Author Archives: Cybermum Australia

How To Help Your Kids Manage Our ‘Culture of Likes’

As a mum of 4 sons, my biggest concerns about the era of social media is the impact of the ‘like culture’ on our children’s mental health. The need to generate likes online has become a biological compulsion for many teens and let’s be honest – adults too! The rush of dopamine that surges through one’s body when a new like has been received can make this like culture understandably addictive.

 

Research Shows Likes Can Make You Feel As Good As Chocolate!

The reason why our offspring (and even us) just can’t give up social media is because it can make us feel just so damn good! In fact, the dopamine surges we get from the likes we collect can give us a true psychological high and create a reward loop that is almost impossible to break. Research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows the brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are also activated when teens see large numbers of ‘likes’ on their own photos or photos of peers in a social network.

Likes and Self Worth

Approval and validation by our peers has, unfortunately, always had an impact on our sense of self-worth. Before the era of social media, teens may have measured this approval by the number of invitations they received to parties or the number of cards they received on their birthday. But in the digital world of the 21st  century, this is measured very publicly through the number of followers we have or the number of likes we receive on our posts.

But this is dangerous territory. Living our lives purely for the approval of others is a perilous game. If our self-worth is reliant on the amount of likes we receive then we are living very fragile existences.

Instagram’s Big Move

In recognition of the competition social media has become for many, Instagram has decided to trial hiding the likes tally on posts. Instagram believes this move, which is also being trialled in six other countries including Canada and New Zealand, will improve the well-being of users and allow them to focus more on ‘telling their story’ and less on their likes tally.

But the move has been met with criticism. Some believe Instagram is ‘mollycoddling’ the more fragile members of our community whilst others believe it is threatening the livelihood of ‘Insta influencers’ whose income is reliant on public displays of likes.

Does Instagram’s Move Really Solve Address our Likes Culture?

While I applaud Instagram for taking a step to address the wellbeing and mental health of users, I believe that it won’t be long before users simply find another method of social validation to replace our likes stats. Whether it’s follower numbers or the amount of comments or shares, many of us have been wired to view social media platforms like Instagram as a digital popularity contest so will adjust accordingly. Preparing our kids for the harshness of this competitive digital environment needs to be a priority for all parents.

What Can Parents Do?

Before your child joins social media, it is imperative that you do your prep work with your child. There are several things that need to be discussed:

  1. Your Kids Are So Much More Than Their Likes Tally

It is not uncommon for tweens and teens to judge their worth by the number of followers or likes they receive on their social media posts. Clearly, this is crazy but a common trend/ So, please discuss the irrationality of the likes culture and online popularity contest that has become a feature of almost all social media platforms. Make sure they understand that social media platforms play on the ‘reward loop’ that keep us coming back for more. Likes on our posts and validating comments from our followers provide hits of dopamine that means we find it hard to step away. While many tweens and teens view likes as a measure of social acceptance, it is essential that you continue to tell them that this is not a true measure of a person.

  1. Encourage Off-Line Activities

Help your kids develop skills and relationships that are not dependent on screens. Fill their time with activities that build face-to-face friendships and develop their individual talents. Whether it’s sport, music, drama, volunteering or even a part time job – ensuring your child has a life away from screens is essential to creating balance.

  1. Education is Key

Teaching your kids to be cyber safe and good digital citizens will minimise the chances of them experiencing any issues online. Reminding them about the perils of oversharing online, the importance of proactively managing their digital reputation and the harsh reality of online predators will prepare them for the inevitable challenges they will have to navigate.

  1. Keep the Communication Channels Open – Always!

Ensuring your kids really understand that they can speak to you about ANYTHING that is worrying them online is one of the best digital parenting insurance policies available. If they do come to you with an issue, it is essential that you remain calm and do not threaten to disconnect them from their online life. Whether it’s cyberbullying, inappropriate texting or a leak of their personal information, working with them to troubleshoot and solve problems and challenges they face is a must for all digital parents.

