Protect Your Teens against Spam

OK…so we all are equipped with textbook knowledge of spams. We have basic ideas of how to protect ourselves from these monsters that, as security reports warn us, are multiplying at an accelerated rate. But how do we go about keeping our tweens and teens safe from spams? How do we teach them to (a) identify spams, and (b) avoid them?

Identifying spams

E-mail Spams: These targets individual users with direct mail messages. Your inbox is flooded with many copies of the same message. Such mails are mainly promotions of questionable products, attractive discount offers or get-rich-quick schemes. Today, the nature of spam mails is increasingly becoming unfitting, offensive or malevolent.

Facebook Spams: These are mainly in the form of lurid videos. When an unsuspecting victim clips on such a URL, a malicious javascript is copied into their browser and gets shared with all the contacts in their address books.

Online Games Spams: Many online games allow players to contact each other. Spammers usually try to sell game-related “items” for real-world money

Smartphone Spams: Spams on smartphones are worse than those on the PC because Spammers can reach the user through email, SMS, MMS, Wi-Fi and even Bluetooth

How do you protect teens from spams

Install advanced security software with Email Filters and Spam blockers: Though most e-mail services today offer built-in email filters, it is a good idea to install family protection software that offers additional protection. The software will automatically identify spam by keywords (eg: win, , last day) and direct it to the trash folder. The spam blocker blocks the spams from entering the system. It scrutinizes the mail server at regular intervals and deletes spam and associated viruses

Block the sender: Once you have identified a spam sender (it maybe the compromised id of a friend or relative too), block the sender. If the person is known to you personally, inform him/her that his/her id is sending out spams

Whitelists: You must be present when your kids set up their e-mail accounts. Help the child create a “whitelist” containing email ids of only trusted and approved people. This includes relatives, close school friends etc. The security software will allow mails from only these people to go directly to the child’s inbox, and block all others

Teach kids to identify spams on Facebook: They must learn to check the URL before clicking on any links. Also, they’d do well to avoid clicking on any videos that call for permission to access data. Finally, always opt for secure browsing, i.e., the URL address should be preceded by https//. Look for more details here.

Accidental clicks on Spam URLs: If they have clicked ‘share’ on a spam post on Facebook, they must immediately log out from Facebook, clear all browser cookies, cache and temporary files, restart the system and change Facebook password. They’d also do well to post a message on their walls, describing the spam and warning their friends not to click on it

Spam on Online Gaming Sites: If it’s a multiplayer game, leave the game or remove the player from the group and report him

Monitor your kid’s account: As I keep stressing, don’t let children surf scot-free. Keep an eye on their email accounts and FaceBook pages. Repeatedly tell them to bring any suspicion of spam to you, for their own good and protection of the PC

Enjoy online activities, but stay safe!



More & More Indian Kids Are Potentially Vulnerable to Cyber Bullying-Anybody Listening?

Bullying is not a new term at all; this act of deliberate cruelty is probably as old as humanity itself. Most of us have faced some kind of bullying in our lives – be it in the playground, school, office or home. The extent varies from harmless name-calling to physical assault.

But cyberbullying is quite new, for it came into existence only after the emergence of the cyber world. Cyberbullying is harming or harassing people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner in the cyber world. And bullies have the perfect platform for it – the online world, which offers them anonymity and hence a sense of protection against possible repercussions.  In the virtual world, there are many kinds of people, good and bad, just like in the real world. These bullies use the social media to trick innocent victims into making embarrassing confessions, or initiate and spread malicious rumours, and/or abuse and defame them. And as I said earlier, they have a big advantage; they can do all this anonymously. This anonymity makes them feel safe which encourages them to be aggressive and mean.

A big role played in cyber bullying is the fact that most tweens and teens today own or have access to smartphones, laptops and PCs. The choice of Internet access also throws light on the future trend in gadget preference. I will share with you some of the pertinent findings from the McAfee Tween and Teens Technology Report 2013. Currently, 61% of tweens spend 1-4 hours daily on desktop, about 40% use tablets and 68% use mobile. Further, almost 50% have shared personal information on Facebook! In addition, 88% share photos of themselves. And what more, 36% of them have admitted to chatting with complete strangers!

Want to know more? Indian tweens are online for about 2 hours daily and 45% of them are online later than 8pm. Facebook, Skype and Twitter happen to be the top three social media sites for kids, with Skype marking a phenomenal growth in popularity, with one out of two tweens using it.

So we have the stage set. The kids are there on social media, they have the devices and apps to access these sites and they just prefer being online and sharing everything with, oh almost, everyone. So there are kids with friends exceeding 2000 (I kid you not), and those who feel depressed if their posts and pics don’t immediately fetch over 500 likes (Again true!). The environment is rich for bullies, they can comment, post, share, hack, dupe to their heart’s content, confident that their ID will not be discovered.

But it can be, as the latest episode on MTV India #Webbed showed. This serial tackles 13 real #cyberabuse stories. The said episode showed how a teen harassed her best friend online by posting false updates and demeaning comments out of sheer jealousy. This is what is happening around us, and like the parents of the victim in the episode, most parents are unaware of!

I visited MTV home page and was shocked at some of the confessions posted on MTV Webbed’s Confession page!

What do you do as a parent?

ð  Be aware of cyber world and cyber threats

ð  Discuss your own childhood bullying stories with kids to encourage them to share theirs

ð  Befriend your child online, as well as a few of their friends

ð  Be watchful of any drastic change in your child’s behaviour and social activities

ð  Check what kind of people your child is befriending and sharing content  with

ð  Say “NO” to Skype-ing with friends in the privacy of their rooms

ð  Help your child identify a bully and block him/her

ð  Talk to school authorities if you suspect your child is being bullied by school friends

ð  Don’t be blinded by your love and ignore if your child happens to be the bully. Correct him

Kids will be indulging in some light-hearted leg pulling online. That’s the fun part of growing up with peers. They help you to stay rooted and discover the flaws in yourself. But things can, and do, get out of hand when mean and brutally hurting comments start flooding the Facebook wall. Then it’s no more teasing but bullying. Here’s how you can help your kids differentiate between bullying and teasing:

  • Does he or they make spiteful comments on all your posts?
  • Do the harassers spread malicious rumours about you and instigate others to do likewise?
  • Do they post funny pictures and tag you just to mock you or embarrass you publicly?
  • Do they often give a thumbs-down to your pics and make gross remarks about your looks/intellect?
  • Have you ever received comments like “Go die!”, or “You are a blot on mankind? You should kill yourself”?

If your child has been facing such ridicule and humiliation online, you must take action and involve school authorities in it.  Cyberbullying must be stopped and culled at the nascent stage before it gets out of hand and leads to something more serious.

One reason why a child seeks approval online is that they do not get it at home. Never ridicule a child for looks or merit. Instead let your child know that everyone loves him unconditionally and are always there for him. A child from a loving, close-knit family will rarely stand bullying or bully others. That doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to a child’s faults and pamper him. This might turn your child into a bully.

Once your kids go online, there are certain things you must frequently talk to them about, lest they forget. Do always remind your kids that Internet is a privilege given to them. If they abuse or misuse it, be firm and take that privilege away as a punishment. But don’t drive them to their friends’ phone or laptop. Divert their attention to other activities, family timeouts and hobbies. Return the privilege to them when you think they are ready for it. Establish a relationship of trust and mutual respect. It helps.