the moment, this may not seem much of a concern. But if someone wishes to bring you down in the future, they can use skeletons from your private data that was stored by some company 5 or 10 years ago. Past conversations exposed are on record for bringing down marriages, tainting people’s integrity among other damages. Many internet activities define your private life, browse safely lest the information falls on the wrong hands and ends up being used against you.

The law will not protect you

Due to the rising cases of cyber-related crimes, some countries are developing and enforcing laws in support of internet surveillance. While this might be a good effort and may help trace the criminals bullying people online, it is not right for your privacy.

When a government gains access to your communication threads, the sites you are visiting, the people you are networking with and such information without your approval, then it’s interfering with your personal privacy. Unfortunately, many countries continue embracing this trend, especially on visitors and tourists.

You may not have direct control over what the lawmakers of a certain nation think. Fortunately, there are different avenues through which you can shield your internet privacy.

Fraudsters, hackers, and cybercriminals are upping their game

There are many techniques that fraudsters can use to access or gather your online information. Your internet service provider may not warn you of the possible dangers after all high-speed connections are what most of us are concerned about.

If your privacy settings are not customized to limit who can access information about you, fraudsters can easily tell who you are by monitoring your activities on these sites. This is especially so with social interaction sites where we like to upload our photos, update our activities and so on. Others use malicious software known as spyware. The software is able to track and hack your personal information without your knowledge. The developers of such malicious software target unsuspecting internet users and thus the need to care about your privacy whenever you are on the internet.

Ways to protect your internet privacy

The ways through which your private data can be tracked or accessed are multiplying by the day. Here are ways through which you can protect your personal data while on the internet.

Keep your software updated

Doing this can greatly reduce unauthorized access to your data. Keeping your software updated makes sure your system is shielded from even the most recent malware.

Update your privacy settings

This is necessary especially when it comes to social networking platforms. By default, most of the information you upload or post will be shared publicly. Consider changing your settings to limit views to only fewer people or to only share with people you know. To achieve higher efficiency, it’s advisable to ask your friends to do the same.

Block 3rd party cookies

Accepting cookies allows websites to maintain track of you. For instance, they can be able to tell the last time you visited. Others will be able to store your data and even sign you in automatically during your next visit. Blocking cookies limits access should anyone else access your device without your knowledge.

Clear browser history and delete cookies regularly

This helps log you out of all accounts that you may have signed in on the browser.

Get a VPN app

A virtual private network encrypts all the data you receive or send via the internet. With this encryption, third parties cannot access data and even if they do, they cannot be able to use it or trace it back to you.

Privacy and security are well worth your time and money. VPN deals are just a Google search away so there’s no excuse of not going playing your part to safeguard your data. With a VPN in place, your data will always be protected whenever you are using the internet.

Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids

Raising Kids in the Always-Connected Age

Do you keep track of every minute your kids are on the internet, on social media, or connected to people outside of your home? I don’t. I can’t even keep up. I’m not sure it’s even possible. My kids are 17 and 15, so I’m hoping I’ve done enough in their younger years and have instilled the right messages along the way that they can handle it more independently now. And yes, I’m guilty myself of spending too much time online, on social media, distracted from the here and now. But I try to instill in myself and in my kids a sense of balance, time to be disconnected, and experience so that they don’t go out in the world without some skill sets in using social media and staying safe online.

It was easier when Kira was a teenager and asked if she could be on MySpace. We said no. End of story. Except she just went to a friend’s house and made one and we would never have known but that she accidentally left it connected one day. That was back when we only had one computer, in the living room, like model parents should do. It was a different time, but it was a learning experience – kids will find a way. Better to be a part of what they do than not know they’re doing it.

Times Have Changed

But this is 2017. Our kids have iPhones and laptops. They wouldn’t even have friends if they didn’t have a way to communicate with them online. And sometimes, they wouldn’t even be able to do their homework or in-class work without their phones. And worse yet, I wouldn’t know when to pick them up from after school activities and I would have to sit in the parking lot and wait, because there are no payphones. So it’s a different world for Parker and Anika than it was for Kira. And Hallie, our 18-month old grandaughter, already knows how to navigate to YouTube on the iPhone!