Like many parents, I wish I could wave a magic wand and get rid of the competition the likes culture has created online for many of our teens. But that is not possible. So, instead let’s work with our kids to educate them about its futility and help them develop a genuine sense of self-worth that will buffer them from harshness this likes culture has created.

Alex xx

The post How To Help Your Kids Manage Our ‘Culture of Likes’ appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Book Your Next Holiday Online and NOT Get Scammed

Taking our tribe on an annual family holiday has always been a top priority for my husband and me. But with 4 sons – who all eat like ridiculous amounts – this can be an expensive exercise. So, like most people, I am always on the lookout for deals and ways to save money to our favourite holiday destinations.

But according to research from McAfee, our need to secure a great deal to a hot destination may mean we are cutting corners and taking risks online. Over one-third of us (32%) report that we are likely to use a website we have never heard of before just because it offers great deals!

And cybercriminals are fully aware of this, so they spend a lot of time and effort creating malicious travel websites and fraudulent links to lure us ‘travel nuts’ away from the reputable online travel players. Their goal is to get us to their fraudulent site, install malware on our devices so they can steal our personal information, passwords and, ideally, our money!

How Many Aussies Have Been Scammed?

McAfee’s research also shows that 1 in 5 of us have either been scammed or nearly scammed when booking a holiday online with many of us (32%) signing up for a deal that turned out to be fake. And horrifyingly, 28% of holiday scam victims only realised that they had been scammed when checking-in to their holiday accommodation!! Can you imagine breaking the news to the kids? Or worse still having to pay twice for the one holiday?

Cybercriminals Also Have Favourite Holiday Hot Spots

Not only are cybercriminals capitalising on our need for a deal when booking a holiday, but they are also targeting our favourite destinations. The findings from McAfee’s research show holiday hot spots such as Thailand, India, the Philippines and the UK generate the riskiest search results when people are on the hunt for holidays online.

The top holiday destinations for Aussies that hackers are targeting via potentially malicious sites:

  1. New Delhi, India
  2. Bangkok, Thailand
  3. London, England
  4. Phuket, Thailand
  5. Manila, Philippines

Cybercriminals take advantage of the high search volumes for accommodation and deals in these popular destinations and drive unsuspecting users to their malicious websites often using professional looking links, pop-up ads and even text messages.

What You Can Do to Avoid Being Scammed

With Aussie school holiday just a few weeks away, do not despair! There are definitely steps you can take to protect yourself when booking your Winter getaway. Here are my top tips:

  1. Think Before You Click

With 25% of holiday bookings occurring through email promotions and pop-up ads, it’s essential to properly research the company behind the ads before you proceed with payment. Check out reviews and travel forums to ensure it is a legitimate online travel store. And it’s always best to use a trusted online retailer with a solid reputation even if it costs a little more.

  1. Use Wi-Fi With Caution

Using unsecured Wi-Fi is a risky business when you are travelling. If you absolutely must, ensure it is secured BUT never conduct any financial or sensitive transactions when connected. Investing in a virtual private network (VPN) such as McAfee Safe Connect is the best way to ensure that your connection is secure and your data remains private.

  1. Protect Yourself

Ensuring your device has current comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, will ensure any malicious websites will be identified when you are browsing. It will also protect your device against malware – which could come in handy if you are tricked into visiting a fraudulent site.

So, next time you come across an amazing, bargain-basement deal to Thailand, PLEASE take the time to do your homework. Is the retailer legitimate? What do the reviews say? What are the terms and conditions? And, if it isn’t looking rosy, remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

‘till next time

Alex xx

 

The post How to Book Your Next Holiday Online and NOT Get Scammed appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your E-Waste This World Environment Day

Our love of technology and often biological need for new devices has created one of the biggest environmental issues of our time – e-waste. Today is World Environment Day – a great opportunity to ensure we are doing all we can to minimise landfill and protect our precious environment.

Over the last 12 months, BYO shopping bags, paper straws and ‘truly recyclable’ takeaway coffee cups have dominated our national environmental dialogue as essential ways to minimise future landfill. But with the average Aussie family generating a whopping 73 kg per year of e-waste, it’s critical that we turn our attention to our growing e-waste crisis this World Environment Day.

