Saturday, October 1, 2016

Be sure to ensure the kids’ safety online - September 30, 2016

My brother’s granddaughter called her grandmother four times Friday after school.  When an 8-year-old can place a video call for free, cross country, from her own tablet, it struck me again just how easy kids can communicate these days.

Therein lies the great benefit, and the profound risk of online life.

The 8-year-old can communicate with friends--hopefully ones she knows in real life--but also ones she has met online.  How do you teach a child that not everyone is good, not everyone is really 8 when they say they are, and the other cautions they need to learn sooner than later?

And it is not only children who need to be taught to be safe online. We can all fall prey to bad actors online. And we need to help our senior citizens understand the dangers online as they are often the target for financial scams.

Thankfully there are some powerful resources out there to help parents, kids and seniors.

Our county schools teach from materials found at Parents should review the materials there.  There are sections for kids of various ages: teens, tweens and younger children. There are also sections for parents. Material is available as articles, presentations and videos.

The teen sections have real life stories of the consequences of being unsafe online.

Larry Magid of CBS News is the power behind  It has a contract families can agree to for safe surfing. They also have resources on how to stop cyberbullying, how to prevent sexting and how to recognize when your child is being groomed by a predator.

Cyberbullying is especially worrying. It used to be your child could only be bullied in the presence of the bully: at school.  The home was a safe place from bullying, and after school hours could be peaceful respites from bullying.

With cyber bullying, the bullying can follow the child into the home, and long into the evening.  It is best to require that electronic devices not be in the bedroom at night, so that a young person is not tempted to monitor online conversations among their group late into the night to see what people are saying about them.

For a phone or tablet, it is a simple matter to make them surrender the devices at bedtime. But what if they have a computer in their bedroom, say a desktop, that can’t be moved.  

Your wireless router should have settings to let you block particular devices during specified hours. Check with your ISP to see how to set that up.

A sister site of is This site has articles for the elderly who want to be safer online.  There is an article, noted in this week’s link post, discussing safe banking, expressing views online, and finding new friends and online romantic partners online.

These guides also have advice on creating powerful passwords.  One popular and fairly secure method is to come up with a sentence that amuses you.  For example “Great Danes are lovers not fighters and amuse me.”  

That long phrase is not the password, instead you use the first letter from each word.  So your password becomes "gdalnfaam.” 

That is a fairly strong password as it is not a word or phrase that might be deduced. Many password systems require a special character and number to be part of the password.  You could choose to replace a specific letter with a special character.  Perhaps all Ss become $. Or all As become @.  Then that password becomes “gdainf@@m”.  

You can append a number at the beginning, end or elsewhere in the password.  Maybe the person’s age or street address, something they will remember.  So your password can become a very strong “gdainf@@m900”

All the user has to retain is the sentence, the letter to replace with a symbol and the number.

Special attention should also be paid to articles on Facebook security.  How much of your private information you do not mind your friends seeing on the public portion of your profile is available online? Spend some time reading up about this and choosing your security settings carefully.  

It used to be that making our child street smart was enough before they ventured out into the world.  Today, our child needs cyber smarts before they go into the online world.  There are  many benefits of being online — school research, social life and exploring the real world virtually — and we cannot realistically ban them from online adventures. We can make it safer for all of us.

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