STOP. Read T&Cs. Then Sign Up on Social Media

Let’s start at the very beginning,

A very good place to start;

When you read, you begin with A-B-C,

When you sign up on SM you begin by

Reading T&Cs…”

The start of a new year usually has a buoyant and positive feel, like you have been offered a new opportunity to start things fresh, and make amends.

Experience has taught us that nothing comes for free; and that it’s always good to run a thorough background check on a new group you plan to join. This applies to social media platforms as well. When we sign up on a new social media platform, we are asked for our names, email and other personal information and then directed to the terms and conditions page which we must read and agree before we can proceed. Rarely do we read through all the terms to understand their implications; it’s mostly a cursory scan and tick to complete the signing up process as fast as possible, and voila, we are in!

However, much, much later, if we face issues like privacy breach or cyberbullying, we tend to complain that we didn’t know. But we did, it’s all spelt out in the T&Cs we had hastily agreed to.

Long ago, I had told you the story of a relative, whose son had forged his age to sign up on Facebook. When I questioned the mother, she said she wasn’t aware of the age clause. But again, it’s there, right at the start of the T&Cs!

Most social media platforms have updated their terms in recent times to bring in more openness in their advertising and third-party sharing policies. They have also clearly explained privacy and security terms for users. It’s now up to the users to read, understand and implement the terms to stay safe online and to help maintain digital world hygiene.

Let us explore the T&Cs of some popular social media sites and find out how many of the rules we allow our kids to follow or flout.

Facebook says- “You give us permission to use your name and profile picture and information about actions you have taken on Facebook next to or in connection with ads, offers, and other sponsored content that we display across our products, without any compensation to you.”

Layman’s terms- By agreeing to T&Cs,  you are automatically giving Facebook the right to the content you share in relation to ads etc. without receiving any compensation for it. For e.g., if I like a certain product, they will appear on my friends’ timeline with the message ‘Cybermum India likes it’.

Cybersafety tip: Check ad settings and maximize privacy levels.

Twitter says- “You are responsible for your use of the services and for any content you provide, including compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. You should only provide content that you are comfortable sharing with others.

Layman’s terms- The user is the sole owner of content created by her or him and Twitter will take no responsibility for it.

Cybersafety tip: STOP.THINK.POST. Do not share content that may not be 100% correct or that may be intended to cause harm, hurt, or foment trouble.

Snapchat says- “Through these Terms and our Community Guidelines, we make clear that we don’t want the Services to be put to bad use. But because we don’t review all content, we cannot guarantee that content on the Services will always conform to our Terms or Guidelines.”

Layman’s terms – There may be cases of misuse of the platform by miscreants, cyberbullies and predators.

Cybersafety tip: Follow the community guidelines to know how you can let your child have a positive experience and not be accidentally exposed to inappropriate content. Ensure your teens understand they should share with you if they face disturbing behavior on the platform. It would be helpful if you activate parental controls and use term filters to block out unsavory content

Tik Tok says- “You may not access or use the Services if you are not over 13 or otherwise able to agree to these Terms.”

Layman’s terms- The minimum to sign up on the app is 13 years.

Cybersafety tip: Use this term to guide children on the right age to sign up on social media. Explain the reason behind this age criteria and allow them to sign up when they fulfil it.

Social media platforms are a great way to connect, learn and network as long as all users endeavor to keep it clean and positive. As parents, we need to arm our kids with the right skills and knowledge to help them tackle any issues that may crop up. The first step is to read and understand what the platform has to offer and its security and privacy options. This is something parents and teens can do together as it will be a useful lesson for a lifetime- both in the real and in the digital world.

And most important of all, don’t forget to secure all your devices with comprehensive security tools.
The quicker your family adopts digital safety practices, the safer they will be online!


2019 is Here – Have You Made Any Digital Parenting Resolutions for The Year?

Hello parents! Welcome to 2019. I have a hunch you are feeling all charged up and ready to start the new year on a positive note. Are your resolutions for the year ready? Take a minute and check- have you included any digital parenting resolutions in your list? If yes, great! If no, worry not, McAfee Cybermum is here for you.

Parenting is not an easy job and the rapid progress of technology has added to it. In addition to teaching your kids values and life skills for the real world, you have to now do the same for the digital world too. At times, you don’t know whether you are doing too much or not enough; given the digital immigrants that we are- we have no resources to draw from. There is little time to step back and reflect over one’s own parenting style, leading to doubts and guilt. Wouldn’t it be lovely therefore if there was a ready reckoner on the subject?

Sharing my list of digital parenting resolutions with you. They are broadly aimed at helping us be more involved and evolved digital parents who are empowered to guide kids in the digital world. Feel free to add, delete or customize as per your family’s needs. Always keep in mind that each family is different, in terms of values and environment; and each child is different, in terms of ability and maturity.

Parents, presenting to you My Digital Parenting Resolution List for 2019:

  • Focus on digital media balance: There are several devices at home these days. The collective time spent working on a laptop, reading from an e-book and browsing social media on tabs or phones is considerable. To a young child, who can’t differentiate between work and pleasure, it may look like you can’t stay off digital devices the whole day and they may follow suit. You have to therefore fix your online schedule and practice digital balance.
  • Focus on having a positive digital media presence: What many parents fail to realize is that all social media users are media content creators and consumers. Each user is a newsmaker who can use digital media to create and share content, either negative or positive. As a consumer, a gullible user may accept the content as truth, without verifying. Fake news is rampant, and parents need to impress the need for fact-checking upon the kids.
  • Focus on values like empathy and mercy: The digital world brings the world to your homes and you connect with both strangers and acquaintances. There is therefore a greater need for kindness, tolerance and empathy. Posts may go viral and cause trouble or lead to cyberbullying. Children need to learn the importance of kindness and forgiveness to keep their digital world clean and happy. Parents can set an example by displaying these virtues in the real and the digital world.
  • Focus on self-control: One of the biggest issues nuclear families face today is that of work-life balance. Too many hours spent working, can lead to parents feeling guilty, who then try to compensate by gifting them expensive gifts. Set up a routine for games, chat and story time with kids to make up for long hours of absence.
  • Focus on being the perfect role model: As we know, children copy their parents. It’s like being a celebrity with the camera rolling 24/7. Modify your speech, actions, and digital actions so that children have the right guidance for their online behavior.
  • Focus on listening more: Parents generally tend to preach rather than listen. Plan to listen well in 2019. You will come to know a lot about your child’s life, aspirations and concerns if you do. The bonus is, they too will pay attention to you and your advice.
  • Focus on general health: You want your child to be healthy and active, right? The be the perfect role model, Exercise daily and play some games with your kids. Your kids too will then develop the same disciplined outlook towards health and sports. A healthy, active family usually prefer games to digital devices.
  • Focus on monitoring digital footprints and reputation: As your kids grow up, talk to them about the importance of exercising the right behavior online and the consequences of a poor digital reputation on academic and job prospects. Use examples from social media to differentiate between a desirable and an avoidable post or photo. Discuss what should be kept private and what can be shared.
  • Focus on cybersafety and privacy: With the rise in data breaches and ID theft via phishing attacks, it is imperative to discuss cyber safety regularly at home. Insist on the use of secured devices and scanning of every external device before use. Also, educate your children about malware and how apps, links and attachments are used to share them.
  • Focus on the monitoring and extent of parental supervision online: Though your children will have no problems with the installation of security tools like McAfee Total Protection, parental control is another matter altogether. Here, your diplomatic approach will stand in good stead. Share your concerns about strangers and cyber criminals and establish that you plan to monitor their online lives till they are mature enough to tackle issues themselves. Ensure that they understand you don’t mean to pry but protect

Start the year on a positive note. Take charge of your family’s digital life. Plan your parenting schedule, just like you plan your day. And yes, Happy New Year!!!

The Year That Was – Cybersecurity Takeaways From 2018

So, what was 2018 like for you? Just another year, a whirlwind of happiness and heartbreaks, or a momentous one that will stay in your memory forever? In the cyberworld, a lot has happened this year. There were data breaches and bitcoin mining; social media platform hacks and spread of fake news; mass campaigns online and bank/ATM hacks. An eventful year, wouldn’t you say?

As governments around the world are exploring tightening their cyber security laws, security vendors are working on creating better and stronger tools to keep us safe online. Let’s take a quick look at the major security breaches that occurred over the year. In hindsight, we can understand better where we are failing and what steps we, the consumers, can take to protect our data and identity.

There have been such rampant phishing and data mining attacks, that even those who do not keep up with technology have now started feeling the heat of it. For example, when a large bank’s server was attacked, or the SIM card swipe fraud was uncovered, there was chaos everywhere.

Time to recapitulate the attacks that matter most to us, the consumers:

  1. Bank and ATM system hacks
  2. Phishing attacks: via email and social media platforms
  3. DDoS botnet attack: These attacks were mainly targeted at gaming sites and government websites, severely slowing down operation
  4. Hacking of customer bases: We have noted several significant data breaches over the year and it has become a major concern for the govt, industries and security firms.
  5. IoT attacks: Smart devices are the latest tech additions to our homes but when these are compromised, it may lead to the compromise of all connected devices. Users should adopt care while downloading apps because malicious apps can be used to corrupt, or control connected devices at home
  6. Public Wi-Fi: Using public Wi-Fi to transmit sensitive information or for carrying out financial transactions, expose users to hacking and data theft
  7. Hacking of social media platforms: As most of us are now signed on to some or the other popular social media platforms, we need to be extra careful about our data privacy and how much information we are sharing online.

As India remains vulnerable for Web Application Attacks, we need to gear up and maximize our security in the virtual space. Not only do we need to follow traditional security measures but also need to address new sources of threat like ATM hacks, Crypto mining and control of home IoT devices by cyber criminals. Awareness is key for an aware user to know about new threats and ways to combat them.

Sharing some safety tips to see you securely through the next year:

  • Monitor Digital Assistants – Prevent your digital assistants from becoming attack portals for cyber criminals. Limit the extent of control they have over other devices, if you can. Ensure your home router default password is changed and you update your software regularly, to patch any security vulnerabilities
  • Password is the key – The safety of your online accounts depends a lot on strong and unique passwords, that are a mix of upper case, lower case, symbols and are at least 12 characters long. Better still, opt for a well-known password manager.
  • Be Mindful – Always research and review apps before downloading. The same goes for new websites, or e-payment gateways. Further, download mobile apps only from genuine stores, like Google Play and Apple’s App Store, for they continually check and take down suspicious apps
  • Secure all your devices – Use a comprehensive security tool to scan content before downloading and send suspicious messages into the spam folder
  • Stay Informed – Stay on top of the latest in cybersecurity by following my blog and @McAfee_Home on Twitter. Don’t forget to listen to our podcast Hackable?


Ciao folks! See you in 2019.

Avoid Falling Prey to Online Shopping Bait This Festive Season

For a moment, I thought this crazy friend of mine had finally lost it. She was staring at her laptop screen, multiple sites open, checking out various apparels at once and muttering under her breath.

Is there a problem?” I hesitantly asked.

I have to attend this destination wedding and they have theme parties, and I don’t have anything to wear in the required colours!” she wailed.

Ah well! Hence the shopping websites.” I realized.

Well, two heads are better than one, they say, and together we made all the purchases in record time. Needless to say, I insisted she used a secure device, limited her searches to trusted websites (using McAfee WebAdvisor), read the reviews and used prepaid credit cards. Cyber safety first and always.

But the ordeal was far from over. “You are Godsent! Now help me search for gifts!

While most of the world celebrates the year-end period as the Festive Season, we in India have a bigger reason to shop- It’s the Shaadi (marriage) season as well! It’s that time of the year when everyone seems to be getting married- resulting in endless parties, snarling traffic, overcrowded shops and packed salons. With most women juggling home and professions, fitting in shopping becomes a tough task. Online shopping is therefore the perfect solution for time-challenged urbanites.

And you can hardly blame them. As they sip their chai after a stressful day, they can simultaneously choose and place their orders and it’s done! No wonder the e-commerce market in India is expected to reach US$ 64 billion by 2020, as per a report by India Brand Equity Foundation!

Unfortunately, when it comes to online shopping, consumers are more concerned about finding a bargain deal and making the most of ‘Flash’ sales than their online security. They risk the dangers of hacking, being scammed and having their personal details and banking credentials stolen in their haste to make a good buy.

The Survey

Recently, McAfee conducted a survey, Holiday Stresses, which revealed the risky habits of online shoppers. The survey found that though consumers are aware of potential risks of online shopping, they still preferred it to the traditional system. It is interesting to note that 77 percent of respondents say that shopping during festive season induces increased financial stress!

The Online Shopping Trap

So, what kind of risks are consumers taking to get the best deals or while shopping in a hurry online?

  • 30% said that they would share their home address
  • 45% would share their phone numbers
  • 19% would risk sharing their bank details
  • 68% are willing to use a website they are unfamiliar with

 The Positives

But all is not lost. Indian shoppers are evolving to adopt safer online buying habits. Wow!

  • Nearly 74% say they would research an unfamiliar site and establish its authenticity before making purchases
  • 55% said they will not make a purchase over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection
  • 55% check their bank statements more often during the holiday festive season
  • 59% consumers would report receiving a phishing email

McAfee shares easy tips to help you stay safe while shopping online:

  • Always connect to public Wi-Fi with caution. Public Wi-Fi might seem like a good idea, but if consumers are not careful, they could be unknowingly be exposing personal information or credit card details to cybercriminals who are snooping on the network. If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure.
  • Think before you click. One of the easiest ways for a cybercriminal to compromise their victim is by using phishing emails to lure consumers into clicking links for products or services that could lead to malware, or a phony website designed to steal personal information. If the deal seems too good to be true, or the email was not expected it’s always best to check directly with the source.
  • Browse with security protection. Use comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help keep devices protected against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor which can help identify malicious websites.

Let not financial or data losses mar the joys of the festive season for you and your loved ones. Take charge of your digital lives. Just like you secure your house, car and other belongings, similarly, secure your devices and use trusted websites for shopping.

Have a great time folks!


Be the Child On Children’s Day – Try Out Role Reversal To Build Better Bonds With Your Kids

November 14th is a day children in India keenly look forward to. Schools and neighbourhoods gear up to make the day a memorable one for the children; TV channels run continuous children’s special serials and movies and there is no pressure at home to study.

At the Facebook Safety Summit panel discussion, where I recently participated, a lady from the audience expressed her inability to understand her teen. They seemed to be living in different dimensions! I suggested she work with him to help her become tech-savvy.

One Teacher’s Day program that was a great hit in my school was when teachers pretended to be a students and presented a farce. The children just loved it! Why can’t we do this at home sometimes?

There will always be situations when children would need to be reminded of their boundaries and you need to put on your parent-mantle and say, “Because I said so!” Parents need to be both firm and loving. But what if you are in uncharted territories like the digital world? Where your knowledge of the latest social media developments is limited compared to that of your children? How can you establish yourself as an authority your children will respect, obey and turn to for guidance if you are not a digital literate? Who will you turn to for cyber surfing tips?

Your children.

Yes, you heard that right. Turn the table around and be the student for a change. Let your kids teach you about the digital world. You can encourage them by asking about security, privacy, cyberbullying, fake news, risky games and other topics that concern you. Check out how they download apps. Be prepared for some amazing conversations and insights into their digital hygiene awareness. You will know whether they are mature enough to handle tricky situations. If you buy a new device, consult them on securing it and activating 2-factor authentication.

Benefits of digital role reversals

  1. Set an example: Children learn a lot by observing their parents. So, if you don’t hesitate to ask them when in doubt, they wouldn’t either. Also, if parents practice digital balance, kids will usually follow suit.
  2. Promote mutual understanding, trust and respect: Commend your kids when they share valuable tips. Your words would act like an instant confidence booster and make them feel all grown-up and responsible.
  3. Extend real life education to cover the digital one: You can establish this during your conversations about how you think real world lifeskill lessons apply to the virtual space. Talk about peer pressure, good manners, diplomacy, etiquette, etc. to drive home the point.
  4. Better understanding of child’s digital world: Think about all that you can learn! You have first-hand knowledge of the apps they use and can later Google them to learn more about associated risks, if any. You get an idea about what’s trending, the new online threats and also what interests your kids and how they spend time online.
  5. Opportunity to test their cyber security awareness: Dig deep to get to know how kids secure their accounts and the content they create. Also, have a detailed chat about the merits of using licensed security tools vis-à-vis a free basic one. This lesson will last them a lifetime and ensure their online safety so spend time on this on a regular basis.

This Children’s Day, try out a bit of role reversal and pick up tips on being a savvy digital citizen from your kids. Not only will they feel proud of helping you become a smart device user, you also get to understand how they view digital media, online friendship, cyber safety and data privacy. With one stroke, you will both empower your kids and also strengthen your bonds with them. You are without doubt, your children’s best teacher and well-wisher. So, with their interest in heart, be the kid sometime.

