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.”

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Internet Safety Resolutions for 2014

My daughter loves forming New Year resolutions! Every January 01, she diligently pens down her resolutions (always interesting ones!) on a pretty piece of paper, decorates it beautifully and then tacks it over her study with coloured tapes.  It helps her to keep things in perspective for the year, she says.

Sonny Boy of course keeps miles away from publicly displaying his resolutions. I have this nagging feeling that if I forced him to make one, it would most probably turn out to be “I must increase my score in some MMOG”!

Well, this gave Cybermum a bright idea. Things needed to be kept in perspective where the computer, smartphones and gaming devices are concerned as well. Why not make the kids slog it out over the Internet habits they should adopt in 2014 and the ones they should try and change/discard? It would help them to think, really think hard, about their online habits and take independent decisions, sans parental orders arousing rebellion in their hearts.

I was charged up – this had to go into action immediately! So armed with a paper and a set of sketch pens, I approached the duo and explained what I wanted.

What? Come on Mom, I am a teen!” wailed Sonny Boy.

That should make it that much easier for you to decide what’s good and what’s unsafe on the net,” I replied placidly. Being placid is the only way, you see, to handle the angry teens when you want them to do something they don’t want to do. Arguing never gets you anywhere.

Daughter did the eye-rolling and grumbling but boy was I adamant! So finally they sat down to it, and after some time I could hear them seriously discussing and arguing over what’s safe and what’s not!

Here is their internet safety list for 2014:

Things not to do:

1.       Never to participate in the surveys that promise gifts galore or click on the flashing message that declares them to be the winner of an Internet lottery.

2.       Not accept friendship requests from little known friends of friend and ignore friend requests from strangers

3.       Never tag anyone in pics they post without prior permission

4.       Never to get involved in arguments, bullying and gossiping on a public forum

5.       Not turn on Wi-Fi on their phones in public spots

Things to do:

1.       Always run the computer/laptop with a trusted security software like McAfee

2.       Cut down on the time spent on social networking and playing games online

3.       Use Facebook more to interact with cousins and relatives

4.       Download only verified apps on phones

5.       Report spams and bullies

Interesting, isn’t it? There could have been many more but I didn’t press. I was happy they thought up these many, the effect of our numerous talks on this subject 😉

Why don’t you try this at your home? See what safety tips the kids have picked up from you? It would be both satisfying and an engaging experience. You can join them too.

Happy surfing in 2014 folks – stay safe online!

Dos And Don’ts Of Online Shopping

Let me begin with a confession. I am addicted to shopping. Nothing lifts off those blues faster than a purchasing spree across several of my favourite stores. And not only for myself or my family- I am happy to accompany others too on their shopping spree; like for my cousin’s trousseau, my sister’s kid’s birthday return gifts or New year’s gifts for my friend’s business associates. I am equally happy shopping for school uniforms and groceries, decorative items and linens. Shopping is cathartic for me.

But the mad traffic and the even madder crowds at the shops often act as deterrents. At such times, online shopping is a heaven-sent opportunity to shop from the safety and comfort of your homes. Another plus point is that you don’t have to lug around heavy packages, nor have to pack and parcel gifts to friends! You simply ask them to deliver the packages to the address of your choice!

For shopophoebics (there is no term for fear of shopping) like my husband, online shopping is a boon! Our preferred sellers send him birthday and anniversary reminders and he just selects and pays for what he wants to gift me that year. And voila! You have the Husband of the Year- the pride of my life, the envy of my friends.

However, as Cybermum India, I can’t but add a word of caution. You should be extra cautious while doing online transactions because:

  • You don’t know the seller personally
  • You can’t verify the address, phone number, sales figures
  • You can’t physically check the goods
  • You are unsure of the site’s security policies and ethics

But it definitely does not mean you keep away from online shopping. It just means be careful. Do a background check of the seller you select. Start with the site address. Check whether it looks authentic and begins with https//. Another check is to see if the site is encrypted, with a lock sign on top right.

It is recommended that you read  buyer reviews. You should also find out whether they have any return or refund policies. Most importantly, you need to investigate payment modes-do they have a safe Visa Secure or Paypal payment mode? It is preferable to select credit cards or “Cash-on-delivery” modes of payments. Check for address and contact nos. If possible, call up their customer service and discuss their sales, delivery, and refund policies, when placing orders for the first time. Upon delivery, check the items minutely. Check your credit card statements. Keep printed records of all transactions.

McAfee lists some Do’s and Don’ts of Online Shopping

Do’s : 

• Do your homework, research web sites

• Do pay by credit card or online payment services

• Do buy from a web site that has encryption

• Don’t buy from a web site unless it is certified for safety

• Do check the web site’s policies before you order.

• Do use comprehensive computer security software

• Don’t forget to inspect your new purchase as soon as it arrives

• Do check your credit card statements

Don’ts : 

• Don’t buy from spammers

• Don’t pay by debit card, cash, or wire transfer

• Don’t buy from a web site unless it is certified for safety

• Don’t buy from a site with which you aren’t totally comfortable

• Don’t forget to inspect your new purchase as soon as it arrives

• Don’t let children buy games, gifts online without any adult supervision

For additional information, check this site

Has Your Family Taken the Internet Pledge Yet?

Sometimes we need reminders as to why we must continue to follow rules or do things in a particular way. The human mind is very flighty and tends to forget important issues, no matter how well they had been drilled into the head. Especially, if those heads belong to kids and the rules limit their activities.

You guessed it, I am talking about safe Internet usage rules, and ensuring children remember and follow them, always.

I came across a very interesting pledge that McAfee has prepared for parents/teachers just like us. With our pre-teens and teens becoming more and more obsessed with the computers, laptops, iPhones and other smartphones, we are always on tenterhooks about their online safety. But we do not know exactly what we should ask our kids to do or not do. Other than the usual stuff like, ‘don’t access websites containing violent, abusive, or sexual content’; ‘don’t spend the major part of the day on the computer,’ and ‘don’t put up pictures on social networking sites like Facebook,’ we really are confused about what other dangers we should anticipate and take preventive actions for.

Further, it does feel a bit weird to frame internet usage rules for kids who, let’s admit frankly, know more about computers than us. But should that stop us from ensuring the online safety of our kids?

Even if you have installed a comprehensive security software like the McAfee Family Protection Suite that records all your kids’ online activities, it will be beneficial for the children to be responsible about their internet usage. You can turn this into an important value-education by talking about rights and duties. Further, with the internet increasingly becoming a major source of infotainment, education and socialising, everyone must learn the right Internet etiquettes.

The advantage of using the McAfee pledge is that it is readymade; comes from a neutral but authoritative source and the whole family can take it together. This way the kids will not feel that adults have yet again imposed some new rules on them. Further, they will be mindful of their actions to avoid the associated consequences.

Why don’t you print out this form, get the kids’ signature on it, and then put it up in a prominent place near the computer? This way nobody can get off with the lame excuse of “I forgot,” and will have to voluntarily accept the pre-decided penalties. Can you imagine the peaceful co-existence of teens and adults this practice will make possible? It’s bliss!

Keep your kids safe on the net people!