Category Archives: protecting kids online

Family Safety: Twitter, Instagram Beef Up Measures to Fight Hate Speech, Bullying

The past few weeks have proven to be wins for family safety with several top social networks announcing changes to their policies and procedures to reduce the amount of hateful conduct and online bullying.

Twitter: ‘Dehumanizing Language Increases Risk’

In response to rising violence against religious minorities, Twitter said this week that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk . . . we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others based on religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

Twitter offered two resources that go in-depth on the link between dehumanizing language and offline harm that is worth reading and sharing with your kids. Experts Dr. Susan Benesch and Nick Haslam and Michelle Stratemeyer define hate speech, talk about its various contexts, and advise on how to counter it.

Instagram: ‘This intervention gives people a chance to reflect.’ 

Instagram announced it would be rolling out two new features to reduce potentially offensive content. The first, powered by artificial intelligence, prompts users to pause before posting. For instance, if a person is about to post a cruel comment such as “you are so stupid,” the user will get a pop-up notification asking, “are you sure you want to post this?”

A second anti-bullying function new to Instagram is called “Restrict,” a setting that will allow users to indiscreetly block bullies from looking at your account. Restrict is a quieter way to cut someone off from seeing your content than blocking, reporting, or unfollowing, which could spark more bullying.

These digital safety moves by both Instagram and Twitter are big wins for families concerned about the growing amount of questionable content and bullying online.

If you get a chance, go over the basics of these new social filters with your kids.

Other ways to avoid online bullying:

Wise posting. Encourage kids to pause and consider tone, word choice, and any language that may be offensive or hurtful to another person, race, or gender. You are your child’s best coach and teacher when it comes to using social apps responsibly.

Stay positive and trustworthy. Coach kids around online conflict and the importance of sharing verified information. Encourage your child to be part of the solution in stopping rumors and reporting digital skirmishes and dangerous content to appropriate platforms.

Avoid risky apps. Apps like ask.fm allow anonymity should be off limits. Kik Messenger, Yik Yak, Tinder, Down, and Whisper may also present risks. Remember: Any app is risky if kids are reckless with privacy settings, conduct, content, or the people they allow to connect with them.

Layer security. Use a comprehensive solution to help monitor screentime, filter content, and monitor potentially risky apps and websites.

Monitor gaming communities. Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer and in a competitive environment, so can cyberbullying. Listen in and monitor game time conversations and make every effort to help him or her balance summer gaming time.

Make profiles and photos private. Require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private. By doing this, you limit online circles to known friends and reduces the possibility of cyberbullying and online conflict.

The post Family Safety: Twitter, Instagram Beef Up Measures to Fight Hate Speech, Bullying appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Kids Obsessed with YouTube? How to Help Them Stay Balanced, Safe This Summer

If you haven’t seen your kids in a few hours but can hear outbursts of laughter from a nearby room, chances are, they — along with millions of other kids — are watching YouTube. The popular digital video hub has more viewers than network television and soaks up more than 46,000 years of our collective viewing time annually. Chances are your kids will be part of the YouTube digital mosh pit this summer, but do you know the risks?

Types of screen time

The quality of online time for kids usually shifts during the summer months. For example, there’s active screen time and passive screen time. Knowing the difference between the two can help your family decide best how to balance device use — especially when it comes to consuming endless hours on YouTube.

Active screen time requires a person’s cognitive and/or physical engagement and develops social, language, or physical skills. Engaging in activities such as researching, creating original content, learning a new program, and playing educational games is considered active screen usage. Active screen time tends to go up during the school year and down in the summer.

Passive screen time is passively absorbing information via a screen, app, or game for entertainment reasons only. This includes scrolling through social networks, watching movies binge watching), and watching YouTube videos. Little to no thought or creativity is required when a person engages in repetitious, passive screen activities.

According to a Common Sense Media study, children ages 8 to 12, spend nearly six hours per day using media, and teenagers average closer to nine hours a day (numbers don’t include school work). It’s safe to say that during the summer, these numbers climb even higher — as do the risks.

Here are a few ways to balance screen time and boost safety on YouTube this summer.

YouTube: 5 Family Talking Points

  • Explore YouTube.The best way to understand the culture of YouTube is to spend time there. Ask your kids about their favorite channels and what they like about them. Get to know the people they follow — after all, these are the people influencing your child. Here’s a sampling of a few top YouTubers: MattyBRaps (music), JoJoSiwa (music, dance), Brooklyn and Bailey (vlogs, challenges, music), Baby Ariel (challenges, vlog), Johnny Orlando (music), PewDiePie (comedy), Jacy and Kacy (crafts, challenges), (Bethany Mota (shopping hauls), Grav3yardgirl (makeup), Smosh (comedy).
  • Respect age limits. YouTube is packed with humor, tutorials, pranks, vlogs, music, reviews, and endlessly engaging content. However, age limits exist for a good reason because the channel also has its share of dangerous content. The darker side of YouTube is always just a click away and includes sexual content, hate content, harassment and cyberbullying, violent and graphic content, and scams.
  • Turn on restricted mode. By turning on the restricted mode you can block videos with mature content from a user’s searches, related videos, playlists, and shows — this is a big deal since many “up next” videos (on the right side of the screen) are cued to play automatically and can lead kids to sketchy content. In addition to the restricted mode, consider an extra layer of protection with filtering software for all your family devices.
  • Opt for YouTube Kids. For kids under 13, YouTube Kids is a safe video platform, specially curated for young viewers. Kids may snub any platform designed “for kids,” however, if you are worried about younger kids running into inappropriate content, this is your best video option.
  • Discuss the ‘why’ behind the rules. As a parent, you know the possible ways YouTube — or other social platforms — can be harmful. Don’t assume your kids do. Kids are immersed in their peer groups online, which means danger and harm aren’t primary concerns. Even so, before you lecture kids about the dangers of YouTube, open up a dialogue around the topic by asking great questions. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Do you understand why it’s important to filter YouTube content and respect age limits (inappropriate content, cyberbullying)?
  • Do you understand why unboxing and makeup videos are so popular (advertisers want you to purchase)?
  • Do you understand why we need to balance between screen time this summer? (mental, physical health)
  • Do you know why this piece of content might be fake or contain questionable information (conspiracy, hate, or political videos)?

As the public increasingly demands social networks do more to remove harmful or objectionable content, one thing is clear: Despite strides in this area by a majority of platforms, no online social hub is (or will likely ever be) 100% safe. The best way to keep kids safe online is by nurturing a strong parent-child connection and having consistent conversations designed to equip and educate kids about digital risks and responsibility.

The post Kids Obsessed with YouTube? How to Help Them Stay Balanced, Safe This Summer appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

5 Digital Risks to Help Your Teen Navigate this Summer

S’mores.
Sparklers.
Snow cones.
Sunburns.
Fireflies.

Remember when summer was simple? Before smartphones and social networks, there was less uploading and more unwinding; less commenting and more savoring. 

There’s a new summer now. It’s the social summer, and tweens and teens know it well. It’s those few months away from school where the pressure (and compulsion) to show up and show off online can double. On Instagram and Snapchat, it’s a 24/7 stream of bikinis, vacations, friend groups, and summer abs. On gaming platforms, there’s more connecting and competing. 

With more of summer playing out on social, there’s also more risk. And that’s where parents come in. 

While it’s unlikely you can get kids to ditch their devices for weeks or even days at a time this summer, it is possible to coach kids through the risks to restore some of the simplicity and safety to summer.

