I love my new computer. How can I stay safe online?

Dec 24, 2008 9:25am

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director
The wrapping paper is crumpled in the corner, the boxes are open, and a shiny new PC or laptop is being booted up for the first time. Children—and adults too—are excited about the capacity of their new machine for connecting with family and friends, sharing pictures, organizing their lives, surfing the Web, blogging about their passions, or gaming.

And excited they should be! Increasingly are lives are becoming digital and we count on the Internet and web-enabled services for more and more each day.

However, by taking a few simple steps as you get started you can make your new PC as safe as is fun.

  • Activate Your Security Software Trial. Most new computers come with anywhere from a 30-day to 90-day free trial that includes ant-virus, anti-spyware and other security features. Activate your free trial and update your virus definitions as soon as you turn on your computer. Chances are updates have been released between the time of manufacture and purchase. Don’t forget to purchase an annual subscription before the expiration date.
  • Power Up Your Firewall. Your firewall is an electronic fence controlling access to your PC usually available through your security software or operating system. According to research by NCSA andSymantec, this is the largest gap in home user security.
  • Buy the Backup. Ensure that you either have purchased a backup hard drive or purchased storage space from an online service that enables you to regularly backup all of your critical information, music, and photos. Learn more about back up.
  • Have the Talk. If you have just purchased a computer for a child, sit down with your child and discuss the need to keep personal information, just that. Teach them the three questions that should be on their mind anytime some asks for personal information: Who is asking? What kind of information are they asking for? Why do they need it? Also, discuss the reasons why clicking on every link can be dangerous.
  • Be a rule maker.Make a set of family rules for using the computer include the times when the computer can be used, what kinds of uses are acceptable and post them by the computer, and consider the use of parental controls.
    • Location, location, location. For children, ensure that the computer is located in a central area where you can monitor computer use.
  • Learn more: Find out about ways to protect your computer, protect your children, and other ways to stay safe online at: