Category Archives: protecting kids online

Messenger Rooms: New Video Chat Option is Fun But Has Risks

Messenger Rooms

Messenger RoomsOne of the many things we’ve learned during this season of being homebound is that video chats with friends can save the day. One of the newest channels for video chatting is Messenger Rooms. While the new Facebook feature isn’t groundbreaking in terms of how it works, it’s the ability to pull together a big group of friends spontaneously that may make this a popular digital hangout for kids.

The Basics

Messenger Rooms functions similarly to the popular video conferencing app Zoom. The exception: There’s no need for users (or guests) to download a new app, create an account, or send out pre-planned meeting invites.

Messenger Rooms is simple. One person sets up a Messenger Room, that Room is assigned a URL, the organizer sends his or her friends that link, and those friends can instantly click it and be in the room. With so many families still opting to avoid large gatherings, Rooms may be the next best way to socialize in the most organic, pre-pandemic way.

The app makes it easy to watch movies together since one user screen can be pinned to the top of the chat for shared viewing. Kids can also have game nights, birthday parties, organize workout and study groups, or have a “squad hangout” as the Room title options call out (see graphic, below).

The Fun 

A few specific features may make Messenger Rooms appealing to kids. First, it’s easy to drop friends a link and be together almost instantly in a private room. Messenger Rooms is free, doesn’t have time limits, and up to 50 friends can get together in one room — from anywhere in the world. Kids joining a Room from their mobile app can apply quirky filters to their backgrounds or faces, which brings in the creativity element they get from Instagram Stories and Snapchat.

The Risks

Privacy. So far, privacy seems to be the biggest concern being raised and here’s why. Messenger Rooms, like Facebook, collects metadata from users — including guests without Facebook accounts. Metadata may include the people you talk with, at what times, and how often, all of which can be shared with a third party. Also, Messenger Rooms, while it does not record calls (like Zoom), lacks end-to-end encryption, which makes the channel vulnerable to hackers and compromises private conversations.

Troublemakers. Live chat rooms are not password-protected, so if a Room organizer decides to make a Room public or fails to lock a room they intended to be private, anyone can pop in and do anything. Much like the Zoom bombers emerging, anyone could crash a meeting with racial rants or graphic content. A link to a room can also be shared with others by anyone who has the link.

Cyberbullying. As with any app, conflicts can arise as can cyberbullying or harassment.

The Conversation

If you notice your kids using Messenger Rooms, you may consider having a few conversations that highlight the risks.

  • Privacy settings. If you organize a Room, lock it to keep unwanted people from crashing your meet up.
  • Nothing is private. Messenger Rooms isn’t encrypted, so it’s not the place to have private conversations or share sensitive content. Note: The internet in any form isn’t the place to share any personal content. Anything exchanged online — even a “private” text between two people — is vulnerable to hackers, device theft, or the possibility of a relationship falling out.
  • Nothing is free. Remind your children that services online are free for a reason. There is always an exchange: Free use for data. Be aware that profile information and bits of a conversation could be mined and used by a third party. To understand better how data is collected, Facebook’s help center or data policy.
  • Lock your room. Unless your child adjusts his or her preferences, it will be open to anyone that person is friends with on Facebook who will see the public Room at the top of their newsfeed. That means lovable Uncle Pete may mistakenly stumble into your daughter’s “squad” rant unless the Room is locked.
  • Report and block. If an unwanted person disrupts a Room kids can block the user and report it to Facebook.
  • Age-appropriate options. For kids under 13 (Facebook age requirement), there’s Messenger Kids, a Facebook feature that allows younger kids to video call with friends in a parentally-supervised room. It’s a great tool for teaching kids safe, online practices before they use the real thing.

To stay ahead of the digital hangouts available to kids, visit McAfee Consumer Family Safety blogs each week. You may also consider monitoring your child’s devices with parental controls designed to filter content, monitor screen time, and track new apps.

The post Messenger Rooms: New Video Chat Option is Fun But Has Risks appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Keep Your Celebrations Happening – Virtually & Safely!

2020 has certainly been the year of the ‘new normal’. Our new life in which we stay home and socially distance has affected the way we work and learn but just as importantly, the way we celebrate!

Without a doubt, the video call saved the day while we all stayed home and socially distanced. Work meetings continued and learning at home still happened thanks to this wonderful technology. And while some people used video calls to remain in touch with family and friends, this remarkable technology also helped many people worldwide continue to celebrate life’s important milestones such as school and university graduations; weddings and, even the celebration of life at funerals.

Graduating Virtually

One of my oldest friends has two daughters who have just virtually graduated from their high school and university. Before each occasion, the girls were sent their cap and gown and their graduation certificates via the post. On the day of each event, the girls donned their specially purchased dresses – which were purchased long before ‘lockdown’ (along with their cap and gown) – and participated in the ceremony via video call. Dressed to the 9’s, their immediate family also watched the ceremony and witnessed their daughter (and sister) officially graduate.

While there wasn’t perhaps the same sense of camaraderie as if their cohort had graduated together in person, the video call was definitely the next best thing. It allowed them to see their friends, receive the public accolades they both so deserved and, most importantly, it provided a sense of completion and closure that allowed them to start thinking about their next phase in life.

Virtual Weddings

Within weeks of lockdown, the virtual wedding industry was well established. Companies such as Simply Eloped were offering virtual wedding packages that provided planning assistance, a virtual ceremony emcee, advice on acquiring a license and tech support. Specialised tech companies were also offering to coordinate weddings on video calling apps and manage guests on multiple devices.

And if you are getting married, of course you need photography so virtual photographers became a thing as did customised wedding backdrops providers and virtual live musicians to entertain your guests. If there was ever an example of an industry that mastered the art of pivoting, it was definitely the wedding industry!

Celebrating the End Of A Life – Virtually

Probably one of the hardest milestones to miss in person during lockdown was the celebration of life – the funeral. Around the world, many countries limited attendees at funerals to as low as 10 to ensure social distancing which meant live streaming the service became the next best option.

Specialised funeral live streaming companies such as OneRoom sprung up allowing family and friends the opportunity for a private farewell even if they couldn’t attend in person.  While a funeral service is an important way to remember and celebrate the life of the recently deceased, it is also an important part of the grieving process. I have several friends who lost treasured family members during the lockdown period who were very comforted by having the option to have a copy of the live-streamed service which they could watch several times.

If there’s ever a time to be grateful for the power of technology (and video calls) it’s now! I just can’t imagine how we have all survived the isolation without being able to stay in touch and see the faces of family and friends! But just like every aspect of online life, video calling apps are fantastic when used sensibly but they do also carry some risks. Here are my top tips to ensure that you can safely celebrate life’s milestones online:

  1. Don’t Share Links to Video Calls

Whether it’s a wedding ceremony, baby shower, meeting with a virtual photographer or a funeral service, sharing links to video calls means you are essentially extending the invitation to anyone who gets their hands on the link. Not only does this compromise the privacy of everyone involved but video call ‘bombers’ have been known use threatening and intimidating language which could be very unsettling.

  1. Keep Your Personal Meeting ID Tight!

Some video calling apps allocate each user a PMI or personal meeting ID. Your PMI is basically one continuous meeting so anyone that has access to it can enter any of your future meetings or gatherings. Always generate a random meeting ID for any events where you don’t truly know your invitees.

  1. Video Calls Can Be Recorded

Don’t forget that video calls can be recorded. Even though a video call may feel like real life – it is not! So, if you are celebrating hard at your friend’s wedding, be mindful that your ‘high-energy’ behaviour may be recorded on camera!!

While ‘lockdown life’ may almost be over for some of us, many experts believe ‘social distancing’ will be a way of life for some time. So, if you have an important celebration on your radar, don’t despair – a well-planned virtual celebration can definitely be worthwhile and will be a great story to pass down to future generations!

Happy Virtual Celebrating!

Alex xx

The post How to Keep Your Celebrations Happening – Virtually & Safely! appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How Entertaining Ourselves at Home Has Become a Risky Business

Online entertainment is certainly having a moment. While we all stayed home and socially distanced, many of us filled our time binge-watching movies and TV series  – and wasn’t it fabulous!! But did you know that researching your next binge-watching project could actually be putting you at risk?

Aussies Love TV

There is no doubt that us Aussies love our TV and the statistics confirm this. With over three-quarters of Aussies watching TV and over two-thirds browsing the internet to pass the time during lockdown, we are clearly a country of screen-time professionals. And with just under a million new Aussies gaining access to a streaming service in their household, it seems everyone is doing their bit to support the entertainment industry!

But streaming isn’t cheap and can add up fast (particularly when you have multiple accounts) prompting many of us to look for free alternatives. And our desire to save a buck or two when trying to find our next binge-watching project hasn’t escaped the attention of cybercriminals who have a knack for crafting convincing scam strategies that are in sync with consumer trends.

What’s the Most Targeted Show to Search For?

McAfee analysed over 100 of the top ‘talked about’ entertainment titles available across the leading streaming providers here in Australia and identified the 10 most targeted shows (both TV and film) to search for.

The series Unorthadox and movie Ace Ventura took the top place in their respective categories as having the highest ‘web search risk’ which means cybercriminals have put a lot of effort into developing scams around these titles. Scams could include websites offering free downloads of these titles – which require you to enter your personal information – or, pirated videos that contain malware which could access the private data on your device.

Here are the top 10 riskiest shows in both categories:

Series – Australian Top 10 Most Targeted

  1. Unorthadox
  2. You
  3. Family Guy
  4. Big Mouth
  5. Homeland
  6. The Vampire Diaries
  7. Dynasty
  8. Lost
  9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  10. Stranger Things

Movies – Australian Top 10 Most Targeted

  1. Ace Ventura
  2. Green Book
  3. John Wick
  4. Machinist
  5. Annihilation
  6. Ex Machina
  7. A Star Is Born
  8. Fyre
  9. Lady Macbeth
  10. Bird Box

Horror and Thriller Films seem to be the trend!

It appears as though our love for horror and thriller films may be putting us in danger, with five of the top ten films most targeted by cybercriminals falling into these genres. With social distancing restrictions in place, Aussies are clearly seeking to add some thrill back into their lives which has opened up new opportunities for cybercriminals. Consumers need to be careful when it comes to searching for stimulating content to escape reality to ensure it doesn’t translate to real-life malware horror.