5 summer risks to coach kids through:

  1. Body image. Every day your child — male or female — faces a non-stop, digital tidal wave of pressure to be ‘as- beautiful’ or ‘as-perfect’ as their peers online. Summer can magnify body image issues for kids.
    What you can do: Talk with your kids about social media’s power to subtly distort body image. Help kids decipher the visual world around them — what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s relevant. Keep an eye on your child’s moods, eating habits, and digital behaviors. Are comments or captions focused only on looks? If so, help your child expand his or her focus. Get serious about screen limits if you suspect too much scrolling is negatively impacting your child’s physical or emotional health.
  2. Gaming addiction. The risks connected with gaming can multiply in the summer months. Many gaming platforms serve as social networks that allow kids to talk, play, and connect with friends all day, every day, without ever leaving their rooms. With more summer gaming comes to the risk for addiction as well as gaming scams, inappropriate content, and bullying.
    What you can do: Don’t ignore the signs of excessive gaming, which include preoccupation with gaming, anger, irritation, lying to cover playing time, withdrawal and isolation, exchanging sleep for gaming. Be swift and take action. Set gaming ground rules specific to summer. Consider parental control software to help with time limits. Remember: Kids love to circumvent time limits at home by going to a friend’s house to play video games. Also, plan summer activities out of the house and away from devices.
  3. Cyberbullying. Making fun of others, threatening, name-calling, exclusion, and racial or gender discrimination are all serious issues online. With more time on their hands in the summer months, some kids can find new ways to torment others.
    What you can do: Listen in on (monitor) your child’s social media accounts (without commenting or liking). What is the tone of your child’s comments or the comments of others? Pay attention to your child’s moods, behaviors, and online friend groups. Note: Your child could be the target of cyberbullying or the cyberbully, so keep your digital eyes open and objective.
  4. Smartphone anxiety. Anxiety is a growing issue for teens that can compound in the summer months if left unchecked. A 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center reveals that 56 percent of teens feel anxious, lonely, or upset when they don’t have their cell phones.
    What you can do:
    Pay attention to your child’s physical and emotional health. Signs of anxiety include extreme apprehension or worry, self-doubt, sleeplessness, stomach or headache complaints, isolation, panic attacks, and excessive fear. Establish screen limits and plan phone-free outings with your child. Set aside daily one-on-one time with your child to re-connect and seek out professional help if needed.
  5. Social Conflict. More hours in the day + more social media = potential for more conflict. Digital conflict in group chats or social networks can quickly get out of hand. Being excluded, misunderstood, or criticized hurts, even more, when it plays out on a public, digital stage.
    What you can do: While conflict is a normal part of life and healthy friendships, it can spiral in the online space where fingers are quick to fire off responses. Offer your child your ears before your advice. Just listen. Hear them out and (if asked) help them brainstorm ways to work through the conflict. Offer options like responding well, not engaging, and handling a situation face-to-face. Avoid the temptation to jump in and referee or solve.

Summer doesn’t have to be stressful for kids, and the smartphone doesn’t have to win the majority of your child’s attention. With listening, monitoring, and timely coaching, parents can help kids avoid common digital risks and enjoy the ease and fun of summer. 

The post 5 Digital Risks to Help Your Teen Navigate this Summer appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Study: Fortnite Game Becoming the Preferred Social Network for Kids

According to a study recently released by National Research Group (NRG), the wildly popular video game Fortnite is growing beyond its intended gaming platform into a favored social network where kids go daily to chat, message, and connect.

The study represents the most in-depth study on Fortnite to date and contains essential takeaways for parents trying to keep up with their kids’ social networking habits. According to the NRG study, “Fortnite is the number one service teens are using, and audiences cite its social elements as the primary motivators for playing.”

The popular game now claims more than 250 million users around the world, and for its audience of teens (ages 10-17) who play at least once a week, Fortnite consumes about 25% of their free time, cites NRG adding that “Fortnite presents a more hopeful meta-verse where community, inclusivity, creativity and authentic relationships can thrive.”

Summer gaming 

With school break now upon us, the NRG study is especially useful since screentime tends to jump during summer months. Here are some of the risks Fortnite (and gaming in general) presents and some tips on how to increase privacy and safety for young users who love this community.

Fortnite safety tips 

Activate parental controls. Kids play Fortnite on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and iOS. Parents can restrict and monitor playing time by going into the Settings tab of each device, its related URL, or app. Another monitoring option for PC, tablets, and mobile devices is monitoring software.

Listen, watch, learn. Sit with your kids and listen to and watch some Fortnite sessions. Who are they playing with? What’s the tone of the conversation? Be vocal about anything that concerns you and coach your child on how to handle conflict, strangers online (look at their friend list), and bullying.

Monitor voice chat. Voice chat is an integral part of Fortnite if you are playing in squads or teams. Without the chat function, players can’t communicate in real-time with other team members. Voice chat is also a significant social element of the game because it allows players to connect and build community with friends anywhere. Therein lies the risk — voice chat also allows kids to play the game with strangers so the risk of inappropriate conversation, cyberbullying, and grooming are all reported realities of Fortnite. Voice chat can be turned off in Settings and should be considered for younger tween users.

Scams, passwords, and tech addiction. When kids are having a blast playing video games, danger is are far from their minds. Talk about the downside so they can continue to play their favorite game in a safe, healthy way. Discuss the scams targeting Fortnite users, the importance of keeping user names and passwords private (and strong), and the reasoning behind gaming screen limits.

Social networks have become inherent to kids’ daily life and an important way to form meaningful peer bonds. With new networks emerging every day such as Fortnite, it’s more important than ever to keep the conversation going with your kids about the genuine risks these fun digital hangouts bring.

The post Study: Fortnite Game Becoming the Preferred Social Network for Kids appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Oversharing: Are You Ignoring Your Child’s Privacy When You Post Online?

Take it down, please. 

The above is a typical text message parents send to kids when they discover their child has posted something questionable online. More and more, however, it’s kids who are sending this text to parents who habitually post about them online.

Tipping Point

Sadly — and often unknowingly — parents have become some of the biggest violators of their children’s privacy. And, there’s a collective protest among kids that’s expressing itself in different ways. Headlines reflect kids reigning in their parent‘s posting habits and parents choosing to pull all photos of their kids offline. There’s also a younger generation of voices realizing the effect social media has had on youth, which could be signaling a tipping point in social sharing.

Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2, and parents post nearly 1,000 images of their children online before their fifth birthday, according to Time. Likewise, in a 2017 UNICEF report, the children’s advocacy group called the practice of “sharenting” – parents sharing information online about their children – harmful to a child’s reputation and safety.

Digital Footprint

This sharenting culture has fast-tracked our children’s digital footprints, which often begins in the womb. Kids now have a digital birth date — the date of the first upload, usually a sonogram photo — in addition to their actual birth date. Sharing the details of life has become a daily routine with many parents not thinking twice before sharing birthdays, awards, trips, and even more private moments such as bath time or potty training mishaps.

Too often, what a parent views as a harmless post, a child might see as humiliating, especially during the more sensitive teen years. Oversharing can impact a child’s emotional health as well as the parent-child relationship, according to a University of Michigan study.

Diminishing Privacy 

So how far is too far when it comes to the boundaries between public and private life? And, what are the emotional, safety, and privacy ramifications to a child when parents overshare? The sharenting culture has forced us all to consider these questions more closely.

Children’s diminishing privacy is on advocacy agendas worldwide. Recently, the UK Children’s Commissioner released a report called “Who Knows About Me?” that put a spotlight on how we collect and share children’s data and how this puts them at risk.

5 safe sharing tips for families

  1. Stop and think. Be intentional about protecting your child’s privacy. Before you upload a photo or write a post, ask yourself, “Do I really need to share this?” or “Could this content compromise my child’s privacy (or feelings) today or in the future?”
  2. Ask permission. Before publicly posting anything about your child, ask for his or her permission. This practice models respect and digital responsibility. If posting a group photo that includes other children, ask both the child’s consent and his or her parent’s.
  3. Keep family business private. Resist sharing too much about your family dynamic — good or bad — online. Sharing your parenting struggles or posting details about what’s going on with you and your child could cause embarrassment and shame and irreparably harm your relationship.
  4. Consider a photo purge. With your child’s wellbeing, safety, and privacy in mind — present and future — consider going through your social networks and deleting any photos or posts that don’t need to be public.
  5. Talk to kids about the freedom of expression. Every person who logs on to the internet can expect fundamental freedoms, even kids. These include the right to privacy, how our data is shared, and the freedom of expression online. Discuss these points with your children in addition to our collective digital responsibilities such as respect for others, wise posting, downloading legally, citing works properly, and reporting risky behavior or content.

When it comes to parenting, many of us are building our wings on the way down, especially when it comes to understanding all the safety implications around data privacy for children. However, slowing down to consider your child’s wellbeing and privacy with every post is a huge step toward creating a better, safer internet for everyone.

The post Oversharing: Are You Ignoring Your Child’s Privacy When You Post Online? appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Are Your Kids Part of the TikTok App Craze? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

What phone app has over 150 million active users and more than 14 million uploads every day? You might guess Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, but you’d be wrong. Meet TikTok — a video app kids are flocking to that is tons of fun but also carries risk.

What Is It?

