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We have four kids (9, 10, 15 and 23 years old.) And I feel like I have been fighting a losing battle with trying to protect their privacy ever since our oldest got his very first electronic device that connected to the internet.
He was in the 3rd or 4th grade and I bought him his very own computer for his room. At that time, I did not know much about connectivity and routers. So, I waited a few weeks for my cousin to visit me and help me setup our wireless router.
I told him my son was eager to get connected to play his games, as it had been several weeks since I had purchased the computer. After working on my son’s computer, my cousin informed me that my son had been connected to the internet for weeks. No wonder he wasn’t complaining or rushing me to get the internet setup at the house.
Apparently, he connected to a neighbor’s network? Who was this neighbor? Why wasn’t their network password protected? And what in the world had my son being doing on the internet for those few weeks.
That was my first wake-up call. I realized that as a parent, I needed to stay two steps ahead of the kids when it came to internet usage. For concerned parents, Consumer Reports provides resources and tips to help families safeguard their privacy. However I learned the hard way. (Did you know that minors have their identities stolen 51 times more often than adults (according to a study performed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University?))
I realized that as a parent, I needed to stay two steps ahead of the kids when it came to internet usage
And that was the first of many internet scares that we’ve had with the kids. As their devices became more advanced, they became even more susceptible to having their data stolen and to having strangers contact them. I’ve not only caught my kids giving out our personal information online, but also our home address and location (i.e. telling strangers on the internet that the entire family was away on vacation.)
Here are tips that I learned from Consumer Reports to help protect your family’s privacy online:
1. Save Yourself First
I often joke with my three youngest girls and tell them that they have their older brother to thank because he’s the reason they can’t have computers in their bedrooms. But in reality, I’m the reason. I was not really prepared to teach him about internet safety. So, the best way to protect your kid’s online privacy is to start by learning how to protect your own privacy.
2. Talk to Your Kids
The “birds and the bees” aren’t the only things we have to talk to our kids about nowadays. We now have to talk to our kids about online safety and educate them about the dangers of sharing their personal data online. This conversation can’t be avoided and it can’t be delayed. Our kids are susceptible from the moment that they are born as their baby monitors, toys, cell phones, tablets and computers all have internet connectivity. And even in elementary school, the kids are now allowed to bring their own devices to class so that they can connect to educational apps. They are connected all day long, even when they are not with you.
3. Establish House Rules
When it comes to our kids and our home, there is no such thing as privacy. This means that within our four walls (there are actually more than 4 walls) we have rules, such as:
- no closed doors (except when you are getting dressed),
- we (the parents) must know passwords to cellphones, computers or tablets
- computers can only be used in common areas such as the kitchen and family room
- no downloading apps without permission
Why do we take such measures? We feel that (as parents) it is our responsibility to protect our kids.
4. Stay Informed with Consumer Reports
Think about it…our home routers, security systems, apps that we use, cars and even microwaves (just kidding about the microwaves) all leave us vulnerable to an attack on our personal data. In a recent study, Consumer Reports found that 65% of Americans “are either slightly or not at all confident that their personal data is private and not distributed without their knowledge.”
65% of Americans are either slightly or not at all confident that their personal data is private and not distributed without their knowledge. ~ Consumer Reports
Therefore, Consumer Reports (CR) has a new initiative to measure the privacy and security of the products, apps, and services that we use to empower us as the digital technology becomes more advanced. CR has started working with other cyber experts to create a new open-source industry standard to make connected devices safer.
They are evaluating products and services to measure their privacy and data security. Their goal is to let consumers know which products best meet those standards so that we can make informed decisions about the products that we choose to purchase and use. CR will also ask companies to comply with various standards such as: “delete consumer data from their servers upon request, to protect personal data with encryption as the data is sent through the internet, and to be completely transparent about how personal consumer information is shared with other companies.”
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BMWK – what actions are you taking to protect the privacy of your online data and that of your kids?