How You Can Stay Safe While Binge-Watching At Home

Now, I want to make it very clear – this news doesn’t mean you need to give up nights on the couch. Not at all! Instead, just follow a few simple steps and you can continue binge-watching till your heart is content!

Here are my top tips for staying safe:

  1. Be Careful What You Click –if you are looking to catch up on the latest season of You or A Star is Born, please only access entertainment content directly from a reliable source. The safest thing to do is to subscribe to a streaming site that offers the content or download the movie from sources like iTunes or Amazon, instead of downloading a “free” version from a website that could contain malware.
  2. Do NOT use Illegal Streaming Sites – this is not negotiable! Many illegal streaming sites are riddled with malware disguised as pirated video files. Malware could cause you a world of pain. Not only could it cause your device to freeze or crash, it could steal sensitive information and give cybercrims unauthorized access to system resources. So, do your device a favor and stream your favourite show from a reputable source.
  3. Protect your Online Life with a Cybersecurity Solution –why not send your regards to malicious actors with a comprehensive security solution like McAfee Total Protection. This can help protect you from malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It also includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which helps alert users of malicious websites.

So, when you are looking for your next binge-watching project, please take a moment before you download. Ensure the site you are accessing content from is legit (have you heard of it before? is it offering something for free when every other streaming service has a fee?) and if you are even a little unsure that it doesn’t look professional then DON’T click! The last thing you want is a bonus virus to interrupt your night in on the couch!

Happy Watching!!

Alex xx

 

 

 

 

The post How Entertaining Ourselves at Home Has Become a Risky Business appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Reports of Online Predators on the Rise. How to Keep Your Kids Safe. 

online predators

June is Internet Safety Month. And, with kids spending more time online, stepping up the public conversation about digital risks couldn’t come at a better time.

The past few months have created what some experts call the perfect storm for online predators. Schools are closed, kids are on devices more, and social distancing is creating new levels of isolation and boredom.

Guards are down, and predators know it. In fact, according to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), reports to their CyberTipline spiked 106% during the first months of the pandemic. A recent CNN story, claims the dark web has seen a similar increase in activity within predator communities that has spilled over to the mainstream web since the pandemic began.

While specific data doesn’t exist (yet) to connect increased complaints directly to the ongoing health crisis, NCMEC, the FBI, and UNICEF continue to issue strong warnings to parents to step up digital safety as predators step up their efforts to connect with kids online.

What You Should Know

online predators

Predators reach out to minors through social networks, gaming platforms, or apps. They often pose as a peer, use fake photos, and create fake profiles to lure minors to chat. Predators build trust with children through devious tactics such as grooming, mirroring, and fishing, which you can read more about in our post specific to predator behavior.

Predators have been known to (although not exclusively) target socially awkward or shy kids and convince them to keep the online relationship secret. The predator may ask for a risqué or explicit photo that they may later use to bully or manipulate the child or share within predator circles on the dark web. If the child refuses to send more photos when asked, a predator may threaten to share photos they already have with the child’s family and friends. Often the predator may ask the child to meet in person. These relationships can be brief or go on. Regardless of duration, each encounter can have a harmful psychological impact on a child. Of course, the worst-case predator situations can result in trafficking or death.

What You Can Do

No parent wants to think about their child in this chilling situation. However, a quick Google search regarding actual predator cases may likely inspire you to adopt targeted safety practices. Here are some focused things you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to predators.

  • Have frequent and honest conversations with your child about the specific ways predators may try to befriend them online.
  • Be a safe haven. Discuss with your kids why it’s important for them to tell you right away if they feel uncomfortable with a conversation or if they are asked to engage in any inappropriate activity online.
  • Review your child’s online profiles often. This includes the content they post, who they follow, and the “friends” who comment or message them.
  • Inventory social networks and apps to ensure privacy settings are set to the most restrictive levels possible.
  • Discuss the consequences of sharing inappropriate photos with anyone online.
  • Check-in with your child frequently throughout the day. If you work at home and get easily engrossed with work, consider setting a timer to remind you to monitor your child’s digital activity.
  • Ask simple, critical questions: What apps do your use? What are you watching? Who are you talking to?
  • Teach kids how to safely search the web using tools such as McAfee Web Advisor. Consider parental controls designed to block risky sites, filter inappropriate content, and help parents set screen limits. And, don’t be shy about physically checking your child home screen or PC several times a week.
  • Create screen limits and a phone curfew to prevent late-night online conversations.
  • Be aware of your isolating more or insisting on more privacy to talk with friends.
  • If your child is attending class online, don’t assume they are safe. Monitor their web surfing activity through browser history and monitoring. Connect with teachers to inquire about safety protocols.
  • Seek out help and report it if your child encounters a threatening situation online. You can also contact your local FBI field office.

There’s no way to avoid online risk 100%. Darker elements will always infiltrate the endless opportunity and good stuff the internet offers. As parents, rather than live in fear, we can be proactive. We can understand the risks, take action to minimize them, and make every effort to equip our kids to deal with any threats they encounter online.

The post Reports of Online Predators on the Rise. How to Keep Your Kids Safe.  appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? What Parents Need to Know

cyberbullying

In this season of social distancing, teens need their friends more than ever. Daily digital connection — through texting, video chat, social networks, and gaming — is critical to keeping friend groups strong. But could increased time online these days lead to an increase in cyberbullying?

While there isn’t data to answer that question definitively, it wouldn’t be surprising for parents to notice some signs of conflict surface as the months continue to creep by. And, with re-open dates for schools in limbo, it’s more important than ever to keep the family safety conversation humming.

For clarity: Allowing more screen time doesn’t mean more cyberbullying or conflict is certain to occur. However, experience has taught us that more screen time does increase the potential for digital conflict.

Social and Emotional Fallout

This unprecedented health event hasn’t been easy on anyone, but kids especially are likely to be holding onto some big emotions about it. A recent Common Sense Media study confirms that social media has been key to helping kids get through this crisis, but one in four kids surveyed feels “more lonely than usual.”

The school year with its milestones — proms, graduations, dates, parties — ended abruptly. It’s logical to assume these losses have sparked feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and anxiety. And because online is where most kids connect with peers, these emotions can easily play out there in the form of aggressive behavior, conflict, or persistent drama.

Digital Awareness

cyberbullying

So how do you know if your child is being cyberbullied or dealing with conflict online? It isn’t always easy simply because so many kids won’t admit to being bullied. Often they believe telling an adult will make the harassment worse. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about a regretful situation or the fact that they’re being targeted in the first place. For that reason, one of the best ways to help your child is to be aware of the time they spend online, the people they connect with, and how those digital circles impact their wellbeing.

What to Look For

The many forms of cyberbullying continue to evolve alongside the digital culture. Here are just a few ways kids bully one another.

 

  • Saying hurtful or intimidating things to someone on social media, a text, or email.
  • Making negative comments about a person’s sexuality, race, religion, handicaps, or physical features.
  • Camouflaging hurtful or threatening comments with words like “jk” (just joking).
  • Asking online friends to vote for or against another person, with Instagram polls or captions such as “Is this person hot or not?” or “Would you go out with this person?”
  • Posting or sharing with others the private photos, memes, emails, texts, or secrets without the permission of another person.
  • Intentionally posting unflattering or embarrassing photos of another person.
  • Spreading rumors or false information about another person online.
  • Making any threat to another person no matter how harmless you think it may be.

Signs of Cyberbullying

If your child is getting bullied online, there are some potential signs.

  • Anxious or upset after reading a text, frequently gets sick or nauseous, declines invitations from friends, or bows out of fun family outings.
  • Trouble sleeping or being withdrawn or moody.
  • Being protective of his or her phone, deleting or deactivating social networks
  • Sudden loss of a steady friend group or sudden complaining about once-loved friends.
  • Loss of interest in favorite sports or hobbies or a decline in grades.
  • References to suicide, loneliness, and hopelessness (when severe bullying is taking place).

Know Where They Go

Another way to understand your child’s emotional connection to his or her digital communities is to learn about their favorite platforms and monitor them. Pay specific attention to the tone of his or her social threads. And, if you see concerning comments or posts, ask your child how you can help. If your child is using risky apps such as WhatsApp or Kik, that allows people to use the app anonymously, discuss your concerns with your child. Some social networks are more conducive to cyberbullying than others.

Monitor Gaming Communities

Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer, and when games get competitive, cyberbullying can happen. Spend time with your child while he or she is gaming. Listen to the tone of the conversations and be aware of your child’s demeanor. For your child’s physical and emotional health, make every effort to set gaming limits as summer approaches.

Parenting Moves to Avoid

Bullying experts will tell you that what you don’t do if your child is getting bullied is often as important as what you do. Here’s some insight:

1) Never advise a child to ignore the bullying. 2) Never blame a child for being bullied even if he or she did something to aggravate the bullying. No one deserves to be bullied. 3) As angry as you feel that someone is bullying your child, do not encourage your child to fight back physically. 4) Don’t overreact; escalate accordingly. If you can identify the bully, consider talking with the child’s parents. 5) Don’t lead the charge. Give your child veto power over your involvement. If they say they don’t want you to get involved (unless you suspect physical danger or suicide), respect that. 6) If the bullying continues to escalate, report it, seek help from school counselors or the police if necessary. 7) Even if you are fearful, don’t take your child’s digital devices away. He or she didn’t do anything wrong.

Online Resources

A number of organizations are leading the charge against cyberbullying and have fantastic resources for families. Here are just a few: Cyberbullying Research CenterStopBullying.govStompOutBullying.orgKindCampaign.comItGetsBetter.orgNational Bullying Prevention Center. If you’d like your organization added to this list, please leave a comment.

We hope you and your family are staying healthy these days and finding some time to talk about online safety. If you need a refresher, read Part I and Part II of our Online Safety Basics series. And, if you’re looking for a fun school lesson for the day, you can always quiz your kids on any of McAfee’s Family Safety content!

