The New language In Town – Virtual World Lingo- Do You Know It?

Over the years, a completely new set of terms, definitions, phrases, abbreviations and descriptions have invaded our vocabulary, thanks to gennext. It has happened slowly but steadily, and most of us are not even aware exactly when we learnt their usage and they became a part of our social media world.

Datz ryte, U gssd it crrct. Am tlkng abt d new lingo in town, SMS/Text/Tweet lingo dat we lrn frm d young & so prlfclly use.

For those of us raised to speak and write the Queen’s English grammatically correct, this is a difficult and a painful exercise. But the kids take to it like ducks take to water. And as usual, we go where the kids go. Even the Oxford Dictionary is going there, adding newly-coined terms every year!!

In addition to truncated words, there has also been a spurt in abbreviated phrases and clauses. Take for e.g. the ubiquitous LOL (laugh Out Loud), a suitable reply to pen when U read a funny post.  But here is a secret- when your teen says it out loud after you crack a joke or make a comment; it’s very unlikely he is appreciating your humour.

As parents to geeky, net-savvy tweens and teens you have your task cut out for you. Not only do you have to master modern gadgets, learn about security and net etiquette but you also have to understand the secret codes your kids use. Else how will you be on the same page, understand them and keep tabs on them? For all said and done and all those charged debates about privacy, kids need you to spell out their boundaries. They will test the limits of those boundaries however, and so you have to monitor them online. It will help if you know what they are saying and to whom.

Personally, I love codes and consider it a challenge to decipher them. I suggest you treat these words as codes and try breaking them. That way it will be less overwhelming (if that’s what you are feeling right now). It can be entertaining and eye-opening too. Some of the commonly used texts and abbreviations are (courtesy

BRB: Be Right back

B4N: Bye for Now

ILY: I love You

JK: Just Kidding

NIMBY: Not In My Backyard

WYWH: Wish You Were Here

XOXO: Hugs And Kisses

Well, these sound quite safe and teen-like don’t they? Just the way kids are likely to converse. But there are more. These are the ones the young often use to fog parents and you need to watch out for.

143: I Love You

182: I Hate You

ADR: Address

A/S/L: Address/Sex/Location

CD9: Code9 (which means parents around)

F2F: Face to face

PIR: Parents In Room

RU/18: Are You over 18

WYCM: Will You Call Me

That’s just a sample of the acronyms and abbreviations being used now. Knowledge of these abbreviations will help you know whether you should be worried about any online chat your child maybe having. And won’t you be a cool parent then? A parent with a sure cyber footing?

Here is a very handy resource for parents of my generation. The web’s largest resource for abbreviations and acronyms: Now isn’t that just wonderful!!!

Once again, McAfee Total Protection is the software that will do wonders for your peace of mind. Set parental controls for each individual child so that if they use suspicious language, you will be remotely informed. You can then ask for clarifications. You have the right to do so because you have given them the privilege of using internet-enabled devices on the understanding they will use them responsibly. It’s a parent’s duty to teach children the STOP.THINK.CONNECT message responsibly right from an early age.

Ciao, CUL8R!!

Resource for further reference: Netlingo-The Internet Dictionary:



Give Your Children The Digital Lock – Teach Them To Protect Personal Data

Recently, a Mother was sharing with me how her child started receiving calls and friendship request from complete strangers. The family was worried and puzzled as to how her phone number had become public. Then one day, a caller informed that he had got the number on an online dating service. Investigation revealed that the girl had participated in an online quiz and she had shared her mail id and cell number to get detailed results!

This is not a one-off case. According to the findings of the McAfee “Tweens And Technology Report 2013”, 41% of the tweens surveyed share information about themselves over FB! This is just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion, considering the huge Indian tween and teen population that go online everyday!

A Platter Full of Personal Data Anyone?

Sometimes, children, and even adults, offer their personal data on a platter to cyber crooks without realizing it. Remember that free game you had downloaded that had asked for your e-mail id, phone, PIN code to allow you access? Or that online competition where you had to share your date of birth, qualifications and current occupation? Many such dubious sites collect more information than they require and store or share it with unauthorized third parties. The result? What you thought was strictly private is now in the public domain.