What is e-Waste?

E-Waste refers to old technology that you are no longer using. It includes microwaves, computers, TVs, batteries, screens, chargers, printer cartridges and even kitchen appliances.

High amounts of non-renewable resources such as plastic and precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc, copper and aluminium) are found in e-waste. So, recycling these materials to make new electronics not only makes good financial sense but it also prevents products from winding up in a landfill.

According to experts, the average Aussie household own a startling 17 devices with predictions that this will increase to 27 by 2022.  So, it’s clear that our e-waste problem needs to be tackled head-on.

How Much e-Waste Is Generated Annually?

In January, the United Nations and World Economic Forum reported that the world produces 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year – around the same mass as 125,000 jumbo jets which is more than all the commercial aircraft ever built!

But interestingly, e-waste isn’t all bad news. In 2017, the UN University estimated the value of raw materials in e-waste to be worth  $US62.5 billion annually which exceeds the GDP (gross domestic product) of 123 countries. So, the opportunities contained in effective e-waste management are not only environmental but financial as economies could be bolstered and jobs could be created.

What Can We Do to Minimise It?

There are definitely steps we can all take to reduce our e-waste. While the obvious (less popular) strategy is to STOP purchasing new electronics, focussing in recycling and repurposing will go a long way to reducing our e-waste footprint. Here are my top tips:

  1. Repair or Refresh Your Current Devices

While we all love the idea of a shiny, new device, it’s often possible to repair or rejuvenate devices to avoid spending big bucks on a new one. Most devices can usually be repaired and even enhanced with a little expert ‘know-how’. I have spent a large chunk of my parenting career repairing and rescuing smartphones that were dropped, ‘washed’ or just deemed not ‘cool enough’. But the good news, it doesn’t take much to fix these issues: screens can be replaced, faults can be rectified, and new covers can be purchased to re-energise ‘the look’. And don’t forget the power of a software upgrade to ensure your phone is operating at its peak performance. If you are an Apple user, why not book a visit to their Genius Bar and let their staff show you how to get your device working at its optimum level?

  1. Sell or Give Away Your Unwanted Electronics

One of the easiest ways to manage your unwanted electronic devices is to rehome them. Gumtree and eBay are great online marketplaces to make a bit of extra cash by selling your obsolete devices. I know my boys have taken great delight in making a few extra bucks selling old phones and iPads over the years. Many charities also welcome donations of pre-loved smartphones or laptops so they can rehome them to people in Australia and overseas who just can’t afford to purchase their own. But don’t forget to wipe the data from your devices, remove your SIM cards and ideally do a factory reset of the phone to protect your privacy.

  1. Repurpose Your Old Smartphone

Instead of throwing out your old phone, why not repurpose it? Consider using it as a standalone GPS device in your car or perhaps dedicate it to your family’s music collection? Or why not turn it into a stand-alone home security camera?  Or even a baby monitor or a Google Home speaker? The possibilities are endless

  1. Turn Your Smartphone into a Child-Friendly Entertainment Device

If your little ones are after their ‘own phone’ then why not turn your old one into a custom child-friendly device? It’s super easy to set a passcode and turn age-appropriate restrictions on. Within minutes, you can lock down the device and turn off access to anything you don’t want your child to get involved with. This includes the camera, web browser and permission to install apps. Genius!

  1. Organise Your Current Fleet Before You Buy Anything New

Before you invest in new devices, organise what you already own to make sure you really need to make that purchase. A clean-up of desks, cupboards and kitchen drawers may yield a stash of chargers, USB sticks, hard drives and even old smartphones you had forgotten about. And consider sharing gadgets and chargers between family members to avoid buying new items.

  1. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

But if you decide, it’s time to say farewell to your old devices, PLEASE recycle them properly. Many e-waste experts, including Craig Reucassel environmental champion from the ABC’s ‘War on Waste’, believe the biggest challenge to reducing e-waste is getting devices out of people’ s drawers and garages and into designated recycling stations.

But the good news is that there are a number of user-friendly recycling options available:

  1. TechCollect is a free Australia-wide e-waste recycling initiative which is funded by some of the leading tech brands with the aim of avoiding landfill. Check out their website for the closest recycling centre to you.
  2. Mobile Muster provides mobile phone recycling facilities in Australia with over 3000 drop locations. Check out your closest drop-off point on their website.
  3. Many local councils also offer recycling options for e-waste. Why not contact yours to find out your options?
  4. Consider recycling your smartphone to support your favourite charity. It is now possible to recycle your phone and benefit your favourite charity at the same time. For no cost to the consumer, the Aussie Recycling Program (ARP) will recycle your phone and donate the profits to your nominated charity. They will either sell it on, recycle it or break it down into small parts that can be sold to manufacturers.

With e-waste set to become one of the biggest environmental issues of our generation, it’s time we all took responsibility for our unloved tech goods. If you are a closet hoarder, it’s time to workshop these issues quickly. Because our failure to take action could mean our discarded devices with their toxic by-products end up in landfill potentially polluting our waterways and food supply. So, let’s make this a priority!

Alex xx

 

 

 

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Privacy Awareness Week 2019 – Are You In The Dark About Your Online Privacy?

If you haven’t given your online privacy much attention lately then things need to change. In our era of weekly data breaches, the ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ excuse no longer cuts it. In my opinion, ensuring your privacy is protected online is probably more important than protecting your home and car! A sloppy approach to online privacy can have devastating ramifications to your financial health, your career and even your physical wellbeing.

This week is Privacy Awareness Week in Australia – a great reminder to give our online privacy a ‘check-up’ and work out what we can do to ensure the information we share online (and who sees it) is locked down.

What Do We Need to Protect?

When we think about online privacy, we often think about protecting our password and financial data online. But it’s a little more complicated. There are 2 categories of information that we share in our online life that requires protection.

  1. Personally Identifying Information (PII) – this includes our name, birthdate, address and Medicare number
  2. Non-Personally Identifying Information – this includes the information about what we do online. It’s a combination of the websites we visit, what we buy online, our online searches and the pages we like on our social media profiles. Our online activity creates a digital folder about ourselves and many companies just love this data so they can send targeted ads your way. Ever wondered why you receive ads about holiday destinations after a few wishful holiday Google searches?

Without adequate online privacy, all the information about our online activities can be collected and analysed by third parties. In fact, data collected (legally) about you by websites can be very lucrative! Companies, known as data brokers, collect and maintain data on millions on people and charge handsomely for their services!

Why Do I Need To Worry About My Online Privacy?

Just think for a moment about some of the information that is stored about you online…

  • Your PII is stored in the background of probably every online account you have including social media, news and banking
  • Your online banking and superannuation sites contain details of all your accounts and your net worth
  • Your health and taxation records maybe accessible online which may contain sensitive information you would prefer not to be shared
  • If you haven’t disabled location services on your phone, your whereabouts can be tracked by clever parties on a daily basis
  • Your pictures and videos

While some of this information is stored without your control, there are steps you can take to tighten up access.

Now, think about your daily online activity…

  • Anything you order online via your web browser can be recorded
  • Anytime you send an email with sensitive information, there is a risk this will also be shared
  • Anytime you pay on the go using a facility like Apple Pay, your purchase will be tracked
  • Anything you search for, the articles you read, the movie tickets you buy and even your weekly online grocery order can be tracked

If this comes as a shock to you then you’re not alone. Many Aussies have been in the dark about what information is available about them online. But, don’t throw the towel in – there are strategies to tighten up your online privacy.

How To Get Your Online Privacy Under Control

There are a few simple steps you can take to lock down your valuable online information. So, make yourself a nice cuppa and let’s get to work:

  1. Manage Your Passwords

Your online passwords are as important as your house keys. In fact, in many cases, it is the only thing stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that we have saved online. So, if you want to tighten up access to your online banking, your social media platforms and your favourite online shopping sites then you need to think carefully about how you manage your passwords.