The post Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? What Parents Need to Know appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

School from Home: “Square One” Basics

 School #FromHome: “Square One” Basics

With many schools around the globe postponing classes for long stretches or closing school outright for the rest of the academic year, the challenge of parenting just cranked up. After all, there’s no more schoolhouse—it’s your house. Whether you’re the parent of a kindergartener or a high school senior, or have a mix of children in between, there’s a good chance you’re trying to figure out how to continue learning online at home—while also dealing with the disappointments of missing friends, activities, and major events like sports, proms, and even graduations. It’s not easy, and without a doubt this is new to all of us.

We want to make it easier for you, even if it’s in some small ways. We started by asking you what roadblocks are getting in the way. This April, we reached out to parents across the U.S. and asked  . Your top two answers came across loud and clear: you’re struggling with establishing a routine and keeping children focused.

Looking for resources and ideas for bringing a little structure into online learning at home and how that fits into your day? We have you covered, so let’s start at square one—making sure that your online learning environment at home is secure.

 Start with a look at your devices

First, determine which device your child is going to use. Some school districts provide students with a laptop that the students keep for the school year. The security on these devices will more than likely be managed centrally by the school district. Thus, they’ll have their own security software and settings already in place. Moreover, such a centrally managed device will likely be limited in terms of which settings can be updated and what software can be added. If your child has a school-issued device, follow the advice of the school and its IT admin on matters of security tools and software. And if you have questions about security, reach out to them.

Security basics on your home computer and laptop

If your child is using a home computer or laptop, or sharing one with other members of the family, you’ll want to ensure that it’s protected. This includes a full security suite that features more than just anti-virus, but also firewall protection to keep hackers at bay, safe browsing tools that steer you clear of sketchy or unsafe websites, and perhaps even parental controls to block distracting apps and inappropriate websites. Another smart option is to use a password manager. There’s a good chance that you kids will need to create new accounts for new learning resources—and with those come new usernames and passwords. A password manager will organize them and keep them safe.

Video conferencing

Additionally, you’ll want to take a very close look at the video conferencing tools that your child might be using to connect with teachers and classmates (and even their friends after schooltime is over). First off, there are plenty of them out there. Secondly, some video conferencing tools have allegedly experienced security and privacy issues in recent weeks. Before downloading and installing a video conferencing tool, do a little online research to see how secure it is and what privacy policies it has in place.

Look for video conferencing tools that use end-to-end encryption so that the conference is protected from prying eyes and so that others can’t intrude upon the conversation uninvited. Look for articles from reputable sources too, as there have been further reports of privacy issues where certain user information has been shared with third parties while using the video conferencing tool. That’s good advice for any software, apps, or tools you may wish to add.

Use a VPN

Another way to protect yourself from intrusions while conferencing, or doing anything else online for that matter, is to introduce a VPN (virtual private network). Choose one that uses bank-level encryption to keep your personal data and activities private from hackers. It will also hide other information, like account credentials, credit card numbers, and the like. It’s a good move, and it’s easy to use.

Next up

Look for our upcoming articles where we’ll share some specific ideas that can help make homeschooling online a little easier.

To stay updated on all things McAfee and for more resources on staying secure from home, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

 

 

The post School from Home: “Square One” Basics appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Keeping Virtual Play Dates, Hang Outs, and Video Chats Safe for Everyone

virtual play date

Every day we discover (or stumble over) new ways of coping and connecting during this unique chapter in family life. Still, as every age group under your roof finds their favorite virtual play date and hangout apps, parents may need to add a few safety rails to make sure the fun stays fun.

IRL community resurfaces

virtual play date

While this health crisis is devastating in so many ways, it’s also put a spotlight on the many heartwarming ways to connect in real life (IRL). We’re placing teddy bears in our windows for solidarity, creating scavenger hunts for neighborhood kids, serenading shut-ins, publically supporting first responders, celebrating birthdays and graduations with drive-by parades, and so, so much more.

The ongoing infusion of true, human connection has softened the uncertainty. Still, kids of every age need to maintain an emotional connection with peers. Here are a few things to think about as kids of every age connect with friends online.

Pre-K and Elementary Virtual Play Dates

Since health experts have put restrictions on familiar fun for little ones such as playgrounds, sports leagues, sleepovers, playdates, and even visits with grandparents, parents are relaxing screen time rules and looking for ways to have virtual playdates. Free video tools such as FaceTime and Zoom are proving lifesavers for group art, play, and learning, as are safe websites for young ones and phone apps. (If you run out things to do, here’s a great list of fun to tap and great learning sites for every age group).

Keep Them Safe

  • Share online experiences with young children at all times. Sit with them to teach, monitor, and explain the context of new digital environments. Also, keep computers and phones in a common area.
  • Try to keep screen time brief. Even young kids can become too screen-reliant.
  • Maximize privacy settings on all devices and turn on and safe mode or search on websites and apps.
  • Introduce concepts such as cyberbullying and strangers in age-appropriate language.
  • Start family security efforts early. Consider the benefits of filtering software, safe browsing, and encrypting your family’s digital activity with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Middle and High Schooler Virtual Hang Outs

While screen time has spiked, digital connection while homebound is also essential for tweens and teens for both learning and peer relationships. Kids finding their new virtual hangouts on social networks, group chats, and video games. They are also playing virtual board games using sites such as Pogo, Let’s Play Uno, and Zoom. Netflix Party has become a fun way to watch Netflix with groups of friends.

Keep Them Safe

  • At this age many kids (own or will soon own) a smartphone. With increased time online, you may want to review the basics, such as privacy and location settings. This includes gaming devices.
  • With increased internet use and most schools closed for the year, using parental control software and gaming security software can help parents reduce online risks for children of all ages.
  • Be aware of and talk about trending, risky digital behaviors, and challenges that can surface on apps such as TikTok, and WhatsApp.
  • Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded and consider monitoring your children’s devices as well as social profiles and posts.
  • This age group is quick to jump on public wifi, which puts your family’s data at risk. Exploring using a family VPN is critical for this age group.
  • Discuss the danger of connecting with strangers online. Also, discuss the risks of oversharing personal information and photos, even in seemingly private chats and texts. Don’t let boredom lead to bad choices.
  • Discuss cyberbullying and how to block and report accounts that express hateful, racist, or threatening behavior.
  • Coach your kids on using strong passwords and how to verify legitimate websites and identity online scams.

There’s nothing normal for families about this time, but there is something special. Grab it. Keep talking and laughing, especially on the hard days. Have a daily “heart check-in” with your teen if he or she seems to be isolating. Give one another space for topsy turvy moods. And, don’t forget parents, before this is all over, be sure to nail that TikTok dance with your kids and share it with the world!

The post Keeping Virtual Play Dates, Hang Outs, and Video Chats Safe for Everyone appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Internet Safety for Kids: A Refresher for Homebound Families

internet safety for kids

Editor’s Note: This is part II of our internet safety for kids series. Part I focuses on younger children and can be read here.

Parents have always been concerned about keeping their kids safe online — especially their tweens and teens. That conversation is even more critical with parents and kids now working and learning at home. But as the days turn into weeks, the line between safe and risky digital behavior may get a little blurry. Maybe we can help by refreshing some basics.

Why is internet safety for kids important?

There’s no way around it. Young and old, over time, we’ve tethered nearly every aspect of our lives to the digital realm. If we want to work, bank, shop, pay bills, or connect with family and friends, we have to plugin. A wired life makes internet safety not just important, but mission-critical for parents.

Kids go online for school, to be entertained, and to connect with friends; only they don’t have the emotional maturity or critical thinking skills to process everything they will encounter on the other side of their screens.

That’s where proactive digital parenting comes in.

If our parenting goal is to raise wise, responsible, caring adults, equipped for real life, that goal must also include helping them safeguard their emotional and physical health from online risk. There’s no such thing as a digital platform or product that is 100% safe. So, our best strategy is to learn and pass on skills that mitigate that risk.

What are the dangers of the internet?

Any danger that exists offline is potentially multiplied when we log online due to the vast access the web affords each one of us. In a few clicks, we can unlock a world of possibilities. The flip side? There’s an ever-present battalion of crooks and bullies out to exploit that access. Online we will encounter the best and the worst of humankind. The daily threats to children include bullying, inappropriate content, predators, and the loss of privacy. Add to that list, digital viruses and malware, phishing scams, sharing regrettable content, and gaming addiction.

How can homebound kids avoid digital risk?

So what can we do to ensure the weeks ahead don’t bring more digital risk into our homes? We start by having consistent, candid conversations with our kids about online safety (even if eye-rolling begins). Truth: Your family’s cybersecurity is as strong as the weakest security link in your family. If one family member is lax about internet safety, your entire family’s security is compromised.

So let’s get started with some internet safety basics to share with your tweens and teens. To read internet safety guidelines for younger children, click here.

11 Internet Safety Basics for Homebound Teens

internet safety for kids

  1. Get candid about content. Your tweens and teens have likely come across inappropriate material online. You can minimize further exposure by discussing expectations and family values around acceptable content — both sharing it and receiving it. Reminder: “Vanishing” Snapchats and deleted content can be easily captured in a screenshot — nothing shared online is private. For extra monitoring muscle, consider adding a parental control software to your family’s internet safety plan.
  2. Keep passwords, software, apps updated. Being homebound gives us all extra time for details. Go through personal and family devices and update all passwords. Keeping device software and apps updated also protects kids from outside risk.
  3. Balance life and tech. Kids can lose their entire day surfing, scrolling, and watching YouTube or TikTok videos. Establish screen limits help kids grow healthy tech habits. Consider scheduling device breaks, no phone zones (dinner table, movie time, bedtime), and installing software that features time limits.
  4. Be a leader online. Yoda was on target — with much power comes much responsibility. Many online dangers can be diminished by consistently teaching kids to be upstanders online. Practicing empathy, respect, tolerance, and compassion makes the digital world safer for everyone.
  5. Address peer pressure. Kids with devices can share unwise, personal photos with friends they trust. When friendships end, however, those photos can be shared or used for bullying or extortion. Discuss digital peer pressure with your child and how to respond.
  6. Look out for scams. Talk frequently about the many forms scams can take, such as phishing, malware, catfishing, fake news, and clickbait.
  7. Don’t friend strangers. Sexual predators create fake social media accounts specifically to befriend kids. In turn, kids share personal info, daily plans, location, and may even agree to meet in person with online friends. Discuss these risky scenarios and other manipulation tactics of predators with your child. Be aware of his or her friend circles, and look for chat apps such as WhatsApp or Kik.
  8. Maximize privacy on social profiles. Help kids maximize privacy settings on social profiles and delete any profile or post information that unintentionally gives away personal data. Consider removing the names of family members, pets, school, hometown, and birthdays. Hackers can piece together this information to crack passwords or create authentic-looking phishing scams.
  9. Consider a family VPN. Virtual Private Networks are becoming the most popular way to conduct business, shop, and safeguard a family’s online activity from outsiders. VPN encryption can protect a child against several virtual threats.
  10. Review gaming safety. If your kids spend a lot of time on games like Fortnite and Call of Duty, they can encounter strangers, bullying, and scams that target gamers. Teen gamers should use a firewall to help block would-be attackers from gaining access to their PC and home networks and as well as a comprehensive security solution to protect devices from malware and other threats.
  11. Monitor devices. Consider spot-checking all devices routinely. Review privacy settings on social networks (kids change them), look for new apps, review browsing history, chats, and texts. Need to go a step farther? Keep your child’s phone for a few hours to check notifications that pop up. You may find activity that wasn’t necessarily visible otherwise.