Happy Children’s Day to all your precious angels.

Light a Lamp This Diwali To Dispel the Darkness of Digital Literacy

One of my favourite Indian festivals is Diwali and I have a sneaky feeling I may have mentioned this a few times earlier too. There is so much of positivity attached to this festival- say the word Diwali, or Deepawali, and smiles will light up the faces of people, just like diyas light up houses and courtyards. The excitement the term Diwali will conjure up will be as crackling as the ‘green’ firecrackers kids have already kept ready to burst after the evening prayers.

“So how does Diwali remind you of Digital Literacy?” asked my son, as he peered over my shoulders and looked into my laptop.

“Everything reminds me of digital literacy, but Diwali more so because just like we light lamps of joy to dispel the darkness of evil and sorrow, similarly we can light lamps of knowledge or ‘gyana’ to dispel the darkness of ignorance or ‘agyana’.

Parents often ask me how to start a talk on digital habits with children, how to help them turn out to be good digital citizens and so on. Actually, it’s pretty easy to start a talk and if you are worried that you are not tech-savvy enough to teach your child about digital habits, do not worry. All you need to do is continue teaching the values you teach in real life. They apply to the online world too!

Take for example, language and manners. Think back on the ways you taught your child to greet others, talk civilly and keep their cool when the situation becomes aggressive. Now add the following to your lesson – ‘when online, remember the other person can’t see you so, will not be able to decipher your body language. Hence, it’s become even more important to take care of what you say online’.

You can also teach your kids to stand up against bullies and never bully others. How? Try the age-old dictum, “treat others as you want them to treat you.” Encourage them to share their problems with you and guide them on how to tackle bullies. If you find they are participating in cyberbullying, sit them down and talk to them, just like you would if they behaved badly offline. Find out the cause of their unpleasant behavior and help them resolve issues, if any.

A very important thing to teach kids, and adults alike, is to protect their devices. Use the lock-and-key concept to explain the need for securing devices and accounts with strong passwords and 2-Factor-Authentication. You may even get your child to help them secure their devices with branded security tools. This will definitely make your child feel important, and most importantly, responsible. A responsible child uses digital tools wisely.

Stretch your reach and help your friends and relatives learn how to use parental control tools to protect and monitor their young one’s online activities. If you check your security icon on the computer or laptop, you will be able to access parental controls and learn, through some easy-to-do steps, how to set it up.

Another way to make this Diwali count is to increase the scope of joy that you usually share – bring someone you know into the digital safety circuit. Gift them online security software and shield them from online threats.

Do share your family bonding pics during Diwali—tell us how you made Diwali in your family more meaningful this year.

Happy Diwali folks!

The Importance of Security Awareness in Our Connected Lifestyle

Not very long ago, people could be seen walking around waving their mobile phones in the air, looking for a network connection. Today, we are talking 5G! Our kids just can’t imagine a world without gadgets and internet! Little kids as young as four can turn on and instruct Alexa, search for new games on smartphones and talk to digital devices.

Moving Toward an Increasingly Connected Lifestyle

Ours is a connected world and we are constantly connected to the internet- be it through our smartphones, digital assistants, gaming and reading devices, laptops, wearable devices, remote monitoring devices like CCTV and many more. While this leads to time saving, higher efficiency, and greater comfort, there are a few safety checks, which if ignored, may lead to data and ID thefts.

I was recently reading an article on the 5G revolution. South Korea, I believe, already enjoys phenomenal browsing and download speeds, and so will rest of the world very soon. It will also hopefully reduce lags and connectivity disruptions that we currently experience. More IoT (Internet of Things) devices will come into play and home Wi-Fi routers will have a larger count of devices connected to it. Needless to say, this calls for ensuring maximum security for the router as well as all our devices.

Moreover, we often use public Wi-Fi connections to browse; which expose us to possible cyber attacks. Often, something as innocuous as using external storage devices or delaying the installation of updates can lead to malware entering the device system. What happens if cyber attackers worm into our systems? They can spy on us, regulate our smart devices, and even listen in on our baby monitor, to name a few.

As many countries observe October as Cybersecurity Month, it is the right time to have a discussion on how we can keep our connected homes safe.