Passwords need to be complex and unique with at least 8-10 characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. And each of your online accounts should have a separate password which should be changed regularly. Too hard? Consider a Password Manager which creates and manages complex passwords for each of your online accounts – a complete no brainer!! McAfee’s Total Protection software includes a Password Manager which stores, auto-fills and generates unique passwords for all your online accounts. All you need to do is remember one master password! Easy!

And don’t forget, if one of your online accounts is affected by a data breach, then you need to change that password ASAP. If you have a password manager, simply have it generate another password for you.

  1. Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution

If you are serious about your online privacy then you need to use public Wi-Fi sparingly. Unsecured public Wi-Fi is a very risky business. Anything you share could easily find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. So, please avoid sharing any sensitive or personal information while using public Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly or spend the bulk of your time on the road then consider investing in a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your activity which means your login details and other sensitive information is protected. McAfee has a great VPN product called Safe Connect. An excellent insurance policy!

  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication

Adding an additional layer of security to protect yourself when accessing your online accounts is another great way of guarding your online privacy. Turn on two-factor authentication for Google, Dropbox, Facebook and whatever other site offers it. For those new to this option, this means that in addition to your password, you will need to provide another form of identification to ensure you are who you say you are. Most commonly, this is a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by a smart phone app.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

Software updates and patches are often designed to address a security vulnerability so ALWAYS install them so the bad guys can’t take advantage of security hole in your system. If it all becomes to hard, why not automate the updates?

  1. Invest in Security Software for ALL Your Devices

Installing comprehensive security software on all your devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones adds another layer of protection to your vital online information. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection software that will ensure you and your devices are protected against viruses, malware spyware and ransomware.

  1. Consider a Search Engine that Doesn’t Track Your Every Move Online

If you would prefer that your search engines didn’t collect and store the information you enter then consider an alternative ‘privacy focussed’ search engine. Check out DuckDuckGo that doesn’t profile users or track or sell your information to third parties.

  1. Delete All Cookies

Cookies are another way your online activity can be tracked. While some are harmless and used to simply remember things about you such as your login information and language, others known as  tracking cookies remain permanently constantly gathering information about your behaviour and what you click on. So, let’s get rid of them! Head into your web browser’s Privacy settings and clean them out.

So, let’s get our online privacy under control this Privacy Awareness Week. But don’t forget about your kids and elderly relatives too! Proactively managing one’s online privacy needs to be a priority for everyone. Why not start a conversation at the dinner table? Perhaps give the family a daily privacy related task every day during Privacy Awareness Week? For example:

Monday – Clean up your passwords or set up a Password Manager

Tuesday –  Research a VPN

Wednesday – Set up 2 factor authentication

Thursday – Ensure all your software is up to date and set up auto-updates where possible

Friday – Research privacy focussed search engines and delete all cookies

Over to you mums and dads. Would love to hear how you go.

Alex xx

 

 

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It’s World Password Day – the Perfect Excuse to give your Passwords an Overhaul!

How much of your personal data is stored online? Well, if you are anything like the ‘average Jo’ – the answer is a lot! In 2019, the vast majority of us bank and shop online, have official documentation stored online, have all sorts of personal information stored in our emails and let’s not forget about our photos and videos.

And the scary thing – the only thing that is stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that is saved online is our passwords.

Today is World Password Day – a perfect opportunity to give our password strategy a health check.  Because if we are serious about protecting our vital data that is stored online then we need to get SUPER serious about managing our passwords!

So, let’s give your passwords an overhaul. Why not schedule some time in your calendar to ensure your passwords are in the best shape? Here are my top tips on what you can do today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your private online data.

How To Give Your Passwords A Health Check:

1. Check To See Whether Your Passwords Have Been Exposed

The first step is to see whether your passwords have been compromised in a data breach. Check out  www.haveibeenpwned.com.au to see whether cybercriminals have already discovered your passwords. If so, then they need to be changed wherever they are used ASAP.