Taming all the moving parts of internet safety isn’t easy, and balancing your relationship with your child and parental monitoring can get turbulent at times. While kids can experience more drama and anxiety by going online, social networks remain critical channels for affirmation, self-expression, and connection. In the weeks to come, take time to listen, learn, and get to know your child’s digital passions and patterns. Identify safety gaps and reinforce those areas. Good luck, parents, you’ve got this!

The post Internet Safety for Kids: A Refresher for Homebound Families appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Stay Cyber Safe While Social-Distancing

Do you find yourself working from home these days? Kids off school too? Then your daily life is set to change super-fast. Yes, there is so much to organise to implement this essential ‘social distancing’ strategy. But in the flurry to get everyone set up, it’s essential that we don’t cut corners, make rash decisions so we can ensure both our headspace and online safety aren’t at risk.

The New Era of Social-Distancing

Many workplaces have already instructed their staff to ‘social distance’ and work from home so we can ‘flatten the curve’ while others are probably not far away from making this decision.  Many Australian states have given parents the option to keep their children at home. So, even if you (and the kids) are not yet home, it’s wise to start thinking about how our work (and learn) from home lives might look while we are ‘social-distancing’ and, how can keep our households safe when online. Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Breath. These are Uncertain Times

It’s completely normal to feel anxious and stressed in this time of great uncertainty. While we are hopeful that ‘social distancing’ measures will help minimise the impact of the virus, the truth is – we just don’t really know what the upcoming months will look like. Acknowledging that you (and all your family members) will be feeling anxious and ‘out of sorts’ at the moment is essential. Cutting family members some slack, particularly if you are all ‘cooped up’ together will definitely make for a smoother self-isolation experience!

  1. Always Think Critically & Don’t Overload on News

When we are feeling panicked and stressed, it’s easy for our rational brains to stop functioning. Social media feeds have been full of ‘miracle cures’ for COVID-19 which have been of great interest to many stressed out peeps. PLEASE avoid clicking links and ‘buying into’ this. Not only could these be links to malicious websites designed to extract your private information, but these themes just feed our anxiety. Instead, seek out advice from reputable medical institutions and authorities. Being a critical thinker online is more important now more than ever.

And if the constant barrage of news about the pandemic is affecting your (and your family’s) mood and outlook then take a break from it. Maybe limit yourself to checking for updates once per day as opposed to having constant updates come through on your phone. It’s super easy to disable news notifications, if you are Apple user, here’s what you need to do and, if you are an Android user, these tips may help.

  1. Ensure You Are Using the Correct Platforms & Software

Before you start downloading programs you think are helpful, check with your workplace or employer about their preferred platforms. It’s highly likely you will have most of the programs they require whether it’s Facetime, Slack, Zoom or Trello. But if you don’t, please ensure you download apps from a reputable source such as the AppStore or Google Play or a site that has been approved by your employer. Third party app sites are to be avoided at all costs because the chances are, you’ll score yourself some malicious software!

  1. Protect Yourself & Your Data

Please check whether you employer has security software and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on your devices. If not, or you are using your ‘home’ devices to undertake company work, then ensuring that both your stored data and the data you share over the internet is protected is essential.

Using a device without security software is a little like leaving your front door open – you are essentially inviting anyone to enter. So, investing in a comprehensive security software solution that protects you from dodgy downloads, visiting fake websites, malicious software and viruses is a no brainer! A VPN will also protect the data that you share from your devices by effectively creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the router – the ultimate way of keeping the cybercrimals out!

  1. Back-Up Your Data

Check with your employer to ensure that all your data will be backed up, even when working from home. If they can’t guarantee your work will be backed up then you need to find yourself a reliable, safe option. I am a Dropbox fan but Google Drive is also a great tool. But if you need something a little more robust then check out IDrive or IBackUp.

And don’t forget about the kids! If your offspring are remote schooling, ensure all their hard work is backed up too. Google Drive or Dropbox is a great solution for students.

  1. Manage Your Internet Usage at Home

If your household has two adults working from home plus a tribe of kids remote schooling, then chances are your internet may slow. With more than 90% of Aussies now accessing the internet through the NBN, many are worried that the spike in demand may create havoc.  While the folks from NBN keep assuring us that it’s all going to be fine, we may need to find ourselves staggering our internet use. Why not encourage your kids to do offline activities such as reading or craft while you have some designated time for emails or an online meeting? And don’t forget, you can always create a hotspot from your mobile for another internet source.

  1. Invest in Your Back & Neck – Splash Out on Some Gadgets

Setting up a designated workspace at home is critical to providing some structure in this new phase of your work life. Why not use this as an excuse to get properly setup?

I’ve worked from home for many years but could not have done so without my large monitor and my stand-up desk. Like many peeps, I have a dodgy neck so my stand-up desk and large monitor have meant that I can continue to work with no pain! I simply plug my laptop into my monitor and happy days – everything in enlarged and at eye height! On the days that I decide to work from my kitchen benchtop, my neck always starts to throb – you’d think I’d learn!

And don’t think you need to spend a fortune. A large monitor can cost as little as $200 and a stand-up desk not much more. If you are using these items for work, the chances are you’ll be able to claim these purchases as a tax deduction – why not talk to your accountant?

There is no doubt that 2020 will be ‘the year we will remember for the rest of our lives’. And while the bulk of us aren’t in the high-risk category, it is essential that we all do our bit so that we can protect our most vulnerable. So, please take the time to ensure you are cybersafe while setting up your new work (and school) from home life and even more importantly, keep washing your hands!!

Till Next Time

Stay well

Alex xx

The post How to Stay Cyber Safe While Social-Distancing appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Little Ones Online More? Here Are 10 Basics To Keep Them Safe

protecting kids online

Online safety conversations look dramatically different depending on the age and stage of your child. For very young children, toddlers through elementary school, parents have a golden opportunity to lay the foundations that will shape a child’s digital perspectives and behaviors for a lifetime.

One way to keep younger children safe online is simply to begin. How early, you might ask? From the day they arrive. If you’ve ever seen a four-month-old reach for mommy’s smartphone only to cry when mommy takes it away, it’s clear the baby has observed the culture around him. He knows that the shiny toy that hums is one of mommy’s favorite things. It has the power to capture and hold her attention. It makes her laugh, cry, and influence her routine and emotions.

Protecting kids online

Modeling balanced screen habits is a powerful way to influence behavior as toddlers begin to discover television, apps, interactive toys, and online learning sites. At this stage, intentional steps such as limiting screen time, reviewing content, and talking with your little one in simple concepts about the images and stories encounter will help grow their digital IQs. Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens turned off around babies and toddlers younger than 24 months.

Move With The Curve

As kids move into elementary school, technology is often part of the learning experience. Some children (depending on the household) may even own smartphones. Because the integration of technology begins to increase, this stage requires parents to move with the curve of a child’s online safety needs. Priorities: Securing devices kids take to school, setting filters on web browsers, limiting screen and gaming time, encouraging physical activity and hobbies, and having consistent, age-appropriate conversations about the online world is more important than ever.

10 Online Safety Basics for Younger Children

  1. Keep devices in a common area. By locating all computers, TVs, and devices in a common area, parents can easily monitor a child’s online activity. This simple step also helps kids get used to parental monitoring and responsible digital behavior.
  2. Follow family device rules. Establish family ground rules for technology use and repeat them to your younger children. Every child’s maturity and self-control level is different. If you think your child’s connection with his or her technology begins to tip toward the unhealthy, make adjustments as you go. If you set a 20-minute game time limit, be ready to enforce it consistently. In our experience, inconsistency in enforcing technology rules when kids are young is one of the biggest regrets among parents of teens.
  3. Introduce password security. As we accumulate IoT devices, it’s common for younger children to interact with home assistants, SmartTVs, digital toys, and online games. When password prompts come up on a login screen, explain to your child what you are doing (use your password) and why passwords are necessary. Get into the habit of using 2-factor authentication for passwords and locking your device home screens with a pin code.
  4. Filter content. Younger kids accept content at face value and don’t have the critical thinking skills process information or to be alone online. If you allow younger kids online, consider sitting with them, and explaining the content in front of them. To avoid the chance of your child encountering inappropriate content by mistake, consider adding parental control software to family devices.protecting kids online
  5. Start the privacy conversation. Kids of all ages understand the word “mine.” As your kids interact with the online in the early years, explain why it’s essential to keep their name, picture, family member names, school name, and address private.
  6. Introduce VPN use early. Browsing on a secure network (VPN, Virtual Private Network) from an early age reinforces the concept of privacy online. Explain to your child how the private encryption “tunnel” your content (searches, activity, messages) passes through and how that keeps other people from grabbing your private information. Even a text conversation with Grandma could accidentally give away information.
  7. Explain the concept of scams. When age-appropriate, explain how (and why) some people online try to trick you into clicking a box or a link to learn more about you. Discuss why you shouldn’t click on pop-up ads, hyperlinks, and messages that could contain malware or phishing links. To guard family devices against malicious links, consider free tools like Web Advisor.
  8. Discuss digital stranger danger. When you open a web browser, you open your home to content and people you don’t know. Children of any age can inadvertently run into digital danger zones. Teach young children not to talk to a stranger online or send (or share) photos with others. It’s also a good idea to cover the camera lens on your laptop or tablet, advise children to never stay on a website you would not approve of, and to never download or click a link without asking your permission.
  9. Introduce safe social networking. Online communities are here to stay, so consider starting social network safety talks early. Several kid-friendly browsers, apps, and social networks exist online for younger kids and are perfect for teaching them about privacy settings, how to collaborate and interact with others online.
  10. Start talking. Keep talking. Of all the principles we’ve featured, we’ve saved the best for last. Creating an open, trusting dialogue with your child is your #1 security tool in keeping your child safe online today and into the future.

