Introduce your preschooler to the home computer through creating with media

PBS parents recently had a great article about helping your preschooler use media during craft time (reposted below). This is a great way to familiarize your child with your home computer in a safe way.

Creating with Media: Preschoolers

Finger paints, crayons, glue sticks and paper collages are the mainstays of young children’s art making. And that certainly doesn’t need to change, as preschoolers benefit greatly from moving color and shapes around with their hands. It’s possible, though, to add media tools to their art supply list. Beginning to play with digital photos, mobile phone video clips and audio recordings will let your preschooler know that media are more than entertainment — they can also be building blocks for their own creativity.

  • Talk about what a story is when reading books or watching a program.
    Help your child understand that a story has a structure — it has a beginning, middle and end — and that there are different kinds of characters, like princesses, witches and villains who play specific roles. Ask:Did that happen at the beginning of the story or the end? How come? What happened next? Why do you think the witch did that?
  • Make a scrapbook out of pictures and other items from activities you do with your child.
    Print out digital family photos and screenshots from favorite stories stored on an e-reader to assemble a book of your own. Give your child opportunities to make choices, such as which picture goes where and what a caption should say. Encourage your child to think about sequence — which picture follows next and why — and frame, perhaps drawing people and objects left out of a photograph.
  • Give your child a chance to play writer and director.
    Write down a script as your child tells you a story then have her cast family members in various roles. Have everyone play his or her part as you read back the story. Ask about the characters: What do they like to wear? Do they have any special powers? Who is in their family?
  • Use a computer and cell phone to create art with your child.
    Print out black-and-white pictures and help your child use crayons or paints to bring them to life. Image searches for sketches are an easy way to locate simple drawings. Better yet, use a camera, even one on your cell phone, to make a digital image of your child’s artwork or a movie of her describing what she has made. Designate a folder or specific, easy-to-find area on the hard drive as a “rotating exhibit” of her creations.
  • Make a recording of your child singing and reciting rhymes and funny words.
    Have fun making up new sounds and songs. Remember to stop often to play back what you have recorded, letting your child enjoy the sound of her creations. Many cell phones have a voice memo function that will allow you to capture sounds on the go just as some handheld game devices also have a built-in recorder.
  • Help your child send a letter, email message or text to family and friends.
    While you type or write and your child dictates what she wants to say, you can offer prompts that will introduce her to the conventions of writing, such as how to begin and end a letter. Pairing a photograph that your child helps you take with a text message also is a chance to talk about what “words say” and what “pictures say” — sometimes they aren’t the same.

Katie’s Story: A 15-year-old victim of an online predator

At 15-years-old, Katie was the victim of an online predator. She met this 22-year-old man through an online chat room. He charmed Katie by sending her gifts and taking advantage of her low self-esteem. After a short period of time, this man was calling Katie on her cellphone ten times a day and had purchased a plane ticket to her hometown. After her parents got the police involved, they discovered that Katie’s new online “boyfriend” was suspecting of raping a 13-year-old girl.

Katie is now a youth ambassador for the nonprofit organization, Web Wise Kids. In the following video, she the shares her story and how she came to realize her “boyfriend” was really a predator.



How well do your kids understand the internet?

How much do your kids understand about the internet? Sure, they may be able to navigate Facebook like a wiz, but do not mistake that for a thorough understand of the technical and social complexities of the web. Think about this: do your children understand that when they get on the home computer it may be linked to another computer thousands of miles away monitoring their actions? Or that the person they are chatting with may be using a false identity? What about when they receive an e-mail from someone they trust but it has an odd or provocative subject line? How about answering personal questions that may make them a target for predators?

Professor Zheng Yan, of the State University of New York, tackled these questions in a series of studies. He found that the amount of time children spend on the internet does not correlate to an understand of the technical and social complexities of it.

“The frequency of internet use does not provide for much improvement in their technical understanding, but it does help some with respect to their understanding of the social threats and complexities. Instruction about the web, even if provided informally, also helps children understand the social dynamics of internet use.” Internet Safety: do kids really understand what’s going on? 

Your child is probably not as internet savvy as she or he may appear. According to Dr. Yan, taking the time to explain to your child the technical and social dangers of the internet helps them to better understand how to use it properly. Knowledge is power. Give your kids the edge they need to use the internet safely and effectively.

Do Schools Have Legal Authority to Respond to Off-Campus Cyberbullying?