Similar is the case with the forms you fill up in the hope of winning a lottery or competition. If it’s not a legit site, you stand the risk of revealing facts about yourself and the family that are best kept secret.

Excessive Sharing by kids can lead to financial losses

Children are often privy to your private conversations and are affected by whatever it is that trouble their family members. These digital natives think nothing of expressing their opinions online. The result can often land families in trouble like in the case of Dana.

Dana’s post in her Facebook account led to a breach in a confidentiality clause in a settlement received by her dad and the subsequent loss of the sum.

The girl had hit out publicly against an institution without any thought spared on consequences, stating, “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver….. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” This boast caused the court to revert its decision.

Let personal data remain personal.

Think thrice before sharing:

1) Name

2) Date of birth

3) Address

4) Phone number

4) School/college/workplace details

5) Bank name and account number

Now is a good time to remind you of the cybersafety Mantra “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”

One thing I have noticed about children is that most of them want to do the right thing, but without being nagged about it or under the threat of a ban. So if you teach them the basic online safety measures and ensure that the entire family follows a set safety manual, it’s very likely that when it’s their turn to decide, they will make the right choice.

Proper Education and Guidance Keys To Online Safety

While education includes talking to kids about the negative effects of over sharing or sharing without thinking, guidance includes setting up Internet usage rules, fixing usage time and installing comprehensive security software like McAfee Family Protection. You must make sure that your security offers parental controls, which as I keep stressing, is absolutely not for spying on kids but ensuring their online safety till they reach a certain level of mental maturity.

10 Safety Tips To Teach Your Children To Protect Their Data Online

  1. Turn off cookies that remember your data for automatic form filling
  2. Do not create an e-mail id that reveal true name and birth date
  3. Be wary of forms, surveys, quizzes, free offers that require you to share a lot of personal data
  4. Do not publicly share your e-mail or social media id
  5. Its better if children don’t go on chatrooms
  6. Share pics safely using Picasa etc. Sharing pics on social media is not advisable
  7. Be careful that your pics don’t reveal your location and address
  8. Don’t share status updates on WhatsApp. All your contacts needn’t know what you are up to
  9. Avoid chatting while playing online games. You may inadvertently reveal info about self/friends
  10. Be careful about what you download. Data collecting cookies can steal data from your PC

Make cybersafety a part of your life. For your own benefit.

Stay safe online and enjoy the cyber world! 🙂


Parenting 101: Raising Responsible Digital Citizens

Yes, yes I know. Being a parent, there are 101 things to be done every day. And you are probably thinking I am asking too much by suggesting you raise digitally aware kids. For this, it means you have to be a digital citizen who knows his/her way in the cyber world and can advise kids on correct behaviour, etiquette and security measures.

But just think for a second– Who else will do it, if not you, being the parent? And as your kids will be digital citizens, don’t you need to prepare them for safe digital lives?

The 10 things you must do to ensure your children are safe online:

  •  Learn Internet A, B, C to know your children are doing it right

Become a digital literate yourself and stay updated. It’s really easy to learn. Just learn the basics of operating a computer and signing up on social media. You will pick up more as you go ahead.

  •  Be their gaming partners and Facebook friends

The best way you can play an active role in their digital life is by being a part of it. Show interest in the games they play, sites they visit and their online friends. Make their digital life a part of your daily conversations so they can freely talk about anything they see or experience online. This will also help you to monitor them without raising their hackles

  •   Talk and share

Share your concerns. Talk about stranger-danger and malware. Let the children know that you are aware of the threats in the digital world and are talking from experience and knowledge. When you say ‘no’, offer logical explanations that they can’t refute easily

  •   Draw boundaries

Set rules and usage of Internet timings together. That way they get to use the internet at a time of their choice, while you can ensure it’s when a responsible adult is around. A win-win situation for both. Don’t forget to draw up penalties for breaking rules. It’s necessary to maintain discipline

  •   Be astute

Periodically review security and privacy settings: Children have short attention span and forget safety lessons. They often unknowingly give access to third-party apps and outsiders to their pages. Check for this and edit them. Tell your children what you did and why.

