Summertime is A Good Time to Talk Online Safety

Jun 29, 2013 12:10pm


School’s out for summer! As kids trade in their textbooks for swimsuits and the rigors of scheduled school time with unstructured leisure time, it’s important to recognize that during the summer months, many will spend more time online.

Thus talking about what you are doing for summer vacation online, and how to do it safely, is just as important as brushing up on water safety skills or protecting yourself from sunburn. That’s why we celebrated this past month of June as Internet Safety Month, which serves as an important reminder to improve our online safety practices.

While the Internet creates an incredible opportunity for kids to engage and learn online, parents need to have regular conversations with their kids about safely using the Internet. Previous National Cyber Security Alliance research found that nearly 30 percent of parents reported their kids spent more time online in the summer than during the school year. This uptick mainly reflects the fact that most young adults and teens have more free time when out of school that may include significant daily access to the Internet on a growing list of devices – from laptops and tablets to gaming devices and televisions.

According to Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Teens and Technology 2013 Report, 95 percent of U.S. teens use the Internet and 93 percent have a computer or have access to one at home. Pew also found that 37 percent of teens have smartphones – a 14 percent increase from 2011. These figures give compelling reason for all families to focus on better online safety. Yet many parents remain unaware of the amount of time kids spend online. According to the McAfee 2013 Digital Perception Study, roughly 25 percent of young adults and teens – ages 10 to 23 – spend five to six hours a day online, while most parents believe their children are online one to two hours a day.

McAfee also found that 71 percent of parents believe they’ve had conversations with their children about proper online behavior, while only 44 percent of young people said they’ve had those talks. This dramatic disconnect shows that parents need to have more upfront and regular conversations with their kids regarding safe online practices.

To better teach our kids online safety practices, there are three easy words to remember: STOP. THINK. CONNECT. This national campaign is helping many people stay safe and secure online and enjoy the benefits of our connected world. Here are some other ways to improve our actions to stay safe online:

Keep a Clean Machine: Keep all Internet-connected devices free from infection and malware by keeping all critical software—security software, web browsers, apps and operating systems—up to date.

Protect Your Personal Information: Secure your accounts by making passwords long, strong and unique.

Connect with Care: Limit the type of business you conduct using unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots. Own Your Online Presence: Set security and privacy settings to your comfort level of sharing.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out: If an email, social network post or text message looks suspicious delete it – even if you know the source.

Be Web Wise: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.

Be a Good Online Citizen: Post only about others what you would have them post about you.

While the summer is a time to unwind, it is critical that we remain vigilant of our online safety. We want everyone to take security precautions, understand the consequences of their actions and behaviors and have a great summer enjoying the Internet.

Michael Kaiser is the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.