What can schools do when a student is being cyberbullied by another student off-campus? Do schools have any authority to take disciplinary action?

These questions were recently discussed on the Cyberbullying Research Center’s blog. The blog post approached these issues by listing a progression of legal cases dealing with schools’ authority to respond to students’ bad behavior when it occurs off-campus. While there is still some legal ambiguity concerning a school’s authority to take action against cyberbullying, the author believes that schools do have the power to take action:

“…the reality, in my view, is that there is no uncertainty about this issue.  Schools simply do have the authority to reasonably discipline students for any behavior (whether at school or away from school) if such behavior results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, a substantial or material disruption at school or if the behavior infringes on the rights of other students. So the short answer to the question posed in the title of this blog post is: YES!”

As long as a school can prove that the cyberbullying is substantially disrupting the school environment or infringing on the rights of a student, they have the authority to discipline a student for 0ff-campus cyberbullying. This is good news in the continued effort to discourage bullying, whether it be in schoolyard or on internet.

Check out the post in its entirety at: Can schools respond to off-campus cyberbullying?

Mobile Security for you and your kids

Nowadays, most of us access the web via our mobile devices and it is trend that is growing more and more each year. Just like using a PC, browsing the web via a Mobile device may bring you harm and exercising simple and easy precautions may help you get protected. Here is a great guide from


If you’re a parent, you’re always thinking about the safety of your children. But how often are you thinking about your child’s security and privacy on mobile devices?

If the answer is not enough, you’re not alone.

We recently partnered with NQ Mobile to conduct a survey on how parents think and act when it comes to the mobile security of their children.


Is your child a victim of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a big deal and everyone is a possible target. Be sure to keep an eye on your kids and read this post by that will give you helpful cues to finding out if your child could be a victim of cyberbulying…

Bullies and mean girls have been around forever, but technology has given them a whole new platform for their actions. As adults, we’re becoming more aware that the “sticks and stones” adage no longer holds true; virtual name-calling can have real-world effects on the well being of kids and teens.
It’s not always easy to know how and when to step in as a parent. For starters, our kids tend to use technology differently than we do. Many spend a lot of time on social networking sites, send text messages and instant messages (IMs) by the hundreds, and are likely to roll their eyes at the mention of email – that’s “so old-school” to them. Their knowledge and habits can be intimidating, but they still need us as parents.
Fortunately, our growing awareness of cyberbullying has helped us learn a lot more about how to prevent it. Here are some suggestions on what to do if online bullying has become part of your child’s life.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.
Sometimes cyberbullying can be clear-cut. For example, leaving overtly cruel cell phone text messages or mean notes posted to Web sites. Other acts are less obvious, such as impersonating a victim online or posting personal information or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another child.
Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender’s tone – one teen’s joke or sense of humor could be another’s devastating insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, text messages, and online posts is rarely accidental.
A 2006 poll from the national organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids found that 1 in 3 teens and 1 in 6 preteens have been the victims of cyberbullying. As more and more youths have access to computers and cell phones, the incidence of cyberbullying is likely to rise.
Effects of Cyberbullying
No longer limited to schoolyards or street corners, modern-day bullying can happen at home as well as at school – essentially 24 hours a day. And, for kids who are being cyberbullied, it can feel like there’s no escape.
Severe cyberbullying can leave victims at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders. In very rare cases, some kids have turned to suicide.
The punishment for cyberbullies can include being suspended from school or kicked off of sports teams. Certain types of cyberbullying also may violate school codes or even anti-discrimination or sexual harassment laws.
Signs of Cyberbullying
Many kids and teens who are cyberbullied are reluctant to tell a teacher or parent, often because they feel ashamed of the social stigma, or because they fear their computer privileges will be taken away at home.
The signs that a child is being cyberbullied vary, but a few things to look for are:
  • signs of emotional distress during or after using the Internet
  • withdrawal from friends and activities
  • avoidance of school or group gatherings
  • slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
How Parents Can Help
If you discover that your child is being cyberbullied, be sure to discuss how it feels. Offer assurance that it’s not your child’s fault. Talking to teachers or school administrators also may help.
Many schools, school districts, and after-school clubs have established protocols for responding to cyberbullying; these vary by district and state. But before reporting the problem, let your child know that you plan to do so, as he or she could have concerns about “tattling” and might prefer that the problem be handled at home.
Other measures to try:
  • Block the bully. Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block emails, IMs, or text messages from specific people.
  • Limit access to technology. Although it’s hurtful, many kids who are bullied can’t resist the temptation to check Web sites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computer in a public place in the house (no laptops in children’s bedrooms, for example) and limit the use of cell phones and games. Some companies allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours, which can give bullied kids a break.
  • Know your kids’ online world. Check their postings and the sites kids visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it’s a bad idea to share personal information online, even with friends. Encourage them to safeguard passwords.
If your child agrees, you may also arrange for mediation with a therapist or counselor at school who can work with your child and/or the bully.
When Your Child Is the Bully
Finding out that your child is the one who is behaving inappropriately can be upsetting and heartbreaking. It’s important to address the problem head on and not wait for it to go away.
Talk to your child firmly about his or her actions and explain the negative impact it has on others. Joking and teasing might seem OK, but it can hurt people’s feelings and lead to getting in trouble. Bullying  in any form  is unacceptable; there can be serious (and sometimes irrevocable) consequences at home, school, and in the community if it continues.
Remind your child that the use of cell phones and computers is a privilege. Sometimes it helps to restrict the use of these devices until behavior improves. If you feel your child should have a cell phone for safety reasons, make sure it is a phone that can only be used for emergency purposes.
To get to the heart of the matter, sometimes talking to teachers, guidance counselors, and other school officials can help identify situations that lead your child to bully others. If mismanaged anger is a problem, talk to a doctor about helping your child learn to cope with anger, hurt, frustration, and other strong emotions in a healthy way.
Professional counseling often helps kids learn to deal with their feelings and improve their social skills, which in turn can curb bullying.