  •   Create their protective shields

Teach them simple tricks like how to get out of an awkward situation; how to handle online spats and how to reject friendship requests from strangers. Another must-teach is what to do if they are exposed to inappropriate content and to approach you if they feel threatened online

  •  Review their digital footprints

Drill into kids that “what goes online stays online”. Ensure that your child knows the long-term consequences of posting comments, status and pics. Tell them how pictures are morphed, words are used out-of-context to create wrong impressions and how posts can affect career & college prospects

  •  Brush, wash & sign-out at night

Teach kids digital hygiene along with personal hygiene. Just like they brush teeth and wash hands to keep out germs; they must use strong passwords, take regular backups, not download files from dubious sources, click on a link after verifying authenticity and keep the anti-virus running and Firewall ON to keep out malware. They must also sign out of all accounts every time.

  •   Insist on good manners everywhere

Even in the digital world. Discuss digital etiquette. Kids must behave fairly, wisely, kindly and responsibly. Stealing and cheating are wrong and punishable in the digital world as in the real world

  •  Well done and a pat on the back

Never take their good practices as granted and praise good initiatives. Show approval when they do the right things online.

The best digital hygiene you can ensure your kid is by installing advanced and comprehensive security software like McAfee Family Protection. You can create different login accounts for your each child, fix sites and timings and be informed if they connect with strangers or share inappropriate content. Learn more here.

And the mantra you need to give each child to stay safe online? – “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”

To friend or Not To Friend My Teen on Facebook – That Is the Question

A very oft asked question at every talk I give is “Should I befriend my tween or teen on Facebook?” I understand the predicament of parents, having two netizens at home myself. There is always a quandary; how will the child construe it? Will he accept the friend request or will he rebel at this ‘intrusion’ into his privacy? Will a request be the harbinger of a series of parent-child spates?

I have a very simple approach to this. If the child is below 13, then I would no way permit him to sign up on Facebook by falsifying age. I am against being a party to deliberate fact falsification. Moreover, the social media is definitely not a safe place for a child to explore alone.

For a teen, I would suggest you prepare him a bit. Like talk about the need for joining this site; what he plans to do there; whether he would be willing to share any problems he faces with his siblings or parents? Also take the help of recent news to point out the dangers present on any networking site and ask how he will handle them. Once he signs up, request him to befriend you, with a promise that you would not embarrass him online. Teens are very sensitive about these things. If he resists, explain that sometimes an adult eye sees things more clearly and long ahead than a child’s eye. Say you would be like a security patrol that quietly roams the street, without invading anyone’s privacy, to ensure everyone is safe and no untoward element is lurking about.

I will give you some good reasons why a parent should befriend the child on Facebook. The findings of the McAfee India survey titled, “Tweens and Technology Report 2013” highlights that Indian kids are going online from an early age, in large numbers and for longer hours. And most of them are on Facebook!

Check this out:

  • 53% of online tweens are online daily between 1-3 hours!! Well, I’d like to be where my kids are, for sure
  • 70% kids stating that they have signed up on FB. That makes it a happy hunting ground for cyber crooks like Spammers and paedophiles, does it not? Monitoring needed here!
  • 88% of FB users share photos of themselves while 73% share photos of family & friends. Somebody, preferably the parent, needs to monitor this initially and point out which pics should not be shared and why and why it is not right to tag people without permission
  • 41% of the tweens surveyed share information about themselves over FB. You and I know how dangerous this can be, exposing the child to kidnappers and child stalkers. The kids are gullible and easily influenced. It’s better if you periodically monitor the child’s page to ensure that the child was not being coerced to share private information. See what happened to this girl when she invited her friends for a party on Facebook
  • 36% of online tweens have spoken to a stranger online. Well, I’d suggest you keep close tabs on friend list and install McAfee Total or McAfee LiveSafe to monitor chats
  • 12 year olds are more likely to have seen nasty comments online than 8 year olds (33% vs. 16%). You can actually use the child’s Facebook wall to teach him about bullying and its negative consequences. Also, you can discuss responses to Cyberbullying, if your child ever faces any. In case you find your child to be aggressive online, you can again take preventive measures. But for this, you have to be friends with the child on Facebook
  • 89% of the parents are friends with their child on Facebook, so why shouldn’t you be?

One very important lesson that you must give your child when he decides to sign up on Facebook is that he must be very, very particular about who he becomes friends with and what he will be sharing with them. Set strict rules about not befriending strangers, even if it happens to be the brother of a friend’s friend that he had met at some function. Give him the McAfee mantra—STOP, THINK, CONNECT.

Do remember, however, that it would be in your interest to maintain an invisible profile on your child’s wall. Do not comment on any picture or post. Share your feelings with your child personally. Never try to penalize your child by rebuking him on his page. It’s one of the worst things you could do to your child.

Relationships thrive on trust and respect and it has to work both ways. Also, little things like security software on all internet-enabled devices go a long way to ensure your equanimity and your child’s protection. 🙂

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.

Tweens & Technology Report 2013-McAfee Survey Shows Rise in The Online Activities Of Indian Tweens Part II

As promised in my previous blog, this one is solely to share with you all the relevant findings of the McAfee India survey titled, “Tweens and Technology Report 2013”. There are so many interesting points that have surfaced that I felt it extremely worthwhile to share it with you here.

McAfee’s Tweens & Technology Report 2013- India

Daily dose of internet usage/ online hours has become a must for tweens.

a)      53% of online tweens are online daily between 1-3 hours

b)      One in three tweens would miss the internet and their phone if it was missing for a day

c)       Tweens are online for approximately 2 hours a day and 45% of online tweens are online later than 8pm

d)      Within 4 hours (from 5 pm to 9 pm) 76% use internet while 23% of tweens online till after  9pm

On an average, online tweens in India are using between 3-4 devices that can be internet enabled – laptop, mobile & desktop predominantly.

a)      61% of tweens are spending 1-4 hours daily on desktop

b)      40% of Tweens use tablets and 68% use mobile to access the internet, so mobile is important

Tweens have a clear preference for not only the devices used for internet connectivity but also the type of activity on these devices. So while desktop is preferred mainly for home work, tablets are dominant when it comes to exchanging pictures and playing games.

a)      70% use desktop for home work related stuff compared to 38% using tablet

b)      49% use tablets for playing games & exchanging pictures compared to 40% using desktop

c)       22% tweens spend 2-4 hours every day on Xbox

Smartphone/ Mobile:

Internet access is still predominantly PC/laptop based, however, mobile is important – 40% of Tweens use tablets and 68% use mobile to access the internet

a)      16% of tweens are spending more than 4 hours each day on smartphones/ mobile

b)      9 out of 10 tweens use mobile phone (89%) and tablets (91%) to play games

c)       Only 15% of tweens use phone for home- work related aspects

In terms of social networking platforms, FB is by far the most popular site, followed by Skype and Twitter. FB is used significantly more than Skype and Twitter

a)      Top 3 ranking in terms of usage – 70%- Facebook, 44%- Skype and 27%- Twitter 

b)      All sites (especially Facebook) are more popular with older Tweens 10-12 years old (FB usage ranges from 58% for 8 year olds to 79% for 12 year olds)

c)       88% of FB users use FB to share photos of themselves while 73% use it to share photos family & friends

d)      Almost half of the tweens surveyed share information about themselves over FB (41%)

e)      This year, Skype has emerged as more widely used than twitter whereby one out of two tweens uses Skype compared to one out of four who uses twitter

Facebook facts-

i.  89% of the parents are friends with their child on Facebook, signifying parents generally know what’s going on

ii.  89% of Tweens using Facebook have their parents’ permission to use the site

iii. 73% of Tweens using Facebook asked their parents to be their friend

iv. 83% of Tweens feel it is okay for them to be using Facebook because their parents are

v.  70% of tweens were taught to use Facebook by the parents.  52% were taught by friends

vi.  88% of users share photos of themselves on facebook, 73% photos of family & friends, 59% events and 59% information about themselves


With Facebook, a significant number of parents are handholding their kids on the platform by assisting them in setting up their account and monitoring their activities. But parents apply internet rules in terms usage and timings very strictly, much to the dislike of tweens.


a)      89% of online tweens have parental permission to use the site

b)      89% of online tweens are also friends with their parents on FB

c)       70% of online tweens say their parents showed them how to use Facebook

d)      57% claim they were helped by their parents when setting up one of their account

e)      89% of tweens using Facebook have their parents’ permission to use

f)       87% of parents place limits on online usage

g)      53% of parents remove online devices from tweens bedrooms at night

h)      49% of online tweens are frustrated by these rules

A disturbing trend on the rise among tweens is their apathy towards their own online safety.

i)        58% of the surveyed tweens use risky / low level security passwords online.

j)        41% of the tweens surveyed share information about themselves over FB

It is not uncommon for tweens to be exposed to online nastiness; however, a good thing is that they are not passive observers.

a)      12 year olds are more likely to have seen nasty comments online than 8 year olds (33% vs. 16%)

b)       1 in 4 (27%) of online tweens has seen as nasty common directed at them or a friend online, While 21% did nothing , most of the tweens who have witnessed online cruelty either told a friend (49%), told parent (46%), told teacher (20%), told family member(20%) or  someone else or looked onto internet for help rather than doing nothing

They are becoming more trusting of the virtual world to familiarise themselves with unknown people, in spite of being aware that it is risky

a)      36% of online tweens have spoken to someone online that they didn’t previously know

b)      12 year olds are more likely to chat with strangers than 8 year olds (40% vs. 25%)

c)       22% of online tweens have shared personal information online – 26% who did share this did not think it to be risky

McAfee’s Tween & Technology Report 2013 was conducted through a survey administered across Indian online tweens aged 8-12 years old comprising 572 male and 428 female respondents from Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Delhi.


Facebook Graph Search – How To Stay Out Of Its Reach

I am not adverse to new concepts or technology. Rather, I am intrigued and try to discover more about them. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I potter around, try to find out further details and ascertaining whether it could be of use to me or others. So when I heard of Facebook Graph Search, I naturally wanted to know what it means to me. And to other parents, like you dear reader. J

What I found out about Facebook Graph Search is like all things, there’s both a good and bad side. The good side is that it can help one search for like-minded people, people who share similar hobbies, interests and connect with them. This can be fun for mature people to find and form a group of say, hikers, or food bloggers. But where school kids are concerned, I am worried. Though Facebook doesn’t allow kids below 13 to join the social network, children often forge age to do as they please. And therein lies the problem.

Facebook Graph Search is rather intrusive. It collects every little detail you have shared over the years-including your posts, likes, subscriptions, pics and comments and allows your friends and their friends to view them. It collects information from your profile, albums, and posts to help others find you. In that sense, it’s like being put through a scanner with the general public watching the monitor. Your privacy goes for a toss, unless you have stringent privacy settings.

Searches can range from ordinary ones like “people who love baking and live in Bangalore” to this weird one that searches for ‘single women who live nearby and who are interested in men and like getting drunk.” Weird and scary!

Can minors connect with strangers? Facebook says they can, if they have shared their contact info.

How do minors connect with other people?

Like adults, minors can appear in search results. Some things, like their school, address, hometown or birthday may only be visible to their friends, friends of their friends, and/or other minors. Adults and minors can also receive a friend request from someone who is not already a friend of a friend, such as a family relative or a friend with whom they have no mutual friends. Because friend requests may come from adults they don’t know, minors should always be careful when accepting these requests.

Messages are handled differently for minors and adults:

 Minors  Adults
Minors can receive messages from people who are friends of friends and people who have their contact information (ex: email address or phone number). This may include adults they don’t know. Adults can be messaged by anyone on Facebook.

So go to your and your child’s Facebook pages right away and check privacy settings. Simply posting an update asking friends to change their privacy settings for ‘friends’ may not be of much help.

Follow these simple steps to secure your Facebook posts:

1)      Click on ‘Privacy Settings’. Go to more settings. From the left hand side option, click on all one by one and edit settings to either “only me” or “friends” or “custom”. Remember, the more stringent you are, the less are the chances of your details appearing on a graph search.

2)      Activity Log: Check your activity log to hide posts or pics, edit your history and to decide what can be viewed on your Timeline.

3)      Turn off the option of ‘Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?’

4)       Apps: Its desirable to turn off apps for kids as they collect a lot of information on the sly

Right now, we needn’t worry about tools that dig deeper than general info. As Dan Farber says, “Graph Search can help discover shared likes and connections, but at a more granular level, the search engine doesn’t go very deep.”

But there’s one thing we will all do well to remember. Choose your online friends wisely. Give a good thought to who can view your pics and posts. Most times, the cybercriminal, bully or the stalker is a person who knows you and has some scores to settle. What can be an easier option than harming a person’s reputation online or misusing data, all the while remaining anonymous?

And as always, use McAfee Mobile Security for your smartphones to keep your data and your identity safe.

Is Your SNS Addiction Getting Out of Hand? – All Names Aren’t Cool

The news that went viral on social networking sites last week made me smile and shake my head and say, “Oh dear, oh dear”, in a real Miss Marple fashion. The Internet community was agog with the news of a newborn being named Hashtag! Nothing extraordinary perhaps, given the penchant among modern parents for bestowing unique names, but it surely makes it evident that the Mother is a Twitter addict. Other Internet-induced names that kids have been christened with include “Facebook“and “Like“. I am waiting for names like “Subscribe”, “Follow”, and “You-Tube”.

Parents have the right to choose unique names for their kids, names that reflect their love and liking, and I don’t argue that. But parents also need to come out of their new-found ecstasy and give a good thought to the future consequences of having such names. The names must not become a burden that the kids would want to get rid off at the earliest.

As Cybermum, my concern is with two issues here.

The Mother: With the fast growing use of technology in every sphere of life and the rise in the use of smartphones among kids, it is but a given that there will evolve more online communities and children will join such platforms at even earlier ages than the current 13. So if the Mother herself is a self-declared Twitter or Facebook or G+ addict, can she really control her child on social networking platforms or say a Big “No” to the child? A parent’s behaviour gives the kids arsenal to defeat them in parent-child tussles. Take for example an imaginary kid named “Status”, who would one day surely tell her Mom, “Well! I am from Facebook, aren’t I, so I have every right to go back to my origin”, or the like.

How can a Mother caution her child against something she herself so obviously is addicted to?

The Child: It does well to revisit one’s childhood memories and recall how kids tease those with funny names. Just think of you and your friends in junior and middle school. Did you never tease someone? What was it about- was it for a funny name, behavioural problem, dressing sense?  Had you ever been teased? How did it feel to be mocked and bullied? Do you want to subject your child to the same humiliation?

Kids can be quite cruel at times in their words and actions and this can have a negative consequence on the bullied child. A weird name will be like an open invitation to taunt and tease and torture from Day 1. Your kid might be able to take it for a while, even retort back if strong in character, but what if it continues and the child feels lonely, bullied, embarrassed? What if the child loses self-confidence and goes into depression or becomes a rebel and hates you for being the cause of the torture?

Would you like your action to lead to bullying of your child?

So go ahead. Have a lovely time looking for a unique name for your child – Google, ask your friends, take your parents’ advice. But make it a name your child will be proud of, a name your child will rejoice in.

And while on the net, remember to play safe. Use good security software and teach your kids by example.

Are Your Children Tweeting? – Its Fun but It Also Pays To Play Safe on Twitter

OK, let’s face it- I like talking. Perhaps a little too much but never ‘garrulous’ (as some mean spirits would say!) But I also love listening to people talking about themselves, their experiences, their discoveries, and their realizations. But what I like most is a good debate/discussion on all topics under the sun. And where else will you have such a wonderful heterogeneous mix of friends to talk or argue with than on Twitter?

Twitter, which came into existence barely six years ago, has taken the Internet community by storm. Today the micro-blogging site has over 500 million active users, yours truly being one of those addicts who feels restless if a day goes by without tweeting! I love the fact that there’s so much to discover every day, to discuss, to share- no wonder Twitter generates over 340 million tweets daily!