TikTok is a free social media app that allows users to create and share short 15-second videos set to favorite music. If your child was a fan of Musical.ly, then he or she is probably active on TikTok since Musical.ly shut down last year and moved all of its users to TikTok. Kids love the app because it’s got all the social perks — music, filters, stickers — and the ability to amass likes and shares (yes, becoming TikTok-famous is an aspiration for some).

The Upside

There are a lot of positive things about this app. It’s filling the void of the sorely missed Vine app in that it’s a fun hub for video creation and peer connection. Spending time on TikTok will make you laugh out loud, sing, and admire the degree of creativity so many young users put into their videos. You will see everything from heartfelt, brave monologues, to incredible athletic stunts, to hilarious, random moments in the lives of teens. It’s serious fun.

Another big positive is the app appears to take Digital Wellbeing (tools in the app that encourage screen time), privacy, and online safety seriously. Its resources tab is rich with tips for both parents and kids.

The (Potential) Downside

As with any other social app, TikTok carries inherent risks, as reported by several news sources, including ABC.

For instance, anyone can view your child’s videos, send a direct message, and access their location information. And, while TikTok requires that users are at least 13 years old to use the app and anyone under 18 must have parent’s approval, if you browse the app, you’ll quickly find that plenty of preteens are using it. A predator could easily create a fake account or many accounts to strike up conversations with minors.

Another danger zone is inappropriate content. While a lot of TikTok content is fun and harmless, there’s a fair share of the music that includes explicit language and users posting content that should not be viewed by a young audience.

And, wherever there’s a public forum, there’s a risk of cyberbullying. When a TikTok user posts a video, that content instantly becomes open for public comment or criticism and dialogue can get mean.

Talking Points for Families

Most social media apps have an inherent risk factor because the world wide web is just that — much of the planet’s population in the palm of your child’s hand. Different age groups and kids will use apps differently. So, when it comes to apps, it’s a good idea to monitor how your child uses each app and tailor conversations from there.

  • Download the app. If your child uses TikTok, it’s a good idea to download the app too. Look around inside the community. Analyze the content and the culture. Are the accounts your child follows age appropriate? Are the comments and conversations positive? Does your child know his or her followers? Is your child posting appropriately?
  • Talk about the risks. Spend time with your child and watch how he or she uses TikTok. Let them teach you why they love it. Encourage creativity and fun, but don’t hesitate to point out danger zones and how your child can avoid them.
  • Monitor direct messages. This may seem invasive, but a lot of the safety threats to your child take place behind the curtain of the public feed in direct messages. Depending on the age of your child (and the established digital ground rules of your family) consider requiring access to his or her account.
  • Adjust settings. Make sure to click account settings to ‘private’ so only people your child knows can access his or her content and send direct messages. Also, turn off location services and consider getting comprehensive security software for all family devices.

Apps are where the fun is for kids so you can bet your child will at least check out buzz-worthy platforms like TikTok. They may browse, or they may become content creators. Your best social monitoring tool is to keep an open dialogue with your child. Keep talking with your kids about what’s going on in their digital life — where they hang out, who their friends are, and what’s new.  You may get some resistance but don’t let that stop you from doing all you can to keep your family safe online.

The post Are Your Kids Part of the TikTok App Craze? Here’s What Parents Need to Know appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Saving Summer: 5 Strategies to Help Reign In Family Screen Time Over Break

summer screen time

summer screen timeIt’s the most wonderful time of the year — for teachers and lifeguards. For everyone else (parents) we have a little prep work to do to make sure the summer doesn’t lull our kids into digital comas.

Most of us have learned that given zero limits, kids will play video games, watch YouTube, send snaps, and scroll Instagram into the midnight hours. This ever-present digital lure, combined with the “summer slide,” which is the academic ground kids lose over the summer, means that most parents are hoping to make the most of the summer months need to get proactive — now.

No matter your child’s age, teaching kids to use technology in a healthy way and pick up skills and habits that will make them savvy digital citizens, becomes even more critical in the summer months. Studies show that excess screen time can lead to increased cyberbullying, low self-esteem, depression, isolation, and anxiety in children and teens. Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified a new form of addiction called “gaming disorder.” That designation means health professionals can now treat dangerous levels of video gaming as a legitimate addiction. (Yes, this is the new normal of parenting).

Warning signs of too much tech:

  • Tantrums or inappropriate resistance to screen limits or refusing to let you see their devices
  • Lack of sleep (which can cause anger outbursts, moodiness, fatigue, and even illness)
  • Isolation and decrease in face-to-face time with friends and family
  • Complaining about family outings and declining invitations to participate in activities
  • Losing interest in physical activity

Tech balance in one family will look different than in another because every family has its own values, dynamic, and parenting styles. You may have to establish ground rules together and make edits over time — that’s okay, stay flexible. The important thing is to set limits and set them together, so your child feels as if he or she is part of the process and learns how and why to self-regulate over time.

summer screen time

Here are some tips for launching your family conversation and getting summer off to a positive, tech-healthy start.

  1. Discuss and agree on limits. Consider what an average day looks like. Where are the critical gaps where connection can happen? Maybe it’s transition times when you pick up your child from camp or a friend’s house. Perhaps it’s the hour after you get home from work, during meals, movie time, or in restaurants. Maybe it’s family outing such as the pool, the zoo, the theatre, roadmap time, or outdoors. Also, setting a device curfew in the summer months is more critical since kids like to take their devices to bed and keep scrolling.Discuss why and when your family should be screen-free and then put your commitment in writing in a Summer Family Media plan (every age range will require different ground rules). The American Academy of Pediatrics’ website has a fun, easy form you can fill out to create your Family Media Plan based on your child’s age.
  2. Pay attention to content: Setting screen limits doesn’t matter much if the content your child views isn’thealthy. A few questions to help assess content:
  • Is the content age-appropriate?
  • Are the apps my child uses interactive and learning-based or mind-numbing or even risky?
  • Do my family’s technology habits require filtering software to help block inappropriate websites?
  • Are the privacy settings on social media and gaming accounts set to restrict what strangers can see and who can send a direct message to my child?
  1. Jump into the fun. Part of teaching kids to understand healthy technology habits is taking the time to meet them where they are in their digital world — their favorite hangouts. When they understand you aren’t limiting screen time to punish them and that technology in itself isn’t bad, they will be more likely to see the benefits of balance and self-regulate in the future. What online games do they play? Consider watching them excel in their craft and cheering them on. Better yet, grab a controller and play along. What social media sites does your child love? Join in on Snapchat and let them teach you how to have fun with photo filters on the app.summer screen time
  2. Be hyper intentional. Zig Ziglar once said that to a child, “love” is spelled T-I-M-E. Under the influence of today’s digital culture, nothing is assumed, and most everything requires intentionality — especially grabbing the quality time we desire. Consider sitting down as a family and creating a summer bucket list of things you’d like to do before summer ends. Maybe it’s more movie nights, more beach time, a family craft or building project, volunteer work, board games, workout time, trips, whatever — be realistic that nothing on your list will happen without serious intention.
  3. From monitoring to mentoring. It’s always a good idea to monitor your child’s online activities. We are big fans of filtering software and understanding what social networks and apps your kids frequent. However, because you likely have more face-to-face with your kids in the summer months, think about ways to mentor them. Talk about current events related to online safety, pay attention to their friend groups on and offline, and use this extra time to reset some digital goals that may have slipped off your radar during the school year. Some possible goals: Set up your own Snapchat account, finally learn to use Twitter, educate yourself on dangerous apps, or let your child teach you how to improve your digital skills. With this extra valuable time over the summer, you can cover some serious ground by talking more about concepts like conflict-management, empathy, resilience, self-awareness, and digital responsibility, which will all help strengthen digital skills.

In your quest to establish summer ground rules that work for your family, don’t overlook the importance of the peer-to-peer connection that technology brings. Technology is the primary channel (like it or not) kids have to build their friendships, stay the loop, and to be affirmed. They need hangout time, and that’s usually online. Keep this in mind as you work together to find the balance that works best for your family.

The post Saving Summer: 5 Strategies to Help Reign In Family Screen Time Over Break appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

What Would Yoda Do? 5 Tips to Raising a Mindful Digital Jedi

A Jedi, from the epic Star Wars films, is a warrior who fights for the greater good. Jedi are set apart and rely on a higher, internal power called,The Force to guide them in life and in battle. They possess an acute sense of the world around them and are mindful of how their actions affect the whole of humanity.