Teens migrate to Twitter

We as parents are trying to protect our children… But sometimes they are not too happy about it. For some adults social media is still new, while our kids seem to be the expert. But as we are finally getting up to speed with Facebook, our children decide to make our life even more difficult. They are trying to escape our supervision by switching to different social networks, such as Twitter. So now, it is our turn to catch up with them again… Is it just me or could this be a never-ending story!? Read the article posted on

CHICAGO — Teens don’t tweet, will never tweet — too public, too many older users. Not cool.

That’s been the prediction for a while now, born of numbers showing that fewer than one in 10 teens were using Twitter early on.

But then their parents, grandparents, neighbors, parents’ friends and anyone in-between started friending them on Facebook, the social networking site of choice for many — and a curious thing began to happen.

Suddenly, their space wasn’t just theirs anymore. So more young people have started shifting to Twitter, almost hiding in plain sight.

“I love twitter, it’s the only thing I have to myself … cause my parents don’t have one,” Britteny Praznik, a 17-year-old who lives outside Milwaukee, gleefully tweeted recently.

While she still has a Facebook account, she joined Twitter last summer, after more people at her high school did the same. “It just sort of caught on,” she says.

Teens tout the ease of use and the ability to send the equivalent of a text message to a circle of friends, often a smaller one than they have on crowded Facebook accounts. They can have multiple accounts and don’t have to use their real names. They also can follow their favorite celebrities and, for those interested in doing so, use Twitter as a soapbox.

The growing popularity teens report fits with findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit organization that monitors people’s tech-based habits. The migration has been slow, but steady. A Pew survey last July found that 16 percent of young people, ages 12 to 17, said they used Twitter. Two years earlier, that percentage was just 8 percent.

“That doubling is definitely a significant increase,” says Mary Madden, a senior research specialist at Pew. And she suspects it’s even higher now.

Meanwhile, a Pew survey found that nearly one in five 18- to 29-year-olds have taken a liking to the micro-blogging service, which allows them to tweet, or post, their thoughts 140 characters at a time.

Early on, Twitter had a reputation that many didn’t think fit the online habits of teens — well over half of whom were already using Facebook or other social networking services in 2006, when Twitter launched.

“The first group to colonize Twitter were people in the technology industry — consummate self-promoters,” says Alice Marwick, a post-doctoral researcher atMicrosoft Research, who tracks young people’s online habits.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

For teens, self-promotion isn’t usually the goal. At least until they go to college and start thinking about careers, social networking is, well, … social.

But as Twitter has grown, so have the ways people, and communities, use it.

For one, though some don’t realize it, tweets don’t have to be public. A lot of teens like using locked, private accounts. And whether they lock them or not, many also use pseudonyms, so that only their friends know who they are.

“Facebook is like shouting into a crowd. Twitter is like speaking into a room” — that’s what one teen said when he was participating in a focus group at Microsoft Research, Marwick says.