While schools introduce kids to internet safety basics to protect kids online and do well to refresh concepts along the way, it’s the consistent, intentional work of parents that shape the values and skills a child needs to navigate the online world. By putting some of these foundational principles in place early and committing to consistent follow-through, it’s possible to maintain critical influence as your children move into different phases of their digital lives.

The post Little Ones Online More? Here Are 10 Basics To Keep Them Safe appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Honey, We’re Home! Securing Your Devices and Your Family Bond  

family device security

More and more parents and their kids are experiencing what it’s like to work and learn together from home these days. With this increase in device use, it’s more important than ever to verify that all the technology humming under your roof is as secure as possible.

Securing family technology

Run an overall security check. Taking an inventory of all your family’s connected devices and their security should be as important as keeping your doors locked and keeping batteries in your smoke alarms — your family’s safety depends on it. Consider installing a comprehensive security solution across all devices. This will help protect your family against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, and alert you to malicious websites. As part of your security check, be sure to update the software on all devices, including IoT products, TVs, and toys.

Review parental controls. There’s no way around it. Device use will likely skyrocket under your roof for a while. Kids will be online for school, as well as for fun. You may have turned on some filtering on some devices and some social networks, but it may be time to bring on an extra set of eyes and ears with comprehensive filtering software. With increased tech use, parental controls will help monitor your child’s digital activity. Too, with a new work-at-home lifestyle, the software (with time limits) can also make scheduling family breaks together much more manageable.

Secure your home router. Your router is akin to your family’s front door, and now is a great time to change the locks (your passwords) on this critical entryway into your home. If you are reluctant to change your passwords or think its a hassle, consider the simplicity of a password manager. Using a password manager will make changing passwords easy to change and easy to keep track of, which can boost overall security. If you are working from home, make sure your home network aligns with your company’s security expectations. For specifics on business security, read this post on working securely from home.

Introduce a VPN (Virtual Private Network). If you’ve toyed with the idea of a VPN but just haven’t made a move, now is a great time. While you may not venture into public spaces much at the present moment, a VPN will add a significant layer of security on your devices if you take a break and go to a public park or if your kids need to go online while at a friend’s. Explain VPN benefits to your kids and how to log on. It’s easy, it’s smart, and it’s secure.

Securing your family bond

Create a schedule that works for everyone. Your home network is likely working on overdrive by now. With the extra online schooling, devices, and video calls taking place, your bandwidth may start to lag. This is because residential internet doesn’t rival business internet. Discuss a schedule for online time and the challenge of accomplishing mutual deadlines each day. Respect and honor one another’s responsibilities. If you’ve never had the chance to talk about the specifics of your job and daily tasks, maybe this is your chance.

Acknowledge the stress of uncertainty. There are feelings — lots of feelings — that accompany change, and everyone’s response to it will vary. Shifting into an abrupt, new routine may feel confusing and confining to a child of any age and cause anxiety and emotions to run high. Talk through these feelings together as often as needed. Acknowledge your child’s losses — connection with teachers, sports, friends, events — and offer empathy and support.

Explore new possibilities — together. No doubt, considerable shifts in a family’s routine can be stressful. Even so, there’s opportunity woven throughout every challenge. With some extra time management, it’s possible to discover some hidden opportunities and adventures along the way. Hiking, canoeing, and exploring the outdoors could become a new love for your family. Watching movie classics together, learning a new skill online, building something, or tackling overdue projects together may open up a new, shared passion. Endless possibilities await.

Balance work, health, and family. Nothing will undermine your efforts to work from home more than a skewed work-life balance or school-life (yes, kids can go overboard too)! A recent study shows that remote workers are more productive than office workers and spend more time at their desks. For balance, consider setting firm office/school hours (for both you and the kids), taking exercise breaks throughout the day, and getting an accountability partner to help you stay on track. And, don’t forget — lots of eyes are watching you always — so modeling work-life-and-technology balance for your kids is teaching them with the same value.

It’s a new frontier parent, but with the right tools and the proper support around you, anything is possible. Stay healthy, stay happy, and stay secure in this new remote, family adventure.

The post Honey, We’re Home! Securing Your Devices and Your Family Bond   appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

WhatsApp Security Hacks: Are Your ‘Private’ Messages Really Ever Private?

WhatsApp hacks

WhatsApp one of the largest instant messengers and considered by many a social network of its own. So, in continuing our app safety discussion, we’re diving into some of the top security hacks and questions many WhatsApp app users and parents may have.

But first, what’s a security hack? In short, it’s an attempt to exploit the weaknesses in an app, network, or digital service to gain unauthorized access, usually for some illicit purpose. Here are just some of the concerns WhatsApp users may have and some suggestions on boosting security.

WhatsApp Hack FAQ

Are WhatsApp conversations private?

Yes — but there are exceptions. More than any other app, WhatsApp offers greater privacy thanks to end-to-end encryption that scrambles messages to ensure only you and the person you’re communicating with can read your messages or listen to your calls. Here’s the catch: WhatsApp messages (which include videos and photos) are vulnerable before they are encrypted and after they are decrypted if a hacker has managed to drop spyware on the phone. Spyware attacks on WhatsApp have already occurred. Safe Family Tip: No conversation shared between devices is ever 100% private. To increase your WhatsApp security, keep sensitive conversations and content offline, and keep your app updated. 

Can anyone read my deleted WhatsApp messages?

A WhatsApp user can access his or her own deleted messages via the chat backup function that automatically backs up all of your messages at 2 a.m. every day. WhatsApp users can delete a message by using the Delete for Everyone button within an hour after sending though it’s not foolproof. Here’s the catch: Anyone who receives the message before it’s deleted can take a screenshot of it. So, there’s no way to ensure regrettable content isn’t captured, archived, or shared. There are also third-party apps that will recall deleted messages shared by others. Another possibility is that a hacker can access old chats stored in an app user’s cloud. Safe Family Tip: Think carefully about sharing messages or content you may regret later.

Can WhatsApp messages be deleted permanently?

Even if a WhatsApp user decides to delete a message, it’s no guarantee of privacy since conversations are two-way, and the person on the receiving end may screenshot or save a copy of a chat, video, or photo. On the security side, you may delete a message and see it disappear, but WhatsApp still retains a “forensic trace of the chat” that can be used by hackers for mining data, according to reports. Safe Family Tip: For extra security, turn off backups in WhatsApp’s Settings.

WhatsApp hacksHow can I secure my WhatsApp?

It’s crucial when using WhatsApp (or any other app) to be aware of common scams, including malware, catfishing, job and money scams, spyware, and file jacking. To amplify security, turn on Security Notifications in Settings, which will send an alert if, for some reason, your security code changes. Other ways to boost security: Use two-step verification, never share your 6-digit SMS verification code, disable cloud back up, and set your profile to private. Safe Family Tip: Install comprehensive family security software and secure physical access to your phone or laptop with a facial, fingerprint, or a passcode ID. Don’t open (block, report) messages from strangers or spammers. Never share personal information with people you don’t know. 

How do I delete my WhatsApp account from another phone?

To delete a WhatsApp account go to > Settings > Account > Delete My Account. Deleting your account erases message history, removes you from groups, and deletes your backup data. According to WhatsApp, for users moving from one type of phone to another, such as from an iPhone to an Android, and keeping the same phone number, your account information stays intact, but you won’t be able to migrate messages across platforms. If you’re not keeping your number, you should delete WhatsApp from your old phone, download WhatsApp to your new phone, and verify your new phone number. Upgrading the same phone type will likely include options to migrate messages. Safe Family Tip: Before you give away or exchange an old phone, wipe it clean of all your data.

How do you know your WhatsApp is scanned?

WhatsApp users can easily sync devices by downloading the WhatsApp web app and activating it (Settings > WhatsApp Web/Desktop). Devices sync by scanning a QR code that appears on your laptop screen. You know your device is scanned when you see the green chat screen appear on your desktop. Safe Family Tip: It’s possible for a person with physical access to your desktop to scan your QR code and to gain account access. If you think someone has access to your account log out of all your active web sessions in WhatsApp on your mobile phone.

How long are WhatsApp messages stored?

According to WhatsApp, once a user’s messages are delivered, they are deleted from WhatsApp servers. This includes chats, photos, videos, voice messages, and files. Messages can still be stored on each individual’s device. Safe Family Tip: The moment you send any content online, it’s out of your control. The person or group on the receiving end can still store it on their device or to their cloud service. Never send risky content. 

How secure is WhatsApp?

There’s no doubt, end-to-end encryption makes it much more difficult for hackers to read WhatsApp messages. While WhatsApp is more secure than other messaging apps — but not 100% secure.

Is it true that WhatsApp has been hacked?

Yes. Several times and in various ways. No app, service, or network has proven to be unhackable. Safe Family Tip: Assume that any digital platform is vulnerable. Maximize privacy settings, never share risky content, financial information, or personal data.

Is WhatsApp safe to send pictures?

Encryption ensures that a transmission is secure, but that doesn’t mean WhatsApp content is safe or that human behavior is predictable. People (even trusted friends) can share private content. People can also illegally attempt to gain access to any content you’ve shared. This makes WhatsApp (along with other digital sharing channels) unsafe for exchanging sensitive information or photos. Safe Family Tip: Nothing on the internet is private. Never send or receive pictures that may jeopardize your privacy, reputation, or digital footprint.