The Jedi way is an excellent premise for raising digital kids in this often-precarious galaxy of hyper-connectivity called the internet. And who better to guide our parenting — today on Star Wars Day — than Yoda, the small but mighty Master Jedi known for his wisdom?

Here are a few digital parenting tips from the master himself to help you guide your kids in living the wiser, more mindful Jedi way online.

“To be a Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle or the night.”

Practice digital empathy. One of the biggest challenges of parents today is teaching kids how to break through the force field that stands between them and the very real people on the other side of their screens. It’s easy to log on to an electronic device and disconnect from the reality that our words and actions online impact others in either a positive or negative way. It’s easy to view other people as photos, avatars, or game characters instead of individuals with real feelings and unique, often different, perspectives than our own.

Teaching digital empathy, according to Parent Advocate and Author Sue Scheff, author of Shame Nation isn’t always front of mind for parents who grew up in a drastically different social environment. “We can’t relate to our kids’ social lives playing out in the digital world,” says Scheff. “Therefore, we may overlook the need to teach our kids that caring, kindness, and respect extends beyond face-to-face interactions. Yes, even online – or, especially online.”

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Find your voice. Media, opinions, news, and faulty algorithms usher an abundance of sketchy concepts into our thinking each day. Teaching kids to be discerning about the content they consume and aligning that with their values — and not that of a YouTube or Instagram celebrity — is serious personal work in today’s culture. The real parenting challenge of our day is teaching kids to think critically about who they are, what they believe, and how to express unique, significant self in everyday life. In her book Raising Humans in a Digital World, Diana Graber, notes a 2016 Stanford study that called young people’s inability to effectively evaluate online information as “bleak” and that, “Our digital natives may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when they evaluate information that flows through social media channels, they are duped.”

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”

Unplug for health. Newton’s law of motion states that an object in motion will remain in motion until an external force acts upon it. Applied to screen time: Unless we as parents (the external force) set the limits on screen time, the scrolling, clicking, and uploading will continue — forever. In Yoda’s vintage 1977 wisdom, we are reminded that unplugging isn’t punishment, but a way to refresh, restore, and maintain one’s emotional and physical health. As anxiety and depression among youth continue to be linked to screens, learning as much as we can about monitoring, screen limits, and digital wellbeing (the belief that technology should improve life, not distract from it), is paramount for parents today.

“To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.”

Avoid digital drama. With a little help, kids can learn how to sidestep much of the digital drama online that tends to spill over into real life. Teaching kids to be positive, trustworthy, empathetic, and refuse to take part in cyberbullying begins with parents who practice those same standards online (kids are watching). Other ways to dodge the drama include using your mute button, balancing screen time, staying out of online arguments, and thinking carefully about the tone of your posts and comments.

“You think Yoda stops teaching, just because his student does not want to hear? A teacher Yoda is.”

Parents: Never quit teaching. This last bit of Yoda wisdom is for especially for parents who feel overwhelmed and under-equipped to raise a digital Jedi. Your kids are not always going to want to hear your input on their online behavior or your warnings about staying safe — so what? A teacher Yoda is. A parent you are. Be encouraged — you’ve got this, and you are the original Jedi Master with future Jedi to guide. Keep learning, guiding, and molding the next generation even when it gets tough. Be unyielding to cultural standards and Jedi-fierce in your commitment to keeping your kids safe and healthy in this digital universe.

The post What Would Yoda Do? 5 Tips to Raising a Mindful Digital Jedi appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

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

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

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

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

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

How To Give Your Passwords A Health Check:

1. Check To See Whether Your Passwords Have Been Exposed

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

2. Commit to Not Using Common Passwords

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

3. Add Numbers and Symbols to Your Passwords

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

4. Ensure Every Password Is Unique

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

5. Simplify Your Life with a Password Manager

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

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

6. Set up Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible

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

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

Till next time!

Alex xx

 

The post It’s World Password Day – the Perfect Excuse to give your Passwords an Overhaul! appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Digital Parenting: ‘Eat Your Veggies, Brush Your Teeth, Strengthen Your Passwords’

strong password

strong passwordAs adults, we know the importance of strong passwords, and we’ve likely preached the message to our kids. But let’s rewind for a minute. Do our kids understand why strong passwords are important and why it needs to become a habit much like personal health and hygiene?

If we want the habit to stick, the reason why can’t be simply because we told them so. We’ve got to make it personal and logical.

Think about the habits you’ve already successfully instilled and the reasoning you’ve attached to them.

Brush your teeth to prevent disease and so they don’t fall out.
Eat a balanced diet so you have fuel for the day and to protect yourself from illness and disease.
Get enough sleep to restore your body and keep your mind sharp for learning.
Bathe and groom to wash away germs (and to keep people from falling over when you walk by). 

The same reasoning applies to online hygiene: We change our passwords (about every three months) to stay as safe as possible online and protect what matters. When talking to kids, the things that matter include our home address, our school name, our personal information (such as a parent’s credit card information, our social security number, or other account access).

Kids Targeted

We falsely believe that an adult’s information is more valuable than a child’s. On the contrary, given a choice, 10 out of 10 hackers would mine a child’s information over an adult’s because it’s unblemished. Determined identity thieves will use a child’s Social Security number to apply for government benefits, open bank, and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service or rent an apartment. Also, once a child’s information is hacked, a thief can usually get to a parent’s information.

How to Stay Safe

It’s a tall task to prevent some of the massive data breaches in the news that target kids’ information. However, what is in our control, the ability to practice and teach healthy password habits in our home.

Tips for Families

strong passwordShake it up. According to McAfee Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis, to bulletproof your passwords, make sure they are at least 12 characters long and include numbers, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters. Consider substituting numbers and symbols for letters, such as zero for “O” or @ for “A”.

Encourage kids to get creative and create passwords or phrases that mean something to them. For instance, advises Gary, “If you love crime novels you might pick the phrase: ILoveBooksOnCrime
Then you would substitute some letters for numbers and characters, and put a portion in all caps to make it even stronger, such as 1L0VEBook$oNcRIM3!”

Three random words. Password wisdom has morphed over the years as we learn more and more about hacking practices. According to the National Cyber Security Centre, another way to create a strong password is by using three random words (not birthdates, addresses, or sports numbers) that mean something to you. For instance: ‘lovepuppypaws’ or ‘drakegagacardib’ or ‘eatsleeprepeat’ or ‘tacospizzanutella’.

More than one password. Creating a new password for each account will head off cybercriminals if any of your other passwords are cracked. Consider a password manager to help you keep track of your passwords.

Change product default passwords immediately. If you purchase products for kids such as internet-connected gaming devices, routers, or speakers, make sure to change the default passwords to something unique, since hackers often know the manufacturer’s default settings.

When shopping online, don’t save info. Teach kids that when shopping on their favorite retail or gaming sites, not to save credit card information. Saving personal information to different accounts may speed up the checkout process. However, it also compromises data.

Employ extra protection. Comprehensive security software can protect you from several threats such as viruses, identity theft, privacy breaches, and malware designed to grab your data. Security software can cover your whole family as well as multiple devices.

Web Advisor. Keep your software up-to-date with a free web advisor that helps protect you from accidentally typing passwords into phishing sites.

strong password

Use unique passwords and MFA. This is also called “layering up.” 1) Use unique passwords for each of your accounts. By using different passwords, you avoid having all of your accounts become vulnerable if you are hacked (think domino effect). 2) MFA is Multi-Factor Authentication (also called two-step verification or authentication ). MFA confirms a user’s identity only after presenting two or more pieces of evidence. Though not 100% secure, this practice adds a layer of security to an account.

Keep it private. Kids love to show one another loyalty by sharing passwords and giving one another access to their social network accounts. DO NOT encourage this behavior. It’s reckless and could carry some serious privacy consequences. (Of course, sharing with parents, is recommended).

Credential Cracking

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the reported number of consumer records exposed containing sensitive personally identifiable information jumped 126 percent in 2018. The report explicitly stated password cracking as an issue: “The exploitation of usernames and passwords by nefarious actors continues to be a ripe target due to the increase in credential cracking activities – not to mention the amount of data that can be gleaned by accessing accounts that reuse the same credentials.”

May 2 is World Password Day and the perfect time to consider going over these password basics with your family.

The post Digital Parenting: ‘Eat Your Veggies, Brush Your Teeth, Strengthen Your Passwords’ appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

The Mute Button: How to Use Your Most Underrated Social Superpower

For a Monday, the school day was turning out to be surprisingly awesome. Mackenzie sat with friends at lunch, chatted with her favorite teacher, and aced her English test.