Other teens have told Pew researchers that they feel “social pressure,” to friend people on Facebook — “for instance, friending everyone in your school or that friend of a friend you met at a football game,” Pew researcher Madden says.

Twitter’s more fluid and anonymous setup, teens say, gives them more freedom to avoid friends of friends of friends — not that they’re saying anything particularly earth-shattering. They just don’t want everyone to see it.

Praznik, for instance, tweets anything from complaints and random thoughts to angst and longing.

“i hate snow i hate winter.Moving to California as soon as i can,” one recent post from the Wisconsin teen read.

“Dont add me as a friend for a day just to check up on me and then delete me again and then you wonder why im mad at you.duhhh,” read another.

And one more: “I wish you were mine but you don’t know wht you want. Till you figure out what you want I’m going to do my own thing.”

Different teenagers use Twitter for different reasons.

Some monitor celebrities.

“Twitter is like a backstage pass to a concert,” says Jason Hennessey, CEO of Everspark Interactive, a tech-based marketing agency in Atlanta. “You could send a tweet to Justin Bieber 10 minutes before the concert, and there’s a chance he might tweet you back.”

A few teens use it as a platform to share opinions, keeping their accounts public for all the world to see, as many adults do.

Taylor Smith, a 14-year-old in St. Louis, is one who uses Twitter to monitor the news and to get her own “small points across.” Recently, that has included her dislike for strawberry Pop Tarts and her admiration for a video that features the accomplishments of young female scientists.

She started tweeting 18 months ago after her dad opened his own account. He gave her his blessing, though he watches her account closely.

“Once or twice I used bad language and he never let me hear the end of it,” Smith says. Even so, she appreciates the chance to vent and to be heard and thinks it’s only a matter of time before her friends realize that Twitter is the cool place to be — always an important factor with teens.

They need to “realize it’s time to get in the game,” Smith say, though she notes that some don’t have smart phones or their own laptops — or their parents don’t want them to tweet, feeling they’re too young.

Pam Praznik, Britteny’s mother, keeps track of her daughter’s Facebook accounts. But Britteny asked that she not follow her on Twitter — and her mom is fine with that, as long as the tweets remain between friends.

“She could text her friends anyway, without me knowing,” mom says.

Marwick at Microsoft thinks that’s a good call.

“Parents should kind of chill and give them that space,” she says.

Still, teens and parents shouldn’t assume that even locked accounts are completely private, says Ananda Mitra, a professor of communication at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Online privacy, he says, is “mythical privacy.”

Certainly, parents are always concerned about online predators — and experts say they should use the same common sense online as they do in the outside world when it comes to dealing with strangers and providing too much personal information.

But there are other privacy issues to consider, Mitra says.

Someone with a public Twitter account might, for instance, retweet a posting made on a friend’s locked account, allowing anyone to see it. It happens all the time.

And on a deeper level, he says those who use Twitter and Facebook — publicly or privately — leave a trail of “digital DNA” that could be mined by universities or employers, law enforcement or advertisers because it is provided voluntarily.

Mitra has coined the term “narb” to describe the narrative bits people reveal about themselves online — age, gender, location and opinions, based on interactions with their friends.

So true privacy, he says, would “literally means withdrawing” from textual communication online or on phones — in essence, using this technology in very limited ways.

He realizes that’s not very likely, the way things are going — but he says it is something to think about when interacting with friends, expressing opinions or even “liking” or following a corporation or public figure.

But Marwick at Microsoft still thinks private accounts pose little risk when you consider the content of the average teenager’s Twitter account.

“They just want someplace they can express themselves and talk with their friends without everyone watching,” she says.

Much like teens always have.

A teen guide to staying safe online

Sometimes, it seems to be impossible to get our children to take our advice. They tend to listen to their peers more than they listen to us… Here’s a guide we found on BBC News with words of advice from teens for teens on some important online safety issues:


Pupils from Chislehurst and Sidcup  Grammar School

Pupils working on their reports about being safe online.

Staying safe online is an important issue for young people using the internet, with cyberbullying becoming an increasingly serious problem.

To coincide with Safer Internet Day on 7 February, School Reporters at Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar investigated some of the safety issues which affect young people online.

Have a read of their top tips to staying safe and out of trouble when you’re on the web.




By Josie, 13

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites with over 800 million people online – lots of them people our age.

