Summer is here, and now that the school-year is coming to an end, thousands of kids and young adults will get comfortable in front of a screen. As June marks the beginning of Internet Safety Month, we wanted to share strategies you and your family can use to ensure you have a safe and secure summer!
According to the CDC, American children between the age of 8 and 10 spend an average of 6 hours each day in front of an electronic entertainment device. In fact, approximately 88 percent of American teens aged 13-17 own or have private access to an internet connected desktop or laptop computer. Considering how prevalent technology and the internet has become in our daily routine, it’s clear how important it is to frequently update, backup and protect your devices and data.
To make things easier, we will be sharing some information and strategies you can implement this summer to help keep your children, devices and personal information safe and secure.
What Makes Your Online Information and Accounts Vulnerable:
- Viruses & Malware
- Data Breaches
- Unsecure Wifi Networks
- Weak Passwords
From downloading a compromised email attachment, to a hacked account or password, our ever-changing digital landscape often leaves sensitive and highly personal information vulnerable to attack. The hectic nature of the summer months presents the ideal time for cybercriminals to make their move. As seen during the Equifax data breach of 2017, 147 million Americans had their personal information compromised in a mere instant. Although this and many other data breaches reported over the past year were accidental, there are still a number of strategies individuals can use to ensure the security of their online accounts and information.
More Screen-Time, Greater Risk
Put simply, spending time online can make an individual’s information, reputation and device vulnerable to cyberattack. StopBullying.gov conducted a study in 2016 with a nationally-representative sample of 5,707 middle and high school students. Their findings concluded that 34 percent of participants reported to have been a victim of cyberbullying during their lifetime.
Ever-evolving technology, apps, digital platforms and social media only adds fuel to this fire. Although the techniques they use and severity in which they use stolen information varies, the most common attacks tend to center around stealing an individual’s personal information, cyberbullying or cyberstalking.
As parents, teaching our children how to safely use the internet is essential to the security of the entire family. Just one compromised computer or online account could put the secure data of others at risk. But don’t fret, the summer presents the perfect opportunity to implement screen-free strategies that buy you time to install necessary updates, activate parental controls and set some internet ground rules.
Summer Screen-Free and Security Strategies
- Have a family discussion about internet safety. As easy as it sounds, this can make all the difference. Covering everything from harmful downloads and social media harassment to phishing scams and data theft will help both you and your family better identify risky online behavior. Check out NCSA’s “Tech Talk” guide for teens.
- Implement summer screen-free rules. Scheduling designated tech hours on all cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions within the home is a great start. For some other strategies, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has some advice for reducing children’s screen time.
- Install or enable parental control settings for younger users. Many devices, routers and phones have built-in parental control settings that allow parents to monitor usage, disconnect data and enable timers that automatically manage your child’s time spent online. While you’re there, you should update the device (see below).
- Update all devices, security software, apps and plugins. Now that you have the whole family on board, it’s time to improve your device security! Regularly updating security software, apps and devices ensures your data is protected from previously vulnerable access points found in previous versions of the software. This is especially true for your operating system updates. As we like to say: Keep a Clean Machine!
- Make strong passwords and keep your accounts safe. Passwords can be inconvenient, but they’re important if you want to keep your information safe. A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy for you to remember (for example, “I love country music.”).
Where possible, fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device, Get more account security tips here.
We hope these tips will help you and your family stay safe online this summer! For more helpful information, sign up for NCSA’s monthly #CyberAware newsletter and stop back in October for National Cyber Security Awareness Month!
Laura V. is a cybersecurity and fraud detection specialist whose advocacy efforts are directed towards raising public awareness to internet crimes and data privacy. She works with individuals to educate and defend themselves against cybercriminals and identity thieves.