You know the fun parts of Twitter?

  • Post length can’t exceed 140 characters (We are spared from the attacks of the verbose!)
  • You get to meet like-minded people whom you would have otherwise never known
  • You can offer links to your blogs and get wider audience this way for your business, activities
  • It is a more personal way to interact, form groups, keep in touch with friends
  • Journalists, businesses, politicians use it widely and you can get to connect with them as well
  • Twitter is behind many of the recent social uprisings

So as long as you use the site wisely and responsibly, it offers a window to the world. Now the thing to know is what additional facts should parents know before they allow their kids to go on Twitter:

  • Twitter’s policy clearly states that its services are ‘not directed to persons under 13’. However, the site does not take any serious steps to enforce this limit
  • Whatever is posted under public settings becomes accessible to all, including direct message (dm). Even people you don’t follow can read your public posts

The red flags:

  • Twitter messages are public; and you can’t take back your words, even if you delete them
  • Twitter collects data about you and shares it with third parties
  • If the company is ever sold, this information can be sold off as an asset
  • Advertisers can target users based on their history of their tweets
  • The number of trolls is on the rise and they can prove to be really troublesome
  • There is no need to seek pre-approval or permission to share any users’ posts. So what you might intend for some to read may go viral, with sometimes unpleasant consequences
  • Spammers are already at work. They  spam accounts to direct higher traffic to their websites
  • Young people are at a high risk of being influenced by “online groomers
  • Hashtagged comments may backfire as trolls or mischief makers may bend them to suit their ends
  • Kids take their beefs (virtual arguments and fights) to the real world, and then it gets ugly

The dangers themselves suggest the remedies and precautions. Kids should play it safe and befriend only a limited few. Moreover, they should make their profiles “by request only”, so that they can choose who they want to interact with. Also educate them on how to identify, avoid and block trolls and abusive people.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that people on Twitter air their personal views and often exaggerate. So kids should under no circumstances believe all that they read.

And remember to keep your security software installed and upgraded. Every time I check out suggested link and my McAfee Total Protection stops me with a bright “WHOA! Do you really want to go there?” message. I am thankful and feel so very secure. Try it, its liberating J

Happy Tweeting, Tweeps…cheep, cheep!!!

What Online Shoppers in India Must Be Wary of – McAfee Shows the Way

McAfee had commissioned a study titled, “2012 Holiday Shopping Study” to find out the online habits and behaviors of Indians, especially those planning to use the Internet and mobile devices to shop this holiday season. In light of these findings, McAfee exposes the Top 12 Scams of Christmas that cyber crooks have planned to swindle those who shop online this holiday season.

There are some interesting findings from the survey that I’d like to draw your attention to:

  • Indian respondents scored the highest amongst all countries in terms of resorting to smart phones to purchase holiday gifts for others for end of year celebrations
  • Though most Indians professed a degree of concern regarding the probable loss of personal information while using an app on a smartphone or tablet, still 95% of them are willing to provide some level of personal information if that can get them discounts, free gifts etc!
  • Indians are also more likely to be a victim of a cyber scam. More than 23% of polled Indians have been victims and almost 25% of the respondents know someone who has been a victim
  • 40% of those Indians who plan on shopping online during the 2012 holiday season plan on using a PC (50%) will use a tablet (23%) and/or 38% will use their smartphones

So what should these shoppers be wary of? Here’s is an interesting infographics to reveal just that…


5 simple things to do to stay safe while shopping online:

  1. Ensure you have an advanced security software installed
  2. Check the site, ask around, read reviews before carrying out transactions
  3.  Always be suspicious of free gifts, tempting offers and massive discounts-there’s never any free meal. Don’t fill up  survey forms to win free iPads,  for that’s a clever way to details
  4. Check shipping and return policies and read buyer reviews for the products
  5. Do not share credit card details and other sensitive data like birth date. Use your credit card for transactions, rather than your debit card

Have you started using McAfee SiteAdvisor? If not, download it pronto. It will tell you which sites are unsafe or have malicious content. Just steer clear of them. Happy shopping!!