With people posting and ‘liking’ everyday, it is a great way to share what you’re doing with your friends. But are they all friends?

People can hold fake accounts, pretending to be someone they’re not. This may seem scary but there are some things you can do. Safety on Facebook is very important, but do you really know how to stay safe using social networks?

First thing to do is check your privacy settings – making sure you know what you’re showing to the general public. Some status updates and pictures could attract these ‘fakers’.

 Never agree to meet people that you’ve never met in real life 

You can change this setting so only your friends can see, with just one click of your mouse.

Accounts can be hacked into if you have a weak password, so make sure your password is one which only you know. This can cause ‘fakers’ to pretend and write posts in your name.

To avoid this, have a strong password that includes numbers or symbols. You can check if people hacked your Facebook account by checking your statuses. Changing your password often, also helps.

Never agree to meet people that you’ve never met in real life. This could be dangerous, as that 14-year-old boy could be an old grandpa! To avoid this don’t agree to meet up, no matter how good it may seem and always tell your parents!




By Jack, 12

You need to be very careful when you are online because criminals can hack your computer really easily.

Always protect your data. Criminals are most likely to hack websites when you enter a credit card number in.

Children at Chiselhurst and Sidcup Grammar School

Pupils working on their online safety guides

If you do buy a product online, then you should use a ‘Single-Use’ account which is located on most websites. This is when your card details are deleted straight after payment.

Also avoid buying products from sites that you don’t know. Only buy products online from sites that you trust.

And always remember that even if a site says ‘secure’ and starts with https: it means that it is harder to hack, but not impossible to hack.




By Millie, 12

Keep details such as your full name, address, mobile number, email address, school name and friends full names secret.

Otherwise people can use this information to contact you. Your passwords and nicknames should always be secret.

If you have to give an online screen name or nickname, never use your real name, and try not to use things that are easy to guess like your parents name or the name of a pet.

When you send a text or photo message from your mobile, your phone number automatically goes with it.

So think carefully, especially before sending photos of yourself or friends from your camera-phone.




By Jo, 12

Gaming and technology has really moved on. You can send countless messages as you sit in your chair and play on your console.

Also you can now download games so that they’re ready to play as soon as you click ‘download’. However not all downloads are completely safe – some may contain viruses, and not all messages will be friendly. Here’s what to do if you receive a bad message or virus.

 Always let an adult know if you think you are being cyberbullied 

Check the website that you have downloaded and research its history before you press ‘download’. If it is the official webpage of the download, it should be ok, but you should always check.

Do you know what to do if a user starts hassling you online? Who do you tell? Where can you turn?

Check out the report abuse section of the games website you’re on, or, if you’re on your console playing, make sure you know how to block a user and save the evidence of their abuse. Always let an adult know if you think you are being cyberbullied.




By Sienna, 12, Issy, 13, & Marina, 12

Even on the internet bullying can occur. Posting an embarrassing or humiliating video of someone, harassing someone by sending messages or even setting up profiles on social networking sites are all examples of cyberbullying.

No one especially children and teenagers should go through this. Normally the bully may seem big but is actually as scared and shy as the victim. People seem so big over the internet. You don’t really know who is out there or who is behind the profile or screen.

Talk to someone you trust. This could be a teacher, parent or friend. You may even have to change your email address if you’re repeatedly bullied through email.

 You can easily become a bully – stop and think before you write a message 

No matter how horrible the message – do not reply. That is what the bully wants. Instead block instant messages and emails. Ask a parent or teacher for help.

Whatever you think, you’re not alone. There is always someone else who has gone through something like you. In our class at school of 18 pupils, seven have been cyberbullied and 12 know someone who has experienced it.

In terms of instant messaging, it is very easy to say something that you wouldn’t say in real life. You can easily become a bully. Stop and think before you write a message. Think of the consequences. How would you feel in that situation?


7 Internet Safety LIES

When it comes to Internet safety, there are good tips and bad ones… While we usually try to tell you what to do to improve your safety, here are some MYTHS provided by Webroot- things that really don’t improve anything…

Have you fallen for a false sense of web safety?

If you’re sick and tired of people constantly getting in your face about “browsing safely,” you’re not alone. All the fire and brimstone warnings about internet security are such a turn-off. Besides, you bought antivirus software and you can see the little icon on the desktop doing its business.