WhatsApp isn’t the only popular app with security loopholes hackers exploit. Every app or network connected to the internet is at risk for some type of cyberattack. We hope this post sparks family discussions that help your kids use this and other apps wisely and helps keep your family’s privacy and safety online top of mind.

The post WhatsApp Security Hacks: Are Your ‘Private’ Messages Really Ever Private? appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Is WhatsApp Safe for Kids? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

WhatsApp Web

We may be talking about the TikTok app in our public circles, but there’s another app — just as widely used — that kids are hoping parents’ won’t ask too many questions about. That’s because they can use the messaging app WhatsApp to talk privately with friends, exchange content and videos, and (hopefully) fly under the parentals’ radar.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a downloadable app that uses your phone’s internet connection (wifi) to send messages, photos, videos, or files. It also allows users to make real-time video calls (much like iOS’ FaceTime). The big perk: WhatsApp can be used by connecting to any wifi so users can avoid using up minutes or texting fees. If you travel internationally, using WhatsApp is a popular way to avoid expensive international calling charges.

Why do kids love WhatsApp?

It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s free. WhatsApp Messenger lets kids send text messages, videos, photos, and audio messages as well as make video calls to friends without message limits or fees. Oh, and so far, it’s ad free, which is a plus.

It’s a stealth chatting app. WhatsApp is a popular way to create group chats (up to 256 people) that parents won’t necessarily think to check. Often kids will meet someone on one app such as Snapchat or Instagram and move to WhatsApp because they feel its less public and less regulated by parents. Like any other app, it can also be hidden behind decoy or vault apps to avoid detection.

WhatsApp web
You can’t miss the bright green WhatsApp icon on your child’s phone or in the desktop application folder. ©WhatsApp

It has cool features. WhatsApp has a broadcast feature that allows a user to send out a message to a group of people that can then only respond to the sender. The Status Feature enables users to send disappearing photos, videos, and GIFs, much like the fun features on Instagram and Snapchat.

WhatsApp hacks keep it fun. Kids love workarounds and cool functionality hacks they can use to enhance their WhatsApp experience. WhatsApp hacks can be found online with a quick Google search. Hacks help users understand how to do fun things such as schedule messages, create fake conversations, retrieve deleted messages, turn off Read receipts, make a Broadcast List, and formatting hacks that will help their account stand out.

There’s a perception of secrecy/security. WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption built-in, which means any texts, photos, or videos exchanged between users are encrypted (scrambled code) and assumed to be secure between the people communicating. WhatsApp has set itself apart from other chat apps in this area. No server stores messages after they are delivered. Not even WhatsApp can read, view, or listen to the chats, which gives users a sense of privacy and security. However, as we are reminded daily, WhatsApp, like every app is vulnerable to hacks, scams, and breaches.

What are the risks?

Inappropriate, secretive content. As with any app, the biggest concern is in the way kids and others use the app. WhatsApp (like any messaging app) allows anyone to create an account. Kids can be exposed to inappropriate content and exchange inappropriate content with others. As with any app, kids will also use acronyms or slang to hide risky behavior.

Strangers. A lot of people use WhatsApp, including those with harmful intentions. Users may assume group chats are closed to strangers since group members need a digital link to join. However, group chat links can be copied by group members and shared with anyone who can then click and join without any vetting.

Cyberbullying. Group texts are a big reason kids use WhatsApp. They can have groups as large as 250 kids. So, if a rumor, mean comment is shared or conflict erupts, situations can get intense very quickly and easily spill beyond the WhatsApp environment.

Privacy. While kids believe WhatsApp safely encrypt conversations, it does not protect them from people taking and sharing screenshots. Private discussions and photos can also be downloaded. Another threat to privacy is the way the app itself collects data of its users, which can be reviewed in its Privacy Policy and User Data section.

Scams and malware. WhatsApp is not immune to the typical scams that target social apps. The Facebook-owned app has had issues with spyware, catfishing, phishing, money requests, and fraudulent job opportunities — all in a quest to get users to hand over their personal information or assets.

Fake news. Because WhatsApp allows a user to chat in a group of up to 250 people, it’s easy for information to go viral quickly, even that information isn’t accurate. More recently, fake news originated on WhatsApp that incited panic around Coronavirus conspiracies and the 2018 mob killing in India.

Family Safety Tips

WhatsApp web
The WhatsApp interface. ©WhatsApp

Download and discuss the app. WhatsApp is easy to download and understand (simple texting interface). Once you know the basics, discuss the pros and cons of WhatsApp with your child. Ask your child to walk you through his or her app to show you how they use it.

Some questions to consider asking might be:

What do you like most about WhatsApp?
What kind of group chats are you a part of?
What kind of media do you mostly receive and send?
Are there any people in your group chats you don’t know?
Are your location and account settings as secure as they can be?
Have you shared personal information or your phone number?
Has any situation made you feel uncomfortable while on the app?

Guide younger users. For younger children or new WhatsApp users (age requirement is 13), consider creating a private WhatsApp group just for your family. Teach your kids to create a safe profile, maximize safety features, block strangers, report bullying, and how to safely share pictures, videos, and communicate. Use this time, teach them the upside of the app and the risks.

Monitor devices, screen time, and behavior. There are a lot of issues to consider and pay attention to when your kids use messaging apps. First, to monitor content, consider security software as well as filtering software. Second, pay attention to screen time and your child’s ability to balance technology use. Third, monitor behavior. Messaging apps connect kids to groupthink, a variety of content, and several emotional danger zones. Technology monitoring includes paying particular attention to your child’s emotional and physical health, friend groups, academic performance, and sleep habits.

Talk about privacy settings. Encourage your child to maximize settings and use the two-step verification option that allows a custom PIN for security against breaches and hacks. Privacy settings will allow users to choose Everyone, My Contacts, and Nobody. Review profile information and omit any personal information (age, phone number, other account links, school name, hometown).

Control location sharing. When location sharing is turned on, the images your child shares on WhatsApp will also show his or her exact location when the photo was taken. Be aware of this and consider keeping location turned off.

Avoid strangers and strange links. Once a person outside of your child’s known circle has his or her phone number, they can send any content directly unless (and until) they are blocked. They can catfish, scam, or groom WhatsApp users. Talk with your child about the importance of only chatting with known, trusted people and to block messages from strangers. Messages from strangers could contain explicit content, malware, spam, or phishing scam.

Should your child be on WhatsApp? As long as your child is only connected to trusted people (and has some form of monitoring), this can be a relatively safe social app that echos the features of most other apps. However, every family and every child is different, and whether or not your child is allowed to use the app is a personal decision. If your child is active on the app with your approval, one way to help them navigate the danger zones is to keep the safety conversation on-going and honest. Your guidance is crucial. You’ve got this parent!

The post Is WhatsApp Safe for Kids? Here’s What Parents Need to Know appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

TikTok Challenge, Hoop App, and Other Headlines You May Have Missed

TikTok Challenge

Digital news that affects families seems to be dominating the headlines these days. To keep parents in the know, here are some of the stories you may want to give extra family discussion time to this week.

Skull Breaker Challenge Proving Unfunny 

Apps — video apps especially — can help kids tap into their creativity and give kids a critical way to connect. Where the fun can take a dangerous turn is in the way kids choose to use their technology. In this case, the poor choice is in the Skull Breaker Challenge (also called the Trip Jump Challenge), a prank resulting in some kids being hospitalized.

The prank, designed to get laughs and accumulate TikTok views, includes two kids tricking a third friend into making a dance video together. Three kids line up side by side for a planned group dance that will be videotaped and posted. As everyone jumps as planned, the two kids on either side swipe the legs out from under the middle person causing him or her to fall backward. According to reports, the prank is surfacing mainly on TikTok but also Youtube.

Safe Family Tip: Consider talking to your child about the dangers of online challenges and the risks already reported in the news. 1) Discuss the physical dangers doctors are warning the public about, including neck strain, concussion, skull fracture, long-term complications, or even death. 2) Using current news stories, explain personal responsibility and what can happen legally if your child hurts another person during a prank.

Snapchat’s Hoop App Being Called ‘Tinder for Teens’

Snapchat users (over 2.5 million in fact) are flocking to a new Tinder-like app called Hoop that interfaces with Snapchat. The developer app allows other Hoop users to swipe through other Hoop users and request to connect via their Snapchat profile name.

While the app asks a user’s age, much like other social sites, there’s no way to prove a user’s age. And, users can change their age at any time after creating an account. This type of app format can be tempting for kids who are naturally curious and seeking to meet new friends outside of their familiar social circle. There’s a potential for common issues such as catfishing, predator behavior, and inappropriate content. Kids as young as 12 can form connections with strangers. While their profile may be harmless, they can’t control the type of content that pops up on their screen from other users. Another red flag: Hoop users are rewarded with “diamonds” for sharing their Snapchat name and getting others to join Hoop, so the incentive to daily share and connect with a wide circle outside of one’s known friend group may prove tough for some kids to resist.TikTok Challenge

Safe Family Tip: While it’s challenging to stay on top of the constant array of new apps, it’s not impossible. One way to understand where your child spends his or her time online is with comprehensive monitoring software. Another way of monitoring activity is to physically check your child’s phone once a week for new app icons (see right) and take the time to talk about his or her favorite apps. Consider explaining the dangers of connecting with strangers and the real possibility that a new “cute 16-year-old” may be a predator attempting to win your child’s trust (it happens every day). Review and agree on which apps are considered safe and the expectations you have for your family’s online choices.

Another app to keep on your radar is Wink. Nearly identical to Hoop, Wink interfaces with Snapchat and is being promoted as a “new friend finder.” It has a similar “swipe” feature that connects kids to random Wink users and is currently ranked #15 in the app store.

Should phones be banned from schools?

A conversation gaining a quiet but consistent buzz is the merit of prohibiting phones from schools — a law France has enforced for two years that has parents, educators, and legislators talking. Several recent studies reveal that phone bans can lead to higher test scores, higher test grades and attention spans, and increased cognitive capacity. Some schools in the U.S. have independently taken steps to curb and ban phones in hopes of focusing on distracted students.