Rather than deny them access to social media, Parker and Anika have been on Facebook since they were 11. Our rules were:

  • We get to know your password. If it changes, the account gets deleted.
  • We get to know who you connect with and get the final say on whether or not you accept friend requests.
  • We are allowed to log in at any time and review what you’ve posted and what kind of messages you’ve sent.
  • Cyberbully anyone, and we not only close your accounts but take back your devices.

Was it a perfect system? Of course not. But it was a monitored system, which meant when Parker posted something inappropriate or Anika shared something that was obviously from a page she shouldn’t be following, we were right there to coach them, teach them, and provide them with some social media etiquette, teach them about click bait, talk to them about what’s appropriate to talk about when you’re friends with your grandma online. We felt it was better for the kids to get experience on social media while we could still exert some control over what they did and how they engaged with others. We also had plenty of conversations about cyberbullying, cyberbullies, and what to do if it happened to them.

Parker is 17 and out of high school. It’s only in the last year that we’ve stopped really monitoring everything he does online, but he has demonstrated over and over again that he has a handle on proper use of social media, proper treatment of others, and a keen sense of balance so that he’s not just living online – something it’s taken years of hands-on managing to help achieve. Anika still gets our permission before adding a new friend on Facebook, and it has to be someone she knows and has a reason to be connected to. We still have access to her accounts. And we have an open-door policy with all of our kids so that they know they can talk to us about anything – online or off. We don’t believe in using spyware or keylogging to track our kids’ every moves. The whole point of raising them is to dole out trust and responsibility as they’re ready to handle it.

Be Consistent with Consequences

When the kids do overstep their bounds – whether it’s sending texts in the middle of the night when the phone is supposed to be off (Kira, with her first cell phone at age 15 – 3,000 texts in one month before there was such a thing as unlimited plans), using the school computer for personal research that triggers an inappropriate word (Parker, song lyrics search, searched for a word in German that in English meant something that lost him his school laptop privileges for a month), or not having enough time away from the internet (how many YouTube shows can one person watch in a day, Anika?), you have to be willing to step in, follow through, talk to your kids, redirect them, and be willing to take away their privileges and their devices to help them learn.

Set the Right Example

If you really want your kids to learn how to use social media and the internet properly, you have to set the right example. Put your phone down now and then. Don’t allow the phone at the dinner table. Get up and do things with your kids and don’t just sit in the same room on your phones together. Choose your words carefully when you engage with others. And when you make a mistake, own up to it to your kids, so that they can see you can keep learning as an adult. We’re all taking lessons in “fake news” vs “not fake news” right now, aren’t we?

Being connected is not going away – in fact, it’s only going to get worse. But you can raise your kids to be kind when they are online, to be balanced about how much time they spend online, and to be smart about how they engage online.

Kid Safety

Threat of Online Predators

Getting Real With Amy Kelly was gracious enough to share her two-part series on Internet Predators with us. Read part one here. Thank you, Ken Shallcross,  for helping get the word out to make kids safer online.

Guest Post by Ken Shallcross from PC Pandora. Ken Shallcross is the director of public outreach and marketing for Pandora Corp. He has been with the company since 2007, and has a background in broadcast PR. He has a BA in journalism from University of RI, and is based in New York City.

For three years I have maintained a weekly series on my blog called Wacky Internet Predator Wednesdays. The title says it all. Every week I round up the stories that report on Internet predators being busted, getting caught and receiving sentencing. Not a week goes by without at least one person somewhere in the country being arrested for soliciting sex from (a) minor(s) online.

The very sad part: in the last year, I have noticed a sharp increase of stories where the predator succeeded and a real child was involved. Take for instance one recent entry, post #145. Every story that week featured actual teens being solicited by older men online. In every story, the predator succeeded in his mission:

  1. A 43-year-old man in Texas used his affiliation with a youth soccer league, as well as the Internet, to solicit sex from underage kids. He succeeded with at least one 14-year-old boy…
  2. A 25-year-old Iowa man met a 14-year-old girl on Myspace and had consensual sex with her…
  3. A 15-year-old girl in Ohio met a man from North Carolina on the Internet… he drove to pick her up and she got in the car with him… all the way back to NC!!
  4. In Los Angeles, a 14-year-old girl met an older man on Facebook and MySpace and he drove to her house, kidnapped and raped her. At the time of the blog post, the suspect was still at large!