Ah, the bliss of browsing in a soft, cottony web of denial! Who doesn’t want to believe they can point, click and browse with reckless abandon hither and yon across the vast open space that is the internet? But just like the time you learned that the tooth fairy ran out of money (ahem), tough love must be meted out sooner or later. How about now?

Turn away from all those internet security lies that only made your life a shell, a sham, a wisp. The following distortions may be hard to process at first, but you’ll be better off in the long run.

Lie # 1: If the lock icon is Illuminated, I’m good to go.
Before you go online and purchase that batch of glow sticks for your emergency preparedness kit, you look for that little padlock in the browser bar. Although your instinct tells you to beware, that lock is the mark of the Internet Security God, right? That would be a big, fat fail.

All that the padlock icon means is that there is a secure connection between your computer and the web server: You’re still not protected from malware. Also, some hackers are quite good at faking an SSL certificate – or buying one for a spell – and throwing in some padlock clip art. Many people have been fooled into thinking a page is legit when in fact it’s not. Don’t get spanked by a hack attack.

Lie # 2: Only adult sites are dangerous.
Since you don’t visit websites of ill repute, you’re in the all clear. Buzz! Wrong answer.
More than 83 percent of malware hosting sites are “trusted.” You’re more likely to be attacked by visiting a legit shopping or general lifestyle site than you are an adult or gambling site. Go ahead and do whatever you need to do with this information, but do it safely.

Lie # 3: There is nothing valuable on my computer.
So you don’t have major financial institution spreadsheets on your hard drive or a database of Beverly Hills socialites’ social security numbers. You probably do have an email password, access to at least one social networking site and a resumé in your documents folder, which are all someone needs to steal your identity.

Think about it – all your juicy lifespan details are listed: your alma mater, work timeline, etc. See, you do have something valuable on your computer – and it’s worth protecting.

Lie # 4: I already have antivirus software and don’t need more
Antivirus protection is a slicker in the storm and it’s great that you have it for inclement “conditions.” However, a new virus enters the web-o-sphere quicker than you can say, “Trojan-says-what?” Buy software that updates definitions regularly, preferably automatically.

Also, antivirus software only stops viruses from infecting your system while you browse, which is great, but it’s not going to save you from a hacker’s super-smart coding hat trick. Get a multilayered solution that sweeps, firewalls and safeguards.

Lie # 5: My passwords are ridiculously superior
While “%14lugnut_(1776)-tutu” is better than “pass*word,” you’re still not completely safe. No matter how creative or intellectualized your password, there’s someone (or something) out there devoting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to breaking your sweet, weak code.

Hackers also use keyloggers, which can snatch and monitor keypad activity. Encrypt all you want – there’s still a chance your password will be passed along.

Lie # 6: Bells and whistles will go off when I’m infected
If you think that just because you don’t have a plethora of pop-ups or a slug-like system that you have nothing to worry about, you’ve bitten off a chunk of fib. Malware has evolved to the point where you won’t detect it – that’s kind of the point. Even more reason to get your digital duckies in a row. Today’s threats are stealthy little bastards.

Lie #7: I have to download files to get infected
Back in simpler times, you just needed to watch for .exe files. Now, malware infections may occur through “drive-by” downloads. The malicious code lurks on seemingly innocent content, which then “executes automatically within the browser as a by-product of simply viewing the Web page.” This dovetails from Lie #6 – you think you’re safe because nothing is happening when in fact you’ve just been hijacked!

The Bright Side
There’s a brightside to the shady land of internet security lies: Myth-busters are waiting to hold your hand and tell you the truth about your online escapades, however innocent. And while knowledge is power (blah, blah, blah), action is a super power.

5 Internet Safety Lessons to Consider

Unfortunately, it’s not just the outside people that are trying to harm that causes online safety issues… Our children sometimes act in ways by which they put themselves at risk. Here are 5 great tips for you to consider that were posted on Huff Post Parents Blog:

We started our undercover work in search of online predators back in 1999, when the web was hardly as social — and hardly as dangerous — a place as it is today.

Chatrooms were our major focus at that point, because they weren’t monitored, and because adult subject matter was easily accessible.

Whenever we ventured into the dark and seamy realm of the chat world, we always seemed to find someone breaking the law and taking advantage of a child, or what they thought was a child. And we found the perpetrators in a matter of minutes.

Shortly after we started working on these cases, NBC’sDateline aired “To Catch a Predator,” and this helped shine a negative light on online predators. Parents became panic-stricken, and online safety became a major concern in families and schools all across the nation.