Proponents of phones in school say a ban would be impossible to enforce and that technology is needed to help parents stay in touch with kids during the school day, especially for emergencies. Others say phones at school are a critical part of learning and raising self-sufficient, tech-savvy students prepared for a digital workforce.

Safe Family Tip: Begin the discussion with your child about the pros and cons of devices at school. Listen closely to his or her perspective. Discuss potential device-related issues that can be amplified during the school day such as cyberbullying, group chat conflicts, sexting, gaming during class, and using devices to cheat. Review expectations such as using phones only before and after school to connect with parents.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we take a closer look at other apps such as TikTok and WhatsApp Messenger that — when used unwisely — can lead to some surprising risks for kids. Until then, keep the digital safety conversation humming in your home. You’ve got this, parents!

The post TikTok Challenge, Hoop App, and Other Headlines You May Have Missed appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Timeless Principles to Help Your Child Develop Social Superpowers

online relationships

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Each year it’s my tradition to re-read a handful of books that continue to shape my perspective. One of those books is the 1936 self-help classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

I’ll admit, I’ve never liked the book’s overly-schmoozy title, but its content is gold. And 84 years later, it’s still relevant to our ongoing family discussion of how to model leadership and get a more meaningful return on our digital connections.

Slow down, look around

It has become easy, and almost habitual, to move fast, skim content, and make quick judgments. We upload details about ourselves, our opinions, our activities, our agendas, our wins.

Carnegie’s approach (condensed and paraphrased): Slow down and look around. Take a genuine interest in the people around you. Make room for different points of view. Steer clear of drama, criticizing others, and conflict. And never make anyone feel “less than.”

Social superpowers

Carnegie’s principles, applied online, are tools parents can use to help kids develop their social superpowers. The simple act of slowing down and listening instead of clicking is a big step toward more genuine connections.

On the safety side, slowing down can help kids become more aware of and avoid threats such as cyberbullying, scams, catfishing, and online conflict.

Here are a few more Carnegie power tips (condensed and paraphrased) to help build up your family’s social superpowers.

More meaningful connections

Take a genuine interest in others. “If we want to make friends, let’s do things for other people – things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.”

Encourage your child to step out of the “selfie” mindset as a first step in forming more genuine friendships online (as opposed to amassing followers). Brainstorm ways to do this. Maybe it’s more face-to-face time with known friends, keeping track of other people’s birthdays, and hand-writing cards and sending them in the mail. Paying attention to the details of a person’s life — their hobbies, family members, values, and goals — is the heartbeat of a real friendship.

Smile, be welcoming.  “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’”

Sounds simple but a smile — in this case, the way we welcome others online — can go a long way. The attitude we express through our online interactions communicates can make or break our relationships and reputation.

Encourage your child to review and delete negative or harmful content that lacks a spirit of inclusion and kindness. Our social profiles may be the first impression others — including teachers, colleges, and employers — may have of us.

Another plus: Choosing a digital “smile” when we post (over drama and making fun) sends a powerful message that can ease cyberbullying, build empathy, and be a source of strength for others who may be struggling.

Note: Choosing to smile online as a general principle doesn’t include faking it or only sharing a heavily-edited or overly positive version of your life. Be real. Be honest. Be you.

Affirm others. “. . . a sure way to [people’s] hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you realize their importance and recognize it sincerely.”

Everyone person on the planet has a fundamental need to be noticed and feel valued. With the amount of anxiety, depression, body image issues, and cyberbullying kids face online, what young person couldn’t use a genuine word of encouragement?

Discuss the many ways to affirm others on and offline. Encourage your child to be aware and willing to complement the strengths of others, cheer on accomplishments, and support a cause or passion they’ve expressed.

Avoid arguments and criticizing others. “Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his [or her] sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we could all master these two Carnegie principles online, the world’s collective mental health might be on a happier, healthier trajectory.

Encourage your child to pay attention to his or her emotions and avoid engaging others if they feel angry, anxious, or tired. Discuss the importance of empathy and forgiveness. Challenge them to allow others to express their ideas without judgment.

Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean you ignore injustice or become a doormat. On the contrary, responding with grace in a tense situation requires strength and self-control — especially when it comes to trolls and bullies.

Carnegie wrote his book during the Great Depression when the practice optimism and simple truths were critical to a person’s hope. So, some perspectives will feel odd or passé. But stick with it. Savor and apply the gems and enjoy the process of deepening your digital connections.

The post Timeless Principles to Help Your Child Develop Social Superpowers appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How You (and Your Teen) Can Stay Safe While Looking for Love Online

Valentine’s Day is such a double-edged sword. If you’re feeling the love and just can’t get enough of your sweetheart – then I wish you a wonderful day. If, on the other hand, you are unattached and feeling a little lonely then chances are you’re thinking about trying your luck on an online dating app.

Every year, traffic to dating apps surges around Valentine’s Day because let’s be honest – who wants to be lonely? But it’s not just adults who frequent dating sites to find their perfect match – teens do too!

Dating Apps – Proceed with Caution!!!

The increasing popularity of these sites means that scammers are spending considerable time and energy targeting people to con. And don’t forget that many teens are on these sites too – even as young as 16! You don’t have to look far to find stories of people who have been tricked into transferring large sums of money to their ‘online lovers’. And in more recent years, romance scammers are now tricking new partners into illegally relaying stolen funds!

Romance Scammers Now Searching for New ‘Online Love’ in Games

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), romance scammers are now also targeting non-dating apps to look for new vulnerable ‘online lovers’. In fact, 38 Aussies lost almost $600,000 through gaming app Words with Friends, an online version of Scrabble. Most of the losses were through direct bank transfers however iTunes, Steam and Google Play gift cards were also commonly used. Games such as Words with Friends are very popular with both tweens and teens, so please share these stores with them.

How to Stay Safe While Searching for Love Online

I have several friends who have found the ‘love of their lives’ online so please remember that not everyone you meet online is a scammer. However, it is essential that you are ALWAYS on guard and cautiously suspicious until such time as your new online love has proven themselves. Here are my top tips for staying safe:

  1. Limit how personal you get 

    Scammers today prey on the human need to feel connected to one and other. The key is to be always careful with the information that you share online. Whether it’s Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, or even Facebook or Instagram, only share what is absolutely necessary. Your personal information can easily be pieced together by a scammer to access your personal information, your bank accounts or even steal your identity. Start with being clever with your profile names on dating sites and apps – never give out your full name.

  2. Do your homework

    If you’ve met someone online, always do your homework before meeting them in person. Why not get Google working for you? A Google search is a great place to start and even using Google Images will help you get a better understanding of a person. And don’t forget to check out their LinkedIn account too. Another option would be to track down mutual friends and ask questions about your new online partner.

  3. Think before you send

    Sharing intimate pictures or videos with the person you’re dating online may be a good idea right now but please take a moment before pressing send to think about how this could come back to haunt you in the future. Remember, once those pictures and videos are online, they are online forever. Even social media apps with disappearing images, such as Snapchat, can be easily circumvented with a screenshot.  It’s not just celebrities who have intimate pictures spread around the Internet!

  4. Make passwords a priority

    Ensure all your online dating and social media accounts, and all your devices, have separate and unique passwords. Ideally, each password should have a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and special characters. I love using a nonsensical, crazy sentence!

And please remember to share your online romance vigilance with your budding teen Romeos and Juliets. It is incredibly common for teens to use dating sites to find someone special. Even though it may be a tad awkward and uncomfortable, as parents we need to do all we can to keep our offspring safe – particularly when their hormones are raging!!

Till Next Time!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

 

 

 

The post How You (and Your Teen) Can Stay Safe While Looking for Love Online appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Safer Internet Day 2020

What Can You Do To Make The Internet a Better Place

In 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Aussie teen who doesn’t spend a fair whack of their time online. And while many of us parents don’t always love the time our offspring spend glued to screens, most of us have come to accept that the online world is a big part of our kids’ lives.

So, let’s accept that the internet is going to be a feature of our kids’ lives and work out how best we can keep them safe.

Together For A Better Internet

Today is Safer Internet Day  – an international annual event that encourages us all to work together for a better internet. The perfect opportunity to find out what we can do as parents to ensure our kids are as safe as possible online.

Organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, Safer Internet Day is held each February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology, especially among children and young people. Safer Internet Day is all about inspiring users to make positive changes online, to raise awareness of online safety issues, and participate in events and activities right across the globe.

What Can We Do As Parents?

As role models and life-educators, parents play an enormous role in shaping our kids’ behaviours and opinions – particularly before they get to the teenage years!! So, why not use Safer Internet Day as a prompt to freshen up your cybersafety chats with your brood.

Not sure where to start? Here are my top messages to weave into your chats with your kids

  1. Be Kind Online

Spread love not hate online. A better internet includes building an online culture where people share positive and encouraging posts and comments. It may be as simple as posting a positive message, liking a post that is encouraging or sharing an inspiring article. Image

It may sound obvious but before you post a comment or a tweet, ask yourself whether the message could offend someone or impact them negatively. And remember to NEVER like, favourite, retweet, post or comment negatively online.

  1. Learn How To Disagree Respectfully Online

No matter how much we try, there will always be some people online who get a kick out of being unkind. If you come across this behaviour, I encourage you to call it out and report it but ALWAYS do so in a respectful fashion. Reciprocating with harsh words or name-calling will only further inflame a toxic situation. A logical, factual response that is respectful will always triumph!

  1. Protecting Your Online Reputation (& Others Too)

If you’re planning on hiring someone or even going on a date with someone, the chances are you’re going to ‘Google’ them first. And what you find online and the opinion you form decides whether the person’s digital reputation is acceptable or not.

So, it’s essential to remember that everything you post online is permanent and public; not to post inappropriate comments or pics of yourself or others; ensure all your online profiles are set to private to avoid strangers ‘screen-grabbing’ your private info and photos; don’t respond to inappropriate requests and most importantly, take a breather when things are getting heated online and you may regret your comments and actions.

  1. Passwords!!!!!

Managing passwords is one of the best ways of taking control of your online life and creating a better internet. Ensuring you have a separate password for every online account means that if you are affected by a data breach, your other online accounts are not at risk. Always choose passwords that have letters, numbers and symbols and ensure they are complex and not obvious. I love using a nonsensical sentence! And if all that’s too hard, why not consider a password manager that not only creates complex passwords for each of your online accounts but remembers them too. All you need to do is remember the master password! Awesome!!