Let’s discuss some of the common causes that can lead to device hacking:

  • Software updating not done: Security companies and your OS vendors keep sending patches to give cover for latest viruses and thus enhance protection against cyberattacks. Delay in patch installation exposes our device to attacks. It is therefore advisable to set updates to automatic.
  • Increasing use of IoT devices: Our smartwatch or smartphone, digital assistants or digital toys are all connected to Wi-Fi. This offers cyber criminals a bigger hunting ground. They try to find and exploit vulnerabilities in these devices
  • Outdated security: Despite being aware of safety issues related to not securing devices with licensed comprehensive software, we often neglect this very important step. At best, we download and use free security tools which may not offer cover against more sophisticated attacks.
  • Carelessness of users: But the security chain also includes us, the users. We may click on malicious links or download infected files. We may also visit unsafe websites, making it easy for cyber criminals to target us

How to use smart devices safely:

  • Use unique, complex passphrases: Strong passphrases (not passwords you will notice) will go a long way in keeping hackers at bay. If the thought of remembering several passphrases daunts you, go for a password manager
  • Set up autolock: Set up autolock and PIN protect your devices. Modern devices offer biometric locks as well. Make use of them
  • Keep auto update turned on: This way your OS and security tool would always receive patches and updates on time and you will receive maximum protection
  • Check security settings before buying IoT devices: Before buying any connected toy or device, research the manufacturer to find out if they give security top priority. Check out the security they offer and change default passcodes. Also, do read the terms and conditions to know how the vendor plans to secure your data
  • Secure your home Wi-Fi router: As this will be the point for connecting with the net, this device needs to be secured with a strong passphrase. It’s a good idea to change the passphrase from time to time. Keep an eye on data consumption too
  • Install and run licensed comprehensive security software: Don’t go for free, your devices and your personal data are at stake here. Instead, use a comprehensive security solutionto protect your technology
  • Be aware: Awareness pays. If you know of the latest threats doing the round, you would take necessary precautions and share your knowledge with friends and family accordingly

We can do it, can’t we? A few simple measures help secure our digital lives and allow us to take full advantage of what tech has to offer. Let us be ready to welcome 5G in our lives.

Stay safe, stay secure!

Digital Literacy Decoded – Time to Reprise Our Roles as Digital Citizens

Celebrated every year on September 8, this year’s theme for International Literacy Day focused on “Literacy and Skills Development.” And this made me instantly think of digital literacy and why we need to push digital skill development among the populace. It does not take much time to move from pen and paper to keyboard and screen. After all, low-cost smartphones, wide penetration of the internet and cheap data have made it possible for even the less-educated to join the digital world.

I think we all will benefit from a refresher on digital literacy- what it means, what it entails and what are the requisite skills. Let’s start by understanding the term “digital literacy.”

What is digital literacy?

Literacy, stated simply, means the ability to read and write. Digital literacy goes a step ahead and encompasses a variety of skills necessary to be part of the digital world. So basically, a digital literate can use devices to communicate, transact, create, research and/or evaluate content and network with other digital citizens.

If we break it down further, to simplify matters, we can say that a digital literate is one who:

  • Can operate a device: Use an internet-enabled device, understand and use the different functions, know how to secure the device and importance of security tools
  • Has basic computer literacy: Can search the web, book an app cab; buy or sell things online; use the digital medium for work, entertainment, education or to create awareness
  • Knows how to search for and create content: Uses devices to research, evaluate and compare data and also to create and share content
  • Communicates via social media: Understands and uses various social media platforms for purposes ranging from education, entertainment, collaborations to networking
  • Is aware of online threats and knows safe surfing habits: Stays aware of the digital environment and takes basic precautions when online

We all know why digital literacy has become such an important aspect of modern life. Technological advancement and increasing use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) has made it necessary for all to join the digital literacy bandwagon to understand how things work, communicate correctly, and know how to stay safe online.

Blackboards in schools are already a thing of the past with digital boards making their way into classrooms. Children do not need to go to the library to work on their projects, they simply ‘Google’ for the information. Teachers use available resources to make learning interesting and long-lasting. Children are also using apps to learn at their own pace and subjects customized to suit their interest. Homework assignments are more likely to be found in the WhatsApp messages from school than in school diaries. Digital literacy helps children to know how to select safe search sites, separate truth from falsity, be aware of the latest malware and phishing strategies and the need to avoid strangers and aggressive people online. They will also be adept at taking the right actions if they face negative behavior online.