As law enforcement officers, we didn’t want to add to the anxiety. Instead, we wanted to be part of the solution, to help teach and promote online responsibility.

But one of the most striking things we found through our investigations was the fact that children, themselves, were behaving in ways that put them at risk. Using this information, we then tried to teach kids how to navigate the Internet safely, how to give them the knowledge and power to feel protected whenever they were online.

Technology continued to change over the years, and we saw that more students were interested in communicating through their computers via Instant Messaging (IM). Setting up an IM account also included the ability to create an “Online Profile.” I think this is when the technology industry realized that there was an interest in moving the web to a more social environment.

Shortly after this, MySpace became the hottest way for people to connect online and create their own digital identity. I remember getting phone calls and requests to talk to students and parents about MySpace. The concern was that parents didn’t know about this form of communication; and they feared that their kids were spending too much time online on MySpace.

As with all great inventions, there’s always going to be someone out there who exploits it.

And so we started seeing cases where children were meeting strangers online through this emerging social media. There were also cases that involved bullying and cyber-bullying.

There was so much negative press around MySpace, and the problems associated with it, that, after seeing a news report on the site, I used to tell my fellow officers: “I’m going to get a call from a school today.” And, sure enough, I would.

This kept me pretty busy; but I always felt bad for the parents, because they lacked an understanding of the technology, and how to make it useful without it being a threat.

Over time, MySpace popularity dropped; to some extent, I think this was because Mom and Dad were scared and started monitoring — or blocking — their kids’ activity on the site.

People eventually left MySpace for Facebook.

One of the reasons for this migration, in my opinion, was that Facebook originally required you to have a college email address, so it wasn’t available for everyone. This gave kids more freedom online from prying parents.

But, again, I started to get calls from parents. The big question was: “What is Facebook, and why are my kids spending so much time there?”

Today, social media rules the web.

I don’t care who you are, but I’m sure you either have an email address, LinkedIn account, or Facebook or Twitter account. You’re living on the social web, and it’s important to maintain a positive image of yourself and be more responsible with your identity in this rapidly expanding digital environment.

This form of technology clearly isn’t going away. And, as a result, we need to focus on teaching children how to stay safe and protect their privacy and reputations on social networks. We also need to give parents the solutions and tools to monitor their kids’ social web activities. Parents are able to watch over their kids in the real world; now we must help them oversee their children in the digital world.

Here are five lessons learned that I have gathered over the years I believe crucial for parents — and their kids — to consider:

  • Concerns over online predators: Although the risk of encountering an online predator may be low, the risk is there. To help lower the risk, children should only communicate with people they know from the non-online. Predators can pretend to be someone they are not, (like another child) and may show up in places where children like to play online.
  • Cyberbullying: Children should only give their passwords to mom and dad. They should never share their passwords with their friends. Children will give their passwords to friends though in the following instances: a friend may be better at an online game and can earn them credits to purchase online goods; they may have a friend whose parents don’t allow them on the same sites as your child so they let them borrow their site. The problem is this: Those who are your friends today, may not be your friend tomorrow. These ex-friends now have your password. And if you are like many people who only have one password for all your accounts, now they have access to them as well. These ex-friends can now log into your accounts, pretend to be you, and start vicious rumors and turn your other friends against you.
  • How to teach responsibility: Parents should teach their children to never post hurtful comments and/or say anything that may be offensive. If anyone should post such comments on their page, they should remove them immediately. If you wouldn’t say it in person, you shouldn’t say it online.
  • Geotagging/Geolocations services: Parents and children need to know what the capabilities are of the devices they use. If you have a Smartphone, iPod, iPad or any wireless device that can take pictures, you should turn off the location services for the camera. Location services turned “On” with the camera will embed a “Geotag” with the latitude and longitude of where the person was standing at the time they took the photo and/or video. If these images are then posted online via Facebook or any other site, someone can locate them based on the geotag.
  • Social Networking settings: Make sure you check your Privacy Settings on any social media site at least once a month. Sites are always making changes and these changes may take your settings and set them back to the default, which may not be as secure as you originally set them.

I tell people that if you’re going to live your life like an open book online, people are going to read it.

And that’s why — more than a decade after starting my quest for greater Internet safety — I continue to do all that I can to protect kids and educate parents when it comes to the Web.

In conclusion, I feel strongly that parents must take this issue seriously today; and they must step up and monitor their children on social networks. The bottom line here is that the social web is simply not a game or a toy.