Oddly enough, the week prior to that (entry #144) featured four stories of predators being snagged in sting operations, which is a clear indication that these guys are out there in droves. Sometimes we get lucky and get to them first. But go back one week further (to entry #143) and we have stories about these four guys:

  1. A 24-year-old man in Colorado posed at a 19-year-old boy online and was able to solicit and have sex with an underage girl he met online…
  2. A 37-year-old Florida man was arrested for driving to Omaha Nebraska to pick up a 17-year-old girl he met online. She went with him willingly… she says she changed her mind halfway back to FL, but he convinced her to keep going. Either way, think of the trust he gained by just convincing her to get in the car in the first place!
  3. A 29-year-old man in Florida, who was a puppeteer at a local church, used Facebook to solicit and carry-out a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.
  4. A 55-year-old New Jersey man was arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old boy on MySpace.

I am cautious to use the term “victimized,” as more often than not the meeting and eventual sex is consensual. Yes, there are cases of rape and kidnapping – but just as many, if not more, are teens that fell into a grooming trap and are saying yes on their own accord.

The reason? Teenagers are programmed to take risks. Some experts say ‘at-risk kids are more likely to be at risk in their decision.’ But isn’t every child at risk of making an ill decision? Unfortunately for parents, one of the biggest risks they take is talking to strangers online.

Go back 25 years to the national campaign warning kids not to talk to strangers. Remember “Say No, then Go and Tell someone”? This mostly applied to parks, playgrounds and walking home from school. But if a stranger called the house looking for you, would your parents have happily, without any questions, handed over the phone? I think not. As a child or a young teen did you pick up the phone, dial a random number, and start a conversation with a stranger? I doubt it.

But for some reason, in the Internet age and this time of unlimited mass-communication, where children can literally communicate with the entire world on a whim, parents are afraid to ask their kids who they are talking to online. They are afraid to check up on their kids and verify who they are making friends with in the globally-spanning digital community. This is the equivalent of leaving your child alone in New York City at 2AM.

Many Internet safety advocates make the big push for education. They say that education is the only way to achieve internet safety. While I agree to some extent, a quick pep talk will not do the trick. The last thing your adolescent offspring is going to do is consciously push aside their curiosity and desire to explore, simply ‘because mom and dad said so.’

You didn’t when you were their age. Why do you assume they will?

Furthermore, how can a parent have that pep talk if they are not involved and don’t know what their child is doing online. Filtering is good for young kids; blocking websites may work for adolescents, but sooner or later they will circumvent your roadblocks and disregard your warnings if you don’t stay with them and have that knowledge of what they are doing when they connect to the World Wide Web.

When a parent in today’s fast-paced digitally connected world puts computer monitoring software on their PC, they are given access to true knowledge of what their child does on the Internet. There is no hiding or covering up tracks; parents can see all. This includes forming relationships with strangers online.

It should also be said that the duty of keeping your child safe is never to be trumped by some ‘inherent’ right they have to be left alone. Privacy should be given only when and where warranted and earned. This is a completely separate blog post, but the point is: the Internet is not one of those places.

There should never be a substitute for good parenting; but there should also never be a fear of using a tool that will help you be the best parent you can be. Knowledge is power. We need more powerful parents. Computer monitoring software (like our PC Pandora) is the best tool in the arsenal of the 21st century parent. It’s the easiest thing a parent can use to keep their kids protected and safe from Internet predators as they grow up digitally.

Kid Safety Let's Talk

A Look at Internet Predators

Getting Real With Amy Kelly was kind enough to share this two-part series on Internet Predators with us from Ken Shallcross of PC Pandora.

This is part one in a two part series, provided courtesy of Ken Shallcross from PC Pandora. Ken Shallcross is the director of public outreach and marketing for Pandora Corp. He has been with the company since 2007, and has a background in broadcast PR. He has a BA in journalism from University of RI, and is based in New York City.