2. Commit to Not Using Common Passwords

Using common passwords such as ‘password’, ‘123456’ or ‘qwerty’ is quite frankly, a waste of time. It would take cybercriminals a matter of seconds to unlock your online banking data. Also avoid using simple personal details within your passwords such as your birthday, name or kids and pet names as a quick scan of your social media accounts would allow cybercriminals to find this in just seconds. Always make your passwords random and obscure. Why not consider a nonsensical sentence?

3. Add Numbers and Symbols to Your Passwords

When you are setting up a new online account, many organisations will require you to add a number or symbol to your proposed password to give it additional ‘password strength’. Passwords that include a variety of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are far harder to crack so get creative and layer up your passwords.

4. Ensure Every Password Is Unique

Many people use the same password across all of their online accounts. And while this makes life easier, it increases your risk of your vital online data being compromised big time. Remember, if a hacker discovers just one of your passwords – and it’s the only one you use – all of your online personal information is at risk! Therefore, it is crucial to ensure all your passwords are different! I know, it sounds like a lot of work and brain power!

5. Simplify Your Life with a Password Manager

If the idea of creating individual complex passwords for each of your online accounts – oh, and changing them every 2 months, is giving you palpitations, then I have a solution – a password manager!

McAfee’s Total Protection includes Password Manager, which stores, auto-fills and even generates unique passwords. Creating and remembering (!) complex password for each online account is taken care off. All you need to do is remember one master password in order to access the rest of the passwords! And if there is a data breach, it’s super easy to quickly change a password too.

6. Set up Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible

If you have the option to enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication with any of your online accounts, then do it!! In simple terms, this will mean that you need to provide more than one way of identifying yourself before gaining access to your account. Often it is your password plus a code sent to your smartphone or even your fingerprint. It’s an absolute no-brainer as it adds another layer of security making it harder to cybercriminals to access your vital online data.

Now, if you are thinking about skipping out of your password overhaul, then please think again! Passwords are the first line of defence to protect your vital online data from cybercriminals. So, put the kettle on and make today the day!

Till next time!

Alex xx

 

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The Ultimate CyberParenting Hack – Managing Your Family’s Cybersafety with the help of your Wi-Fi Router!

Managing your family’s cybersafety can often feel overwhelming. But one thing I have learnt in my 22 years of parenting is that there are no silver bullets for any parenting issues. Whether it’s toilet training or driver training, it takes time and often a combination of strategies. Teaching your kids about online safety is no different. Yes, you need to put in the hard work and continue to have the conversations. BUT if it was possible to supplement the talking with some strategic parental controls and an automatic layer of cybersecurity, then I would consider that to be a parenting no brainer!

Well, this parenting no-brainer exists. Let me introduce you D-Link’s latest D-Fend Router which not only includes McAfee’s Secure Home Platform which automatically protects all your Wi-Fi connected devices but some pretty impressive parental controls too. And all this happens while users are delivered fast wireless connectivity with increased range and reliability. Awesome!

Being a First-Generation Digital Parent Is A Tough Gig

As a generation of parents, I believe we are the busiest yet. Not only are we juggling our brood of kids and their lives but many of us are also managing ageing parents, plus our own careers, relationships and social lives. And just to complicate things a little further, we are also the first generation of digital parents. Managing our kids and their fleet of devices comes with no guidebook or tried and tested generational wisdom, which makes our job even more complex. How easy did my parents have it – all they had to do was buy the Atari console in the 80’s!

But the job of a digital parent is only set to become more complex with Gartner estimating that by 2020 there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices operating in our world.

Many Parents Don’t Know Where To Start With Cyber Safety At Home

When I speak with parents about how they manage their kids and devices, there is a recurring theme – many parents know they need to be doing something to protect their kids from online risks, but they often don’t know where to start. As a result, nothing often happens. Research from McAfee confirms this too with almost a third of Aussies taking no steps at all to install security protection on either their own or their kids’ internet connected devices.

But there is no doubt that many parents are concerned about the risks. Research by Life Education in partnership with Hyundai Help for Kids shows that an overwhelming 95% of Aussie parents rated online safety as a very important issue which is very encouraging.