Children are also on social media, using a plethora of devices. A digital literate would understand the implications of online actions and the probable consequences. They would also be well-versed in cyber etiquette, cyber ethics and cyber hygiene. Not only would they be moderate in their comments and posts, they would also show more diplomacy and empathy online. Importantly, they would know how to handle negative behavior like cyberbullying and trolling.

At home and work, we use a number of IoT devices. Hackers can break into these to steal our data or send us ransomware. Digital literacy arms us with the right skills to secure our online presence and keep our dear ones and our data safe.

As a parent your first question is likely to be- OK, so what are the skills that my child needs to have to be called a digital literate?

As you prepare your little tykes to become responsible digital citizens and take ownership of their online lives, do remember to reinforce time and again, the need for installing and running licensed security software like McAfee LiveSafe and McAfee Total in all their devices. Discuss and list the different ways the security tools help users to stay safe online and why skipping this step can lead to problems later.

Cheers to all you digital citizens. Ciao!

Salute to Teachers – The Architects of Tomorrow’s Digital India

The digital whiteboards have long replaced the squeaky blackboards, while emails and text messages are replacing messages pinned on the display boards in the corridors. Today, many schools have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, making notebooks redundant. The education pattern is itself changing from general rote learning for all to the ‘Discovery’ methods. Children are encouraged to participate in  group activities, brainstorming etc. to make learning easier, more interesting and long-lasting. As the academic system is being revolutionized by technology, the teachers, who have the task of making tech work in schools, are working hard to adapt to the changing scenario.

Technology offers an enormous range of possibilities within the confines of the same old classroom, and teachers now have greater access to reading material on the internet to do fact checks, organize presentations, get students to prepare slide shows or study at their own pace – something that was not possible even a decade ago, when I was a full-time teacher.

I feel so excited therefore when educationists talk about new strategies and concepts to enable wholesome learning and development. What’s more wonderful is that parents too, are getting to be a constant part of their child’s daily activities in schools, thanks to videos and emails. Further, the internet has made the world a global village and teachers are smartly making the most of it. Tweet chats and dedicated discussion platforms on education have allowed teachers to share findings and learn from each other. Such forums allow teachers to stay abreast of new digital learning tools and ensure that their students are making the most of what tech has to offer. After all, only an aware teacher can impart the right knowledge to our digital children.

Therefore, it’s a win-win situation for both teachers and students, leading to vastly improved academic environment and global outlook in students.

If anyone argues (and we used to write essays on this in school) would robots replace teachers in the near future or are teachers becoming irrelevant, then my answer is an emphatic “NO” and I will tell you why.

Why do students need human teachers in the digital age?

  • The human touch and attention
  • To instill the right values and cyber etiquette
  • To teach discipline and responsibility
  • Offer the right guidance on web surfing in the age of fake profiles and fake news
  • Guidance on searching for information online

It’s not an easy task. If you examine what being a teacher in the digital age entails, here are some of the skills they need to have.

Digital Age teachers should be able to:

  • Bring about required changes to move towards digitalization of education
  • Think critically or think out of the box and encourage this trait in children too
  • Stay updated with the latest tech developments and familiarize themselves with current trends to be able to establish classroom order
  • Help students select the right digital tools and use them responsibly
  • Teach kids to safeguard their devices and their online environment
  • Understand digital literacy and teach kids digital etiquette and digital hygiene
  • Use social media effectively to connect with other educationists, parents and children
  • Assist parents to become tech-savvy and cybersafety aware

Three things that every teacher needs to tackle in school:

  • Cyberbullying: Classroom bullying has gone online. It has become quite rampant- ranging from the harmless leg-pulling to serious threats and abuse. Teachers need to keep an eagle eye out for such activities, educate children on future consequences and organize peer support groups for victims of bullying so that children can learn how to deal with bullies.
  • Online dares and risky challenges: Teens especially are attracted by such competitive tasks where they can prove themselves and earn peer approval. Children need to be educated early on about the associated risks so that know where to draw the line.
  • Oversharing: Children need constant guidance on what and how much to share for they lack the foresight to think of future consequences.