As we make way into this second decade of the 21st century, parents need to wake up to the realization that the Internet is a main component of everyday life, especially for our kids. But just because everyone – and I mean literally just about everyone – is using it, does not mean it’s completely safe. In fact, it is just the opposite. Just as in the real world, there are people that use the Internet to harm others. One of the two high profile dangers lurking online is Internet predators, and I have news for you – they are real!

A lot of experts in recent years have asserted that Internet predators, and the fear that is incited by the very mention of them, is blown out of proportion. Maybe it’s a reaction to the infamous Chris Hansen/Dateline NBC series “To Catch a Predator,” but many experts are trying to tell parents that our fear of Internet predators is “overblown,” and that we should really be more concerned with at-risk youth.

I have a serious issue with this notion.

I read multiple stories every week about Internet predators being busted in sting operations. I believe the news reports I see and read are true, more specifically the law enforcement officers quoted in these stories giving their take on Internet safety. Whether it’s another predator bust or an article about a local internet safety seminars, hosted by local law enforcement and FBI agents, or just simple tips and advice from the agents and officers on the front lines of the predator war, one statement always comes out in every piece: ‘you must protect your children from online predators. These guys do exist!’

Why would law enforcement (aka those we charge with keeping us safe) lie about this? Why would local cops and sheriffs want to incite an unnecessary panic? They aren’t trying to sell software or create a fear of smoke. They are simply stating their opinions and beliefs based on what they see every day at their job: an endless parade of disgusting individuals who use the Internet to solicit sex from underage children, both boys and girls alike.

I believe they are not lying. They are speaking the truth. Make no mistake, Internet predators are real – and in tomorrow’s post we will discuss recent real world situations, and what you can do to protect your child.

Kid Safety Let's Talk

Teen + Social Media = Disaster? Not Necessarily…

by Shadra Bruce

Our two older boys have not given us the typical teen experiences most parents face. Derek didn’t drive, date, or have many interests beyond math, video games, and basketball. Kyle has Down syndrome. Kira, however, more than made up for her brothers’ lack of teen issues by challenging us in a variety of ways that account for at least 50 percent of my grey hair.

When Kira (now 20 and successfully off at college except for breaks and summer) was in her early teens, she wanted to be on MySpace. We, being conscientious and involved parents, said “Hell, no!!”

At the time, social media wasn’t even a phrase that had been thoroughly coined yet, and the idea of letting our 13-year old cheerleading daughter get out there on the Internet in a venue that allowed for easy contact and even easier posting of pictures seemed like bad parenting in action – even if “everybody else” did have an account.

We eventually relented, with lots and lots of caveats, like “we get to know your password” and “you can only access it from the living room of our house with us looking over your shoulder.” Of course, being a teenager, she didn’t wait for us to get around to it. We discovered that she’d simply created an account for herself while at a friends house using an email address that she’d created that we didn’t know about detailing a level of Internet savvy we didn’t realize she had.

After the predictable “you’re grounded for the rest of your life and can never get on the Internet again” phase, we realized that our approach to teens and the Internet needed to come into the 21st century. We enforced Kira’s grounding from the Internet for a couple of weeks, during which time we all chatted about our concerns, her reasons for wanting on the Internet, and how we could come to a more amicable arrangement without feeling like we’d just handed our daughter off to the Internet predators of the world.

What we learned with that first trip through teen + social media = disaster was that you can’t keep teens from technology any more. It’s not even smart to try, because everything they do is connected. This generation is actually referred to as the “C” generation – the Connected generation – and the Internet, technology, and social media will have a gigantic influence in how they work, live, and socialize.

We had a LOT more success when we sat down with Kira and told her what we were worried about and shared stories with her about kids who had shared too much information and had become victims of predators. Instead of keeping her from the Internet, we realized we needed to help her be a savvy user who could protect herself from harm while learning to use these tools.

Parker is 11 now, and we’ll probably be setting him up with his own Facebook account very soon. We have all the same concerns we had with Kira – and Parker will only have Internet access in the living room where we can look over his shoulder, and we will know his password. But we also know a lot more about social media and understand better that it’s here to stay, and that the best thing we can do as parents is educate our children about Internet safety and online protocols rather than trying to keep them away from it.