What Online Risks Concern Aussie Parents the Most?

Aussie parents have many concerns about the risks posed by the online world. I believe however, the following are the ones that increase parents’ blood pressure the most!

Screen time – The time our kids spend glued to screens is a huge concern for many Aussie parents. Whether you are concerned about ‘tech neck’, the growing rates of childhood obesity or simply, the lack of conversation at home – you would not be alone! Research by The Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that 12-13 year old Aussie kids are spending a whopping 3 hours a day in front of screens during the week and then 4 hours on the weekends. No wonder many parents are concerned.

Gaming – Recent research conducted by McAfee shows that some Aussie teens are spending up to 4 hours a day gaming. And while parents naturally worry about the opportunity cost associated with the time, their greater concern is around the risk of online grooming and of exposure to inappropriate and violent material.

Cyberbullying – This is the big one for many parents and rightly so. Cyberbullying can be absolutely devastating for victims. A quick google provides just far too many examples of young adults who have suffered significant psychological trauma or even lost their lives as a result of unchecked cyberbullying. Last year, our e-Safety Commissioner reported a 35% increase in cases of reported cyberbullying as compared to the previous year.

But Why Aren’t Parents Taking Action?

As a group of parents, there is no doubt we are concerned about screen time, gaming addiction, online grooming, and cyberbullying but many of us aren’t taking the necessary action to intervene and protect our kids. So, McAfee probed a little deeper in recent research and discovered that almost half of Aussie parents believe that their children can manage their own cyber safety from the age of just 10. Now, when my boys when 10, they were barely able to manage their own lunchboxes! So, this belief truly stuns me.

So, we have some parents who just don’t know where to start and others who believe it isn’t their responsibility. Regardless, there is clearly a need to take some decisive action to protect our kids from both online risks and problematic anti-social behaviours.

What Steps Can Parents Take Now to Protect Their Kids Digital Lives?

The good news is there are a few simple things parents can do to protect their kids and their growing fleet of internet connected devices. Here are my top tips:

  • Check a Device’s Security Track Record

Before buying any connected device, always research the brand and read reviews on a product’s security (or lack of). A quick web search will give you some pretty fast insight into the potential device’s security standards. Going with a notable brand that has a proven security track record is often the best option.

  • Always Change Default Settings, Use Strong Passwords & Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Default and weak passwords are the biggest threat to the security of internet connected devices. Hackers are very familiar with both default and obvious passwords which makes it super easy to access the data on your devices. Know these passwords and use them to access the data on your devices. If the thought of remembering several passphrases daunts you, go for a password manager. While a strong and unique password is a great place to start, enabling two-factor authentication on your devices and accounts will mean you’ll need to verify your identity with something that you (and only you) have access to. This is most commonly a mobile device, which ensures a higher-level of security.

  • Keep Your Devices Up To Date

Device software updates are often always designed to protect your device from recently discovered security bugs, vulnerabilities and threats. If you’re in the common habit of ignoring update notifications, turning on auto-update will ensure you apply these patches in real time and have maximum protection.

  • Invest in a Router that Protects Your Devices & Offers Parental Controls!

Investing in a Wi-Fi router with built-in protection like McAfee’s Secure Home Platform is one of the easiest ways of both managing and protecting your family’s fleet of devices. Not only does it automatically protect any device that connects to the Wi-Fi but it comes with some very strategic parental controls. So not only can you take back control and proactively manage your kids’ screen time but you can set up customised profiles to ensure they are visiting only suitable sites.

As a mum of 4, I believe that managing the risk in our kids’ cyber lives needs to be a genuine priority for us all. So, yes, let’s keep talking to our kids about online risks and the need to self-regulate our online behaviour. But, if we could also add in a later of automatic protection for our kids’ devices from McAfee’s Secure Home Platform and some savvy parental controls to ensure our kids are on track then I think that’s a pretty compelling parenting hack for us first generation digital parents!

Take Care

Alex xx

 

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