A simples guide

How can I protect my family online

When you have a family, it can be tempting to try and wrap them in cotton wool but that’s not always practical (for starters you’d probably need to buy your own cotton plantation).

Our kids are brought up in a generation full of tech and love anything that uploads, downloads and comes in an app. But kids are kids and they often don’t realise the nasties hiding behind a screen, so here’s our guide to keeping you and those close to you, safe online.

How do I stay secure online?

The internet’s great and we probably all rely on it a lot more than we realise. Our day to day banking, buying stuff online, reading and sending emails – it’s all there to make our lives easier but just as loose lips sink ships, poor passwords can mean your data’s up for grabs.

Here’s a few things to think about:

Create strong passwords – sounds really basic but how many of us have simply left a password as the default ‘password123’ or ‘firstname.lastname’ or what about using the same password for all your bank, email and store accounts?

Your password should be a combination of capital and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. If you’re worried about forgetting them, use a password manager app or save them somewhere secure, preferably not in a file labelled ‘here are my passwords’.

protect family online
protect children online

How else can I protect my family online

Security questions – some apps and websites ask you to set security questions that only you know the answer to, the key to this is the ‘only you know the answer’ bit. Just because you set your mother’s maiden name as the question, doesn’t mean that your mother’s actual maiden name has to be the answer.

Email and instant messaging – don’t compromise yourself by including sensitive data like credit card information, you might be confident about your security settings but you can’t guarantee everyone else’s.

Shop securely – always look for websites starting with ‘https’ the ‘s’ bit shows that the data you’re sending to the website is encrypted and so secure (the ‘s’ is short for ‘secure socket layer’ in case you want to impress your geek friends). You should avoid using your debit card too. Credit cards are a safer way of online shopping, if the worst happens your credit card provider will usually reimburse you. It’s important to note that if you use PayPal to pay on a credit card for items over £100, you will miss out on the valuable Section 75 credit card protection. 

Don’t end up as phish food – ‘phishing’ is when fake websites and fraudulent emails pretend to be genuine, they’ll try and fool you into giving away passwords or PIN numbers. Be wary about clicking on links that you suspect may not be genuine, if in doubt you can always call the company directly to check they’re legit.

Stay virus free – invest in anti-virus software and keep it up to date.

How do I keep my data private?

There’s something about the internet that makes sensible people do rather silly things. It might have something to do with the fact that we use the internet in our homes where we feel safe. But that’s when we’re most likely to drop our guard and if you want to protect your personal information, you’ve got to stay alert.

Common sense – if you think something’s too good to be true, chances are, it probably is. Scammers know we all want something for nothing and they’ll play on that to get you to do things you’d probably never even consider if someone asked you on the street. If you’ve received an email telling you that you’ve won a free iPhone then the likelihood is that it’s a scam. Always do your research and check the supplier before you hand your details over.

Private vs. public – always be careful when giving information when using public Wi-Fi to browse or shop when you’re out and about. It’s tempting, we know – coffee in hand just watching the world go by, it’s easy to just catch up on a few chores online. But public Wi-Fi isn’t always guaranteed to be secure and you never know who’s piggy backing onto a public network looking for details to swipe.

Social media – a great way to stay in touch with old friends but who’s watching who? You might want to consider privatising your account slightly and not accepting strangers onto your network. A good rule is, if you wouldn’t shout it out in the street, don’t say it online – strangers don’t need to know where you live, what you’ve got and when you’re off on holiday.

Out with the old – close down old email or social media accounts, it’s one less route to your information. You should also try and use an up to date browser versions (such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer or Apple’s Safari). Older browsers often aren’t upgraded when a newer version comes out so your data could be compromised if you’re shopping or banking via an old platform. You should check for software upgrades on devices at least once a year. 

How do I keep my kids safe online without scaring them off the internet?

We’re always telling our kids to be honest and tell the truth, but sometimes that’s not the best policy online. We’re certainly not suggesting that you tell your kids to lie but perhaps holding back from telling their life story would be a better way of putting it. Top tips for keeping the kids safe:

Don’t talk to strangers – you’ve probably said it your kids countless times, and your kids probably know not to tell strangers all about themselves and the same goes when chatting or gaming online. Nobody they meet in cyber space needs to know their full name, where they live, where they go to school or where they like to play.

Don’t frighten them – we all love a fairy tale, they’re just a little bit scary but not so terrifying that you have to sleep with the lights on. Apply the same rule to being online, kids should be cautious and if they’re made to feel unconformable about saying or doing something, they should come and tell you. But don’t go overboard, the last thing you want is for them to be frightened of being online – they’ll miss it when it comes to homework answers.

Parental controls – an old fashioned parental control would be to put the computer where you can see what your kids are up to (easier said than done with tablets, laptops and smartphones). Or, set up controls with your internet provider so you can block what access your kids have, you can even set certain times for limits to apply and you can protect all your devices if they’re connected to the same internet source.

Child friendly websites – you can also get parental control software to restrict and monitor the kids access to certain sites. This software will automatically filter out all the nasties.

Talk – remember that it’s good to talk (something our kids might not appreciate) and keeping an open dialogue will mean they’re more likely to share stuff with you. Try and be as open and honest as you can and you’ll also help them avoid being sucked in by the trip, trap, trip, trap of trolls creeping along the cyber highway.

Buy or switch broadband

Now that you’ve polished up your internet know how you can be confident about protecting and preventing your data from falling into the wrong hands. The next thing to do is check that your broadband bundle is as up-to-date as your knowledge so why not compare the market with us and find a package with no hidden nasties.

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