Then came the shift.

It happened between 5th and 6th period when Mackenzie checked her Instagram account. One glance showed several posts from the popular girls (yet another party I wasn’t invited to, she thought). She saw her friend Emma’s Spring Break photos (how can someone look that good in a bikini, she wondered) followed by several whos-dating-who posts from blissful looking couples (when is someone going to love me, she mused). In less than 60 seconds, the images and comments Mackenzie saw had the power to subtly alter her heart and mind.

FOMO

Mackenzie isn’t alone. Studies have repeatedly linked Social networks with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and an emotional phenomenon called FOMO (fear of missing out) among teens and — if we’re honest — among plenty of adults.

We can’t control the perpetual stream of photos, comments, and videos that flood our social feeds. Social is here to stay, and to some extent, most of us are required to be online. However, we can control the amount and the quality of the content that comes at us. And, we can teach our kids to do the same.

It’s called the mute button, and it could be your family’s most underrated superpower when it comes to enjoying life online. Many people either don’t know about their mute button or forget they have it.

The mute button allows you to turn off someone’s feed (yes—make it vanish) without the awkwardness of unfollowing or unfriending them. The cool part: No one knows you’ve muted them, so there are no hurt feelings. You can still view a muted person’s profile, and they can see yours. You can send or receive direct messages as if everything were copacetic.

How to mute

Thankfully, you can mute people easily on most social networks.

To mute someone on Instagram, go to the person’s page, find to the three little dots in the top upper right of the page, click and choose mute (you can choose to mute their feed and their stories). You can mute someone on Facebook by going to the person’s main page and clicking the “friends” button under their photo. You will have the option to “unfollow,” which will mute the person’s content but allow you to stay friends. On Twitter, you can stop seeing a person’s tweets by going to the three dots in the top upper right corner and choosing “mute.”

This simple, powerful click will allow you to curate what you see in your feed every day and instantly block the content that is annoying or negative. The result? Fewer emotional darts are flying at you randomly throughout the day and, hopefully, a more enjoyable, positive experience online.

When to mute

What’ s considered annoying or offensive to one person may be entirely acceptable and even enjoyable to someone else. So, the reasons for muting someone can vary greatly.

A few reasons to mute might be: 

  • Inappropriate or offensive content
  • Mean, bullying, or reckless content
  • Posting too frequently
  • Excessive bragging, boasting, or self-promotion
  • Content that negatively impacts your mental health
  • Non-stop political posts or rants
  • Too many selfies
  • Graphic or disturbing images or videos
  • Constant negative or critical posts
  • Useless, uninteresting, or tedious information
  • Monopolizing conversations
  • Perpetual personal drama
  • Too much content on one topic

Talking points for families

Editing your social circle is okay. The voices that surround you have influence, so choose the voices you surround yourself with carefully. Also, being “friends” with 1,000 or even 300 people isn’t realistic or reflective of real life. Remind kids: That tug (or compulsion) you feel to like, comment, post, or chime in online should not rule your time or your mind. You (and your family) may be surprised how good it feels to whittle down the number of voices you allow into your day.

Pay attention to emotional triggers. In many ways, you are what you consume online. Ask yourself: Is this person’s account positive or negative? Does it make me feel included and worthy or excluded and less-than? Do I feel jealous, annoyed, or negative when I see this person’s updates, photos, or tweets? Edit boldly. You can mute negative accounts temporarily or permanently without guilt.

Less noise, less clutter. If you want things to be different, you have to do things differently, and this applies online. Forming your thoughts and opinions is much more difficult when you are constantly absorbing other people’s ideas. The less digital clutter, the more room for quiet contemplation and self-awareness, which is always a good idea for young and older mind minds alike.

Be brave, be you. Kids pay far more attention to friend and follower counts than adults do. They consider it intentional rejection when someone unfollows or unfriends them online. For that reason, you may need to reiterate the importance of putting mental health before popularity or people pleasing. Remind them: It’s okay to mute, unfollow, or unfriend any person who is not a positive influence on your heart and mind.

No one is everyone’s favorite. It’s impossible to like everyone or be liked by everyone — impossible. There will always be individuals who will get under your skin. And, at times, people may feel the same about you. This is a normal part of human relationships. This reality makes striving to be liked by everyone online an impossible, exhausting task.

The digital world is packed with ever-changing social complexities. Seemingly casual clicks can trigger an avalanche of positive or negative emotions that can take their toll (whether we realize it or not). Helping your child think proactively about content and take responsibility for the content comes across his or her screen, is more important than ever in raising wise, healthy digital kids.

The post The Mute Button: How to Use Your Most Underrated Social Superpower appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Teen Texting Slang (and Emojis) Parents Should Know

What adults call texting, kids call talking. They “talk” on their phones via chat, social comments, snaps, posts, tweets, and direct messages. And they are talking most of the time — tap, tap, tap — much like background music. In all this “talking” a language, or code, emerges just as it has for every generation only today that language is in acronyms, hashtags, and emojis. And while the slang is perfectly understood peer-to-peer, it has parents googling like crazy to decipher it.

And this language changes all the time. It expands, contracts and specific acronyms and symbols (emojis) can change in meaning entirely over time, which is why we update this list every periodically.

This time we’ve added emojis (scroll to bottom) since those powerful little graphic symbols have singlehandedly transformed human communication, as we know it.

Harmless Banter

We publish this list with an important reminder: Teen texting slang isn’t inherently bad or created with an intent to deceive or harm. Most of the terms and symbols have emerged as a kind of clever shorthand for fast moving fingers and have no dangerous or risky meaning attached. So, if you are monitoring your kids’ phones or come across references you don’t understand, assume the best in them (then, of course, do your homework).

For example, there are dozens of harmless words such as finna (fixing to do something), yeet (a way to express excitement), skeet (let’s go), Gucci (great, awesome, or overpriced), AMIRITE (am I right?) QQ4U (quick question for you), SMH (shaking my head), bread (money), IDRK (I don’t really know), OOTD (outfit of the day), LYAAF (love you as a friend), MCE (my crush everyday), HMU (hit me up, call me), W/E (whatever), AFK (away from keyboard), RTWT (read the whole thread), CWYL (chat with you later), Ship (relationship), CYT (see you tomorrow) or SO (significant other).

The Red Flags 

Here are some terms and emojis that may not be so innocent. Any of these terms can also appear as hashtags if you put a # symbol in front of them.

Potential bullying slang

Ghost = to ignore someone on purpose

Boujee = rich or acting rich

Sip tea = mind your own business

The tea is so hot = juicy gossip

AYFKM? = are you f***ing kidding me?

Thirsty = adjective describing a desperate-acting, needy person

Basic = annoying person, interested in shallow things

Extra = over the top, excessive, dramatic person

TBH = to be honest (sometimes followed by negative comments)

Zerg = to gang up on someone (a gaming term that has morphed into a bullying term)

KYS = kill yourself

SWYP = so what’s your problem?

182 = I hate you
Curve = to reject someone

Shade = throwing shade, to put someone down.

POS = piece of sh**

WTF = what the f***

Derp = stupid

Lsr = loser

Butters = ugly

Jelly = jealous

Subtweet = talking about someone but not using their @name

Bizzle = another word for b***h

THOT or thotties = a promiscuous girl/s

YAG = you are gay

Cyber pretty = saying someone only looks good online with filters

Beyouch = another word for b***h

RAB = rude a** b***h

IMHO = in my honest opinion

IMNSHO = in my not so honest opinion

NISM = need I say more?

Potential risky behavior slang  

Broken = hung over

Pasted = high or drunk

Belfie = self-portrait (selfie) featuring the buttocks

OC = open crib, party at my house

PIR = parents in the room

9, CD9, Code 9 = parents here

99 = parents gone

Smash = to have casual sex

Slide into my DM = connecting through a direct message on a social network with sexual intentions

A3: Anytime, anywhere, anyplace

WTTP = want to trade pictures?

S2R = send to receive (pictures)
sugarpic = Refers to a suggestive or erotic photograph

TDTM = talk dirty to me

KMS = kill myself

AITR = adults in the room

KPC = keeping parents clueless

1174 = invite to a wild party usually followed by an address

53X = sex

Chirped = got caught

Cu46 = See you for sexTDTM = talk dirty to meLMIRL = let’s meet in real life

GNRN = get naked right now

Pron = porn

Frape = Facebook rape; posting to someone else’s profile when they leave it logged in.

NSFW = not safe for work (post will include nudity, etc)

Livingdangerously = taking selfies while driving or some other unsafe behavior

Kik = let’s talk on kik instant message instead

Sue = suicide

Dep = depression

Svv = self- harming behavior

SN = send nudes

Nend sudes = another way to say SN/send nudes

PNP = party and play (drugs + sex)

 

Potential drug-related slang

420, bud, tree = marijuana

Blow, mayo, white lady, rock, snow, yay, yale, yeyo, yank, yahoo = Cocaine

Special K = ketamine, liquid tranquilizer

Pearls = a nicely rolled blunt

Dabbing = concentrated doses of marijuana (began as a dance craze)

DOC = drug of choice

Turnt up / turnt = high or drunk

Geeked up = being high

Bar = Xanax pill

Bar out = to take a Xanax pill

Baseball = crack cocaine

Skrill = Money

Bread = money

CID = acid

E, XTC  = ecstasy

Hazel = heroin

Blue Boogers = snorting Adderall or Ritalin

Pharming = getting into medicine cabinets to find drugs to get high

Oxy, perks, vikes = opioids

Robo-tripping = consuming cough syrup to get high

Tweaking = high on amphetamines

Wings = cocaine; heroin

Speed, crank, uppers, Crystal or Tina = meth

 

Red flag emojis

Frog = an ugly person

Frog + tea (coffee) cup = that’s the tea (gossip)

Any kind of green plant/leaves = marijuana

Maple leaf = marijuana

Broccoli = marijuana

Smoke puff or gasoline = get high

Snowflake = cocaine

Person skiing = cocaine

Pill = ecstasy or MDMA for sale

Face with steam from nose = MDMA drug

Rocket = high potency drug for sale

Syringe = heroin

Diamond = crystal meth, crack cocaine for sale

Skull = die

Knife + screaming face = calling someone a psycho

Bowling ball + person running = I’m gonna hit you, coming for you

Flowers = drugs

Dollar sign = it’s for sale

Syringe = heroine (also tattoo)

Cat with heart eyes = sex

Purple face with horns = sex

Gas pump = sex

Tongue, eggplant, water drops, banana, peach, taco, cherries, drooling face, rocket = sex

Rose, rosette, cherry, pink cherry blossom, growing heart, airplane, crown = emojis that refer to sex trafficking

When it comes to figuring out what your kids are up to online, using your own instincts and paying attention will be your best resources. If something doesn’t sound or look right on your child’s phone trust that feeling and look deeper. You don’t have to know every term or symbol — the more important thing is to stay aware and stay involved.

The post Teen Texting Slang (and Emojis) Parents Should Know appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

10 Ways to Help Your Family Break Bad Tech Habits

A new study from Pew Research confirms our collective hunch that 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone and that 45% of teens now say they are always online. No shock there. The finding that is far more worrisome? That despite this dramatic digital shift over the past decade, parents are divided on whether today’s teens face a set of issues completely different than the issues of their youth.

When asked to compare the experiences of today’s teens to their own experiences when they were a teen, 48% of parents surveyed said today’s teens have to deal with a completely different set of issues. Likewise, 51% said that despite some differences, the issues young people deal with today is not that different from when they were teenagers.

This number is alarming from both a parenting perspective and a digital safety perspective. It means that while we’ve made incredible progress in our digital awareness and how to raise kids in this unique culture, a lot of parents are still woefully behind in their thinking. (Seriously: Could our experience as teens — minus the internet and smartphones — be any more different than the experience of today’s digital natives?)

Distracted Parents, Distracted Kids

In trying to understand this reality gap, the survey offered up another morsel of insight: That parents themselves are as distracted as kids when it comes to reliance on devices. Yep! As worried as parents say they are about the amount of time their teen spends online, parents’ digital behavior isn’t exactly praiseworthy. The survey found that 59% of parents say they at least sometimes feel obligated to respond to cell phone messages immediately, while 39% admit they regularly lose focus at work because they’re checking their mobile device and 36% say they spend too much time on their cell phone.

Reality Check

If half of us genuinely believe that our kids are growing up with issues similar to ours as teens (only with strange devices in their hands), and if we are telling our kids to lead balanced digital lives but our digital habits are off the rails, then — if we’re honest — we’ve got some serious work to do as parents.

How do we begin to shift these numbers in favor of our family’s digital health? How do we move from technology leading our family to the other way around?

Like any significant change, we begin at home — with the truth — and move forward from there. We’ve got this!

10 Ways to Improve Your Family Tech Habits

  1. Own your stuff. Let’s get real. Change begins with acknowledging our personal responsibility in what isn’t working. If your own screen time is out of control and you are trying to set healthy digital habits for your family — that contradiction is going to undermine your success. Take a look at your screen time habits, admit to the bad habits, and establish fresh tech goals moving forward.
  2. No shame zone. We know about establishing device-free zones in the home such as the dinner table, movie time, and the bedroom at night. Consider a no shame zone — the understanding that no one is made to feel shame for his or her not-so-great tech habits. It’s hard to move forward toward new goals if we beat ourselves up for the past, compare ourselves to others, or are made to feel like the bad guy for falling short. Acknowledge bad habits, discuss them openly, and help one another do better in the future. Your chances of success double when you have a team supporting you.
  3. Stick to a device curfew. Try a device curfew — say 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. — when devices are turned off and put into a drawer (yes, you have to get this intentional). A curfew increases face-to-face family interaction and creates space for non-device activities. It specifically reduces the temptation to habitually check your phone, get lost scrolling on Instagram, and getting sucked back into work emails. More importantly, it models for your kids that you don’t have to check your phone constantly, which has countless emotional and physical benefits.
  4. Be realistic with changes. The goal is to reduce your tech and strike a balance that complements — rather than conflicts with — your family’s lifestyle and wellbeing. We know that technology is now an ever-present part of family life so cutting it out completely is neither beneficial nor realistic. Achieving a healthy tech balance is an on-going process. Some days you will fare than others. The goal is to make progress (not perfection) toward a healthier, more balanced relationship with your technology. Going haywire with rules and consequences won’t get you there faster. Discuss as a family what changes need to be made and brainstorm ways to get there. Set some realistic goals that everyone can achieve and maintain not just in the short-term but also as a lifestyle.
  5. Turn off notifications. This is a small, powerful act that can transform your digital life. Getting pop up notifications for apps, emails, texts, calendar events, social media actions — you name it — might be your normal for you but far from beneficial. So, turn them all off. I dare you.
  6. Filter content. Tech balance isn’t just about less tech; it’s also about monitoring the content that flows into your home from the other side of the screen. You can turn off your family’s devices for 23 hours a day and if the content you allow into your home for that remaining one hour isn’t age-appropriate or conflicts with your family’s values and tech goals, then that one hour has tremendous influence. Take the time to explore filtering options that allow you to set time limits on your child’s (and your) technology, block dangerous websites and apps, and helps you strike a healthy tech balance that reflects your family’s lifestyle and needs. Roll up your sleeves: Co-view movies, go through apps and video games and discuss the issues that arise around the media your kids consume.
  7. Be the parent. Kids crave consistency and leadership from parents. No matter what age your child may be, as a parent, you are the most influential person in your child’s life. You pay the bills. You can shut devices and routers off — regardless of the tantrum level. Your opinion matters on video games, media, apps, friend groups, and content. Don’t let your child’s emotional protests keep you from parenting well and establishing and enforcing good tech habits. If you think your child has a technology addiction issue trust that instinct and take action.
  8. Get a plan, work it. We all nod when we read this but who has done it? You can’t get where you are going without a map. Put a family tech plan in place (with group input) and stick to it. Ideas to consider: Phone free zones, device curfew, chores and responsibilities, physical activity vs. screen time, social media behavior, tech security rules, TV viewing time, video game time limits, content guidelines, and expectations. If you discover that your tech plan isn’t working, zero in and make adjustments.
  9. Rediscover real life — together. Maybe you’ve gotten in some bad habits over the years. Don’t beat yourself up. Just decide to change things up moving forward. It’s never too late to change your family vibe. Explore new things together — nature, art classes, concerts, camping — anything that helps you disconnect from technology and reconnect to each other and real life.
  10. Keep. On. Talking. Sure you’ve said it before, so what? Make the conversation about digital issues a priority in your home. Ask your kids what’s going on with their friend groups and online. Talk about tech issues in the news. Talk about the health and emotional issues connected to excessive tech use. According to your child’s age, talk about the stuff that’s tough to talk about talking about like cyberbullying, suicide, self-harm, body image, and sexting. A good rapport with your child is the most powerful tool you have as a parent today.

Remember, technology is a tool not a way of life. Healthy screen habits begin parents who are grounded in reality and who model healthy screen habits themselves. Times have changed, there are challenges to be sure but stay the course parent: You’ve got the tools and the tenacity you need to get in front of those challenges and equip our kids to live wise, balanced digital lives.

The post 10 Ways to Help Your Family Break Bad Tech Habits appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home

Like most parents, before you go to sleep each night, you take extra care to lock doors and windows to keep your family safe from any outside threats. The only thing you may have overlooked is the smartphone illuminated on your nightstand. And if you were to add up the smartphones humming all over your house, suddenly you’d have a number of unlocked doors that a determined criminal could enter through. Maybe not tonight — but eventually.

Digital Ecosystem

Over time you’ve purchased and plugged in devices throughout your home. You might have a voice assistant, a baby monitor, a thermostat, a treadmill, a gaming system, a fitness watch, smart TVs, a refrigerator, and many other fun, useful gadgets. Each purchase likely connects to your smartphone. Take stock: You now have a digital ecosystem growing all around you. And while you rarely stop to take notice of this invisible power grid around you, hackers can’t stop thinking about it.

This digital framework that pulsates within your home gives cybercriminals potential new entryways into your life and your data. Depending on your devices, by accessing your smartphone, outsiders may be able to unlock your literal doors while you are away (via your home security system), eavesdrop on your family conversations and collect important information (via your voice assistant), access financial information (via your gaming system, tablet, or laptop).

What you can do:

  • Change factory security settings. Before you fire up that smart TV, drone, or sound system, be sure to change each product’s factory settings and replace it with a bulletproof password to put a layer of protection between you and would-be hackers.
  • Protect your home network. We are connected people living in connected homes. So, part of the wired lifestyle is taking the lead on doing all we can to protect it. One way to do that is at the router level with built-in network security, which can help secure your connected devices.
  • Stay on top of software updates. Cybercrooks rely on consumers to ignore software updates; it makes their job so much easier. So be sure to install updates to your devices, security software, and IoT products when alerted to do so.

Smartphone = Front Gate

The most common entry point to all of these connected things is your smartphone. While you’ve done a lot of things to protect your phone — a lock screen, secure passwords on accounts, and system updates — there are hacking tactics you likely know nothing about. According to McAfee’s recent  Mobile Threat Report, you don’t know because the scope and complexity of mobile hacks are increasing at alarming rates.

Hidden Apps

The latest statistics report that the average person has between 60-90 apps installed on their phones. Multiply that between all the users in your home, and you are looking at anywhere from 200-500 apps living under your digital roof. Hackers gravitate toward digital trends. They go where the most people congregate because that’s where they can grab the most money. Many of us control everything in our homes from our apps, so app downloads are off the charts, which is why crooks have engineered some of their most sophisticated schemes specifically around app users.

Hidden apps are a way that crooks trick users into letting them inside their phones. Typically, hidden apps (such as TimpDoor) get to users via Google Play when they download games or customized tools. TimpDoor will then directly communicate with users via a text with a link to a voice message that gives detailed instructions to enable apps from unknown sources. That link downloads malware which will run in the background after the app closes. Users often forget they’ve downloaded this and go on with life while the malware runs in the background and can access other internal networks on the smartphone.

What you can do:

  • Stay alert. Don’t fall for the traps or click links to other apps sent via text message.
  • Stay legit. Only download apps hosted by the original trusted stores and verified partner sites.
  • Avoid spam. Don’t click on any email links, pop-ups, or direct messages that include suspicious links, password prompts, or fake attachments. Delete and block spam emails and texts.
  • Disable and delete. If you are not using an app, disable it. And, as a safety habit, remove apps from your phone, tablet, or laptop you no longer use.

Fake Apps

Again, crooks go where the most people congregate, and this year it is the 60 million+ downloaded game Fortnite. The Fortnite craze has lead hackers to design fake Fortnite apps masquerading as the real thing. The fraudulent app designers go to great lengths to make the download look legitimate. They offer enticing downloads and promise users a ton of free perks and add ons. Once users download the fake app, crooks can collect money through ads, send text messages with more bad app links, crypto jack users, or install malware or spyware.

What you can do:

  • Don’t install apps from unknown sources. Not all gaming companies distribute via Google Play or the App Store. This makes it even harder for users to know that the app they are downloading is legit. Do all you can to verify the legitimacy of the site you are downloading from.
  • Delete suspicious acting apps. If you download an app and it begins to request access to anything outside of its service, delete it immediately from your device.
  • Update devices regularly. Keep new bugs and threats at bay by updating your devices automatically.
  • Monitor bank statements. Check statements regularly to monitor the activity of the card linked to your Fortnite account. If you notice repeat or multiple transactions from your account or see charges that you don’t recognize, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be a savvy app user. Verify an app’s legitimacy. Read other user reviews and be discerning before you download anything. This practice also applies to partner sites that sell game hacks, credits, patches, or virtual assets players use to gain rank within a game. Beware of “free” downloads and avoid illegal file-sharing sites. Free downloads can be hotbeds for malware. Stick with the safer, paid options from a reputable source.

The post Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Safeguard Your Family Against A Medical Data Breach

Medical Data BreachThe risk to your family’s healthcare data often begins with that piece of paper on a clipboard your physician or hospital asks you to fill out or in the online application for healthcare you completed.

That data gets transferred into a computer where a patient Electronic Health Record (EHR) is created or added to. From there, depending on the security measures your physician, healthcare facility, or healthcare provider has put in place, your data is either safely stored or up for grabs.

It’s a double-edged sword: We all need healthcare but to access it we have to hand over our most sensitive data armed only with the hope that the people on the other side of the glass window will do their part to protect it.

Breaches on the Rise

Feeling a tad vulnerable? You aren’t alone. The stats on medical breaches don’t do much to assuage consumer fears.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that the number of annual health data breaches increased 70% over the past seven years, with 75% of the breached, lost, or stolen records being breached by a hacking or IT incident at a cost close to consumers at nearly $6 billion.

The IoT Factor

Medical Data Breach

Not only are medical facilities vulnerable to hackers, but with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) consumer products — which, in short, means everything is digitally connected to everything else — also provide entry points for hackers. Wireless devices at risk include insulin pumps and monitors, Fitbits, scales, thermometers, heart and blood pressure monitors.

To protect yourself when using these devices, experts recommend staying on top of device updates and inputting as little personal information as possible when launching and maintaining the app or device.

The Dark Web

The engine driving healthcare attacks of all kinds is the Dark Web where criminals can buy, sell, and trade stolen consumer data without detection. Healthcare data is precious because it often includes a much more complete picture of a person including social security number, credit card/banking information, birthdate, address, health care card information, and patient history.

With this kind of data, many corrupt acts are possible including identity theft, fraudulent medical claims, tax fraud, credit card fraud, and the list goes on. Complete medical profiles garner higher prices on the Dark Web.

Some of the most valuable data to criminals are children’s health information (stolen from pediatrician offices) since a child’s credit records are clean and more useful tools in credit card fraud.

According to Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Advanced Threat Research, predictions for 2019 include criminals working even more diligently in the Dark Web marketplace to devise and launch more significant threats.

“The game of cat and mouse the security industry plays with ransomware developers will escalate, and the industry will need to respond more quickly and effectively than ever before,” Says Samani.

Medical Data Breach

Healthcare professionals, hospitals, and health insurance companies, while giving criminals an entry point, though responsible, aren’t the bad guys. They are being fined by the government for breaches and lack of proper security, and targeted and extorted by cyber crooks, while simultaneously focusing on patient care and outcomes. Another factor working against them is the lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals equipped to protect healthcare practices and facilities.

Protecting ourselves and our families in the face of this kind of threat can feel overwhelming and even futile. It’s not. Every layer of protection you build between you and a hacker, matters. There are some things you can do to strengthen your family’s healthcare data practices.

Ways to Safeguard Medical Data

Don’t be quick to share your SSN. Your family’s patient information needs to be treated like financial data because it has that same power. For that reason, don’t give away your Social Security Number — even if a medical provider asks for it. The American Medical Association (AMA) discourages medical professionals from collecting patient SSNs nowadays in light of all the security breaches.