Sanitization and security of the digital world of children are of paramount interest and teachers are best placed to guide them on this. This includes using only those devices that have running licensed security tools like McAfee Total Protection, using strong passphrases or better still, password managers, and being mindful of their digital actions.

Teachers are truly the nation builders; they are moulding the future digital age citizens with the right knowledge and guidance. It’s a tough task, but they do it with elegance and a smile. Wishing all you teachers a very Happy Teacher’s Day, may your tribe flourish.

McAfee Survey: Parents Share Pictures of Their Kids Online, Despite Understanding the Risks Involved

As Birbal had once pointed out to Akbar, “There is only one pretty child in this world and every mother has it.” Never has there been such a strong urge to prove this than in the digital age. Parents are making full use of their social media platforms to keep their friends and family updated with the latest happenings in their precious one’s lives. However, are they compromising their children’s privacy and security to satisfy their pride?

The Age of Consent Survey commissioned by McAfee brings to light some interesting facts in India, regarding parental habits of sharing their children’s photos online.

  • Parents are aware of the risks of posting images of their children on social media, but the majority are doing it anyway, often without their children’s consent
  • 76% of parents say they have considered the images of their children they post online could end up in the wrong hands
  • 61.6% of parents believe they have the right to share an image of their child on social media without their consent

Parents Ignoring the Risks?

The McAfee survey reveals that parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could affect their children. There are two kinds of risks involved:

  1. Physical risks: Pictures can be misused to create fake identities, groom victims and morphed and used inappropriately by paedophiles
  2. Emotional risks: They may cause children worry and anxiety if they fear that the photos may be used to shame or cyberbully them

While parents are aware and concerned about the physical risks associated with posting pictures online, they are less concerned about the emotional risks. The survey reveals that moms consider the embarrassing side effect more than dads, with 45% of dads assuming their children will get over any embarrassing content compared to just 14% of moms. But it is important to consider the emotional effects on kids as they will tend to shape his/her character and future.

How do Men and Women Compare When It Comes to Sharing Pictures?

Most men and women post photos of their children only on private social media accounts, indicating they are aware of the risks. While identity theft worries men more, women are more worried about image morphing.  In addition, women are more restrained about sharing pictures of kids under 2 without clothes over social media in comparison to men. But, unfortunately, neither is much concerned about paedophilia. This needs to change! You have to put the ‘stranger-danger’ policy in action well before you start teaching your kids that.

Mumbai Parents Lead in Sharing

Mumbai parents, ahoy! You are tech-savvy no doubt and leave Delhi and Bengaluru way behind when it comes to sharing of kid’s photos online. Though Metro city parents are aware that children may be embarrassed by some of the photos posted and consider photoshopping or morphing of pics as a major potential risk, they still go ahead and share. Whoa! Go easy and THINK well before hitting the ‘SHARE’ button parents; it’s your children we are talking about.

Some Salient India-Specific Findings from The Survey

  • 5% of parents post an image of their child on social media at least once a day
  • 79% share images on public social media accounts
  • 39% of parents don’t consult with their children before posting images of them on social media
  • 98% of parents have considered that the images they post of their child on social media may be embarrassing/be something they wouldn’t want posted, but do it anyway
  • 6% of parents have/would share an image of their child in their school uniform on social media
  • 6% of parents believe they have the right to share an image of their child on social media without their consent
  • The average age parents believe they should begin asking their child for consent to post a photo of them on social media is 10, interestingly, the age of responsibility in India is 7

Tips for Safe Sharing of Children’s pics

  • THINK.POST: Always think twice before uploading pictures of your child. Will it prove risky or embarrassing for the child later in life? If yes, or in doubt, postpone sharing.
  • Disable geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.
  • Maximise privacy settings on social media: Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience.
  • Let family, friends know your views on posting images and tagging: This will help prevent future embarrassments. Return the favour.
  • Use an identity theft protection service: The amount of personal data shared online, and the rise in data breach, together escalate the possibility of identity theft. It’s recommended that you use an identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection to proactively protect your identity and keep your personal data safe from misuse.

Parents, put aside your pride in your child and review the future implications of posting their pictures online. As parents, it’s your responsibility to understand the effects of your social media actions on your child. A few general photographs shared privately may be OK, but it is advisable NOT to turn your social media page into your child’s digital record page. Let your child start his/her digital journey on a clean slate.