So, why not pledge to change up your cybersafety chats with your kids this Safer Internet Day? And remember – they are watching you too! So, ensure you always model online respect, take your online responsibilities seriously and, also manage your passwords carefully. Because every little step is a step towards a positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Safer Internet Day 2020 appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Where’s the Truth Online? How to Build Your Family’s Digital Discernment

fake news

Note: This is Part I of a series on equipping your family fight back against fake news online. 

Fake news is chipping away at our trust in the government, the media, and in one another. And, because our kids spend much so much time in the online space, it’s more important than ever to help them understand how to separate truth from fiction.

How dangerous is the spread of misinformation? According to one study, 75% of people who see fake news believe it’s real. This inability to discern is at the core of how a false piece of information — be it a story, a photo, a social post, or an email — spreads like wildfire online.

Fake news erodes trust

A 2019 Pew Institute study reveled Americans rank fake news as a bigger problem in the U.S. over terrorism, illegal immigration, racism, and sexism and believe the spread of fake news is causing ‘significant harm’ to the nation and needs to be stopped.’

At the root of the issue is that too much news is coming at us from too many sources. True or not, millions of people are sharing that information, and they are often driven more by emotion and than fact.

According to Author and Digital Literacy Expert Diana Graber, one of a parent’s most important roles today is teaching kids to evaluate and be discerning with the content they encounter online.

“Make sure your kids know that they cannot believe everything they see or read online. Give them strategies to assess online information. Be sure your child’s school is teaching digital literacy,” says Graber.

Kids encounter and share fake news on social networks, chat apps, and videos. Says Graber, the role of video will rise as a fake news channel as AI technology advances.

“I think video manipulation, such as deepfake videos, is a very important area to keep an eye on for in the future. So much of the media that kids consume is visual, it will be important for them to learn visual literacy skills too,” says Graber.

The hidden costs of fake news

A December Facebook post warning people that men driving white vans were part of an organized human trafficking ring, quickly went viral on several social networks.

Eventually, law enforcement exposed the post as fake; people shrugged it off and moved on. But in its wake, much was lost that didn’t go viral. The fake post was shared countless times. With each share, someone compromised a small piece of trust.

The false post caused digital panic and cast uncertainty on our sense of security and community. The post cost us money. The false information took up the resources of several law enforcement agencies that chose to investigate. It cost us trust. Public warnings even made it to the evening news in some cities.

The spread of fake news impacts on our ability to make wise informed decisions. It chips away at our expectation of truth in the people and resources around us.

Fake news that goes viral is powerful. It can impact our opinions about important health issues. It can damage companies and the stock market, and destroy personal reputations.

In the same Pew study, we learned about another loss — connection. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said they avoid talking with another person because that person may bring made-up news into the conversation.

The biggest loss? When it’s hard to see the truth, we are all less well informed, which creates obstacles to personal and cultural progress.

Family talking points

Here are three digital literacy terms defined to help you launch the fake news discussion.

  1. Fake news: We like the definition offered by PolitiFact: “Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word.”Discuss: Sharing fake news can hurt the people in the story as well as the credibility of the person sharing it. No one wants to be known for sharing sketchy content, rumors, or half-truths.Do: Sit down with your kids. Scroll through their favorite social networks and read some posts or stories. Ask: What news stories spark your interest, and why? Who posted this information? Are the links in the article credible? Should I share this piece of content? Why or why not?
  2. Objectivity: Content or statements based on facts that are not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings.Discuss: News stories should be objective (opinion-free), while opinion pieces can be subjective. When information (or a person) is subjective, you can identify personal perspectives, feelings, and opinions. When information (or a person) is objective, it’s void of opinion and based on facts.Do: Teaching kids to recognize objective vs. subjective content can be fun. Pick up a local newspaper (or access online). Read the stories on the front page (they should contain only facts). Flip to the Op-Ed page and discuss the shift in tone and content.
  3. Discernment: A person’s ability to evaluate people, content, situations, and things well. The ability to discern is at the core of decision-making.Discuss: To separate truth from fiction online, we need to be critical thinkers who can discern truth. Critical thinking skills develop over time and differ depending on the age group.Do: Watch this video from Cyberwise on Fake News. Sit down together and Google a current news story. Compare how different news sites cover the same news story. Ask: How are the headlines different? Is there a tone or bias? Which story do you believe to be credible, and why? Which one would you feel confident sharing with others? 

The increase in fake news online has impacted us all. However, with the right tools, we can fight back and begin to restore trust. Next week, in Part II of this series, we’ll discuss our personal responsibility in the fake news cycle and specific ways to identify fake news.

The post Where’s the Truth Online? How to Build Your Family’s Digital Discernment appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Lessons Learned: A Decade of Digital Parenting

digital parenting

Give yourself a high-five, parents. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or your favorite celebratory drink and sip it slow — real slow. Savor the wins. Let go of the misses. Appreciate the lessons learned. You’ve come a long way in the last decade of raising digital kids, and not all of it has been easy.

As we head into 2020, we’re tossing parenting resolutions (hey, it’s a victory to make it through a week let alone a year!). Instead, we’re looking back over the digital terrain we’ve traveled together and lessons learned. Need a refresher? Here’s a glimpse of how technology has impacted the family over the past decade.

In the last decade

• Smartphone, social, gaming growth. Social media and gaming platforms have exploded to usage and influence levels no one could have imagined. Smartphone ownership has increased and as of 2019: 81% of adults own a smartphone and 72% use social media, 53% of kids own a smartphone by the age of 11, and 84 % of teenagers have phones.

• Video platform growth. Video platforms like YouTube have become the go-to for teens and tweens who spend nearly three hours a day watching videos online.

• Streaming news. Smartphones have made it possible for all of us to carry (and stream) the world in our pockets. In 2018, for the first time, social media sites surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans.

• Dating apps dominate. We’re hooking up, dating, and marrying using apps. A Stanford study found that “heterosexual couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections.”

• The rise of the Influencer. Internet influencers and celebrities have reached epic levels of fame, wealth, and reach, creating an entire industry of vloggers, gamers, micro and niche-influencers, and others who have become “instafamous.”

• Lexicon changes. Every day, technology is adding terms to our lexicon that didn’t exist a decade ago such as selfie, OMG, streaming, bae, fake news, the cloud, wearables, finsta, influencers, emojis, tracking apps, catfish, digital shaming, screen time, cryptojacking, FOMO, and hashtag, along with hundreds of others.

What we’ve learned (often the hard way)

Most people, if polled, would say technology has improved daily life in incalculable ways. But ask a parent of a child between five and 18 the same question, and the response may not be as enthusiastic. Here are some lessons we’ve learned the hard way.

Connection brings risk. We’ve learned that with unprecedented connection comes equally unprecedented risk. Everyday devices plug our kids directly into the potential for cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, and mental health issues.  Over the past decade, parents, schools, and leaders have worked to address these risks head-on but we have a long way to go in changing the online space into an emotionally safe and healthy place.

Tech addiction isn’t a myth.  To curb the negative impact of increased tech use, we’ve learned ways to balance and limit screen time, unplug, and digitally detox. Most importantly, it’s been confirmed that technology addiction is a medical condition that’s impacting people and families in very painful ways.

The internet remembers. We’ve witnessed the very public consequences of bad digital choices. Kids and adults have wrecked scholarships, reputations, and careers due to careless words or content shared online. Because of these cases, we’re learning — though never fast enough — to think twice about the behaviors and words we share.

We’re equipping vs. protecting. We’ve gone from monitoring our kids aggressively and freaking out over headlines to realizing that we can’t put the internet in a bottle and follow our kids 24/7. We’ve learned that relevant, consistent conversation, adding an extra layer of protection with security software, and taking the time to understand (not just monitor) the ways our kids use new apps, is the best way to equip them for digital life.

The parent-child relationship is #1. When it comes to raising savvy digital kids and keeping them safe, there’s not a monitoring plan in existence that rivals a strong parent-child relationship. If you’ve earned your child’s heart, mind, and respect, you have his or her attention and can equip them daily to make wise choices online.

The dark web is . . . unimaginably dark. The underbelly of the internet — the encrypted, anonymous terrain known as the Dark Web — has moved from covert to mainstream exposure. We’ve learned the hard way the degree of sophistication with which criminals engage in pornography, human trafficking, drug and weapon sales, and stolen data. With more knowledge, the public is taking more precautions especially when it comes to malware, phishing scams, and virus attacks launched through popular public channels.

There’s a lot of good going on. As much negative as we’ve seen and experienced online over the past decade, we’ve also learned that its power can be used equally to amplify the best of humanity. Social media has sparked social movements, helped first responders and brought strangers together in times of tragedy like no other medium in history.

Privacy is (finally) king. Ten years ago, we clicked on every link that came our way and wanted to share every juicy detail about our personal lives. We became publishers and public figures overnight and readily gave away priceless chunks of our privacy. The evolution and onslaught of data breaches, data mining, and malicious scams have educated us to safeguard our data and privacy like gold.

We’ve become content curators. The onslaught of fake news, photo apps, and filter bubbles have left our heads spinning and our allegiances confused. In the process, we’ve learned to be more discerning with the content we consume and share. While we’re not there yet, our collective digital literacy is improving as our understanding of various types of content grows.

Parents have become digital ninjas. The parenting tasks of monitoring, tracking, and keeping up with kids online have gone from daunting to doable for most parents. With the emotional issues now connected to social media, most parents don’t have the option of sitting on the sidelines and have learned to track their kids better than the FBI.

This is us

We’ve learned that for better or worse, this wired life is us. There’s no going back. Where once there may have been doubt a decade ago, today it’s clear we’re connected forever. The internet has become so deep-seated in our culture and homes that unplugging completely for most of us is no longer an option without severe financial (and emotional) consequences. The task ahead for this new decade? To continue working together to diminish the ugly side of technology — the bullying, the cruelty, the crime — and make the internet a safe, fun experience for everyone.

The post Lessons Learned: A Decade of Digital Parenting appeared first on McAfee Blogs.