Keep your healthcare card close. Treat your healthcare card like a banking card. Know where it is, only offer it to physicians when checking in for an appointment, and report it immediately if it’s missing.

Monitor statements. The Federal Trade Commission recommends consumers keep a close eye on medical bills. If someone has compromised your data, you will notice bogus charges right away. Pay close attention to your “explanation of benefits,” and immediately contact your healthcare provider if anything appears suspicious.

Ask about security. While it’s not likely you can change your healthcare provider’s security practices on the spot, the more consumers inquire about security standards, the more accountable healthcare providers are to following strong data protection practices.

Pay attention to apps, wearables. Understand how app owners are using your data. Where is the data stored? Who is it shared with? If the app seems sketchy on privacy, find a better one.

How to Protect IoT Devices

Medical Data Breach

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), IoT devices, while improving medical care and outcomes, have their own set of safety precautions consumers need to follow.

  • Change default usernames and passwords
  • Isolate IoT devices on their protected networks
  • Configure network firewalls to inhibit traffic from unauthorized IP addresses
  • Implement security recommendations from the device manufacturer and, if appropriate, turn off devices when not in use
  • Visit reputable websites that specialize in cybersecurity analysis when purchasing an IoT device
  • Ensure devices and their associated security patches are up-to-date
  • Apply cybersecurity best practices when connecting devices to a wireless network
  • Invest in a secure router with appropriate security and authentication practices

The post How to Safeguard Your Family Against A Medical Data Breach appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Make Sure Spring Break Doesn’t Wreck Your Digital Rep

Spring Break and reputation management

Spring Break and reputation management Spring Break 2019 is in full swing, which means high school and college kids have hit the road determined to make this rite of passage epic. Unfortunately, not everyone will return home with his or her online reputation intact.

Despite the headlines and warnings, kids are still uploading their lives 24/7 and not all of their choices will be wise. While impressive at the moment, showcasing one’s exceptional beer pong or body shot skills could become a future digital skeleton.

Define it

The decision to share reckless content online has damaged (even destroyed) scholarships, opportunities, reputations, and careers.

Each day more than one billion names are searched on Google, and 77% of job recruiters look up potential employees up online during the hiring process, according to BrandYourself.com. Also, 45% of people have found content in an online search that made them decide not to do business with someone.

As elementary as it sounds, the first step to helping your child safeguard his or her online reputation this spring break is defining what is and is not appropriate online content.

Spring Break and reputation management

Technology has created a chasm between generations so don’t assume your values align with your child’s in this area. Behavior once considered inappropriate has slowly become acceptable to kids who grew up in the online space. Also, peers often have far more influence than parents.

So take the time to define (and come to an agreement on) content you consider off limits such as profanity, racy photos, mean, disrespectful, or racist comments, irresponsible or prank videos, or pictures that include alcohol or drug use. (Yes, state the obvious!)

Untag It

Spring Break and reputation management

Turn off tagging. Like it or not, people often judged us by the company we keep. Your child’s online behavior may be stellar but tag-happy, reckless friends can sink that quickly. To make sure your child doesn’t get tagged in risky photos on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, encourage them to adjust privacy settings to prevent tagging or require user approval. Also, help your kids to pay more attention to unflattering Snapchat photos and Snapchat story photos that other people post about them that can be problematic if shared elsewhere.

Lock It

Amp privacy settings. By adjusting privacy settings to “friends only” on select social networks content, digital mistakes can be minimized. However, we know that anything uploaded can be shared and screen captured before it’s deleted so tightening privacy settings isn’t a guarantee.

Google It

Spring Break and reputation management To get a clear picture of your child’s digital footprint and what a school or future employer might find, Google your child’s name. Examine the social networks, links, and sites that have cataloged information about your child. One of the best ways to replace damaging digital information is by creating positive information that overshadows it. Encourage your child to set up a Facebook page that reflects their best self — their values, their goals, and their character. Make the page public so others can view it. They may also consider setting up a LinkedIn page that highlights specific achievements, goals, and online endorsements from teachers and past employers.

If for some reason there’s damaging content that can’t be removed by request, encourage your child to set up a personal website and blog weekly. This can be a professional or hobby blog, but the idea is to repopulate the search results with favorable content and push the tainted content further down on Google.

Balance It

In your guiding, don’t forget the wise words of Cyndi Lauper who reminds us all, “Girls just wanna have fun!” Strive for balance in giving kids the room to make memories with friends while at the same time equipping them to make wise choices online.

The post How to Make Sure Spring Break Doesn’t Wreck Your Digital Rep appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Alleged ‘Momo Challenge’ Reminds Parents to Monitor Online Content

Momo challenge
This eerie image is connected to the alleged Momo challenge causing panic among parents.

Editor’s Note: This blog post includes disturbing content and mentions of suicide.

Internet challenges have been going on for years. They can be fun and harmless, or they can be dim-witted and even deadly. The latest challenge referred to as the Momo challenge seemingly hits a whole new level of creepy but experts say there’s little evidence the challenge is real.

What Is It?

To participate in the alleged challenge players using various apps or games are purportedly urged by a pop-up image of “Momo” to hurt themselves or others to avoid being cursed by the creature. (The creepy image of Momo is reportedly a half-girl-half-bird sculpture created by a Japanese artist unrelated to the game). Rumors allege the game ends with Momo encouraging participants to take their own lives and record it for social media.

Real or rumor?

Is the challenge real or a hoax? While several youth suicides around the world are rumored to be tied to the Momo game, none of the connections have been proven, according to both the Washington Post, Snopes, and other news sources.

Rumored or reality, one thing is for certain: The viral Momo story is creating a genuine panic and perceived threat among parents that requires an equally strategic response.

With devices in the hands of most kids by the time they are 10, the viral Momo challenge offers all of us a chance to stop, think, and connect with our kids specifically about digital content, peer pressure, and the danger of online challenges.

Talking Points for Families

Be hands-on. This story, while considered an internet myth, represents an opportunity to get even more hands-on with your digital parenting efforts. As silly, viral challenges like Momo arise (and there will be more), resolve to routinely monitor the content your kids engage with online. This includes apps, YouTube content, video games, TV shows online, and chat apps. Feel overwhelmed with monitoring? Consider getting a software program to be your eyes and ears online and help filter out risky content.

Get proactive. Depending on the age of your child, chances are if they’ve heard about the Momo game or seen the image, they could be frightened. Talk about the dangers of peer pressure, bullying, and online challenges. Make sure the conversation is two-way and includes your child’s experiences and thoughts on the topic. Ask your child to come to you immediately if anyone or anything online ever makes them feel unsafe, afraid, or provoked.

Stay informed. Risky digital behaviors that affect kids, tweens, and teens make the headlines each week. Any parent in the know will tell you candidly that staying informed about online risk is a part-time job attached to parenting. Read blogs, set google alerts, listen to podcasts, and connect with experts online to stay informed. Other dangerous online challenges include the Bird Box Challenge and several others.

Encourage critical thinking. If your child blows off the potential seriousness of online stunts or games, encourage him or her to think a behavior through. Ask them: “Walk through each step of the stunt and tell me where you think things could go wrong.” This will help your child personally determine if an activity is risky or not.

Know Those Apps! One of the biggest threats to a child’s online safety is his or her choice in apps. Apps run the gamut of risk and range from educational and uplifting to inappropriate and dangerous. Go on your child’s phone regularly and check for risky apps. Google the app and read app reviews. Look at age restrictions and customer reviews so you will be better equipped to evaluate whether an app may be suitable for your child. Dangerous apps include Kik Messenger, Ask.Fm, Tumblr, and any other social network that allows anonymous users.

Monitor online communities. Your kids have friends they bring home, but they also have friends online you will never meet face to face. Dig in and get curious. Look for apps such as WhatsApp or Kik that allow kids to chat with anyone, anywhere. Ask your kids to show you where they spend their time and the kind of people they choose to talk with. Remember: The direct message feature on favorite apps like Instagram and Snapchat are also ways kids connect with peers online.

The contour of our digital life evolves and expands every day. And, unfortunately, along with that growth will come people who attempt to cause harm or plant fear just for sport. Rather than respond with fear, consider approaching risks with a fresh determination to equip your family with the knowledge and tools it needs to thrive and stay safe in this ever-changing digital terrain.

The post Alleged ‘Momo Challenge’ Reminds Parents to Monitor Online Content appeared first on McAfee Blogs.