2015- A Relook at Cyber Parenting and Cyber Safety

Hello readers!  You know what I believe? I believe that a new year is another opportunity given to us to rectify errors, start afresh, explore new territories and do something we have always meant to do but never had the time or heart to do. It makes for new experiences, and make life more interesting, don’t you think?

As I concern myself primarily with cybersafety, my focus will be on the discovery of the new social media sites children have migrated to and safety issues concerning them. Social media is a revolution that is taking the world by storm and no one can remain immune to its attractions; certainly n not your tweens and teens.

The 2014 McAfee “Tweens, Teens & Technology Report” reveal some interesting data. The survey findings show that a substantial count of youth are online and enjoying it, with 66% of the youth stating they felt more comfortable on social media than in person. That’s quite a number, considering the count of tweens and teens as per the last census.

In addition, they looked up to social media approval to feel more accepted in their peer group. 72% wished they received more likes while 58% felt depressed if they didn’t receive as many likes as they would have liked.

I hear a loud, clear message from kids here. They need to be heard, they need to share and they need to feel appreciated and admired. True that they want the ears and appreciation of their peers mainly, but if we parents gave them our love, our undivided attention and REALLY listened to their views and angst, perhaps their state of happiness wouldn’t depend so much on the reactions of online friends?

Here’s something that happened to a sister-in-law of mine very recently. She went ballistic because she had misplaced her new smartphone and turned the house upside down looking for it, but in vain. Late that night her teenage son defiantly handed her the phone. She was thunderstruck, bereft of words!

He just said, “Today was a wonderful day. You actually listened to what I had to say, instead of mumbling something as you checked your WhatsApp messages. And we had such a lovely and long dinnertime conversation.”

She called me up to share this and I said, “You got the wake-up call. Better take note and ditch the phone when in the company of your son. He would love and respect you more for it.”

I had got my wake-up call in a restaurant while out on a family dinner. After placing orders, I couldn’t ignore the itch to check my messages quickly. I was brought back to reality by my daughter who said, “Mom! I don’t like it when you check your messages when we are supposed to be bonding as a family.” Whoa!! Whoa!! Whoa!!

Most children would usually not express their needs so clearly and slowly drift apart from parents. Don’t let that happen. Just like you have rules for smartphone use by your kids, have some for yourselves too.

More on social media platforms later. For now, let’s just hug our kids tight and give them all our love and attention. Stop.Think.Connect.  What better way to start the year?

Happy parenting in 2015!!!

Wishing all my readers a very happy new year! Stay curious, stay safe.


Indian youth are constantly connected in Cyberia but parents still not supervising them enough – McAfee’s Tweens, Teens & Technology Report 2014

Long, long ago (future stories would go) children had little diaries with locks to secretly record their emotional out pour, dreams and aspirations. Those precious diaries were guarded fiercely and only a select few would have the privilege of getting a look at their writing. The world, in general, remained unaware of the child’s confidences.

But then there came the social media and the little diaries soon became a thing of the past.

Today, children globally have found a very acceptable and appealing platform to express, communicate, connect, share and broadcast. Thanks to the net and emergence of social media, they now can connect with people all across the world, get access to different views and air their own.

Social media has many advantages that suit the temperament of the children of the 2-minutes super-fast cyber age. They want to connect, and connect fast. They want to speak to many people at once and share things as they happen. They want their friends to know their emotions, empathize with them and offer advice, or approval, if needed. They want to know global opinion on subjects of their choice and discuss/debate these on a public forum. They want to gain confidence by making friends online. They want to share their ideas, creativity and angst. Social media fulfills all these needs perfectly.

The latest McAfee Tweens, Teens & Technology Report 2014 for India demonstrates the strong liking that tweens (8-12) and teens (13-17) have for this platform. 70% of online youth in India spend more than 5 hours on the internet in a normal week. Of these, 41% access the net predominantly on the desktop, 36% on the laptops and 27% use smartphones.

And if one reviews the different networking platforms they use, one will be left in no doubt as to the popularity of this medium among kids. Facebook is passé, children are connecting on newer platforms like YouTube, WhatsApp, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tinder, and Vine. What is noteworthy is that many tweens are on these platforms, despite the minimum age to register to these social networking sites being 13.

With kids being online with so much ease, connecting with anything that’s new, technical and trendy that they can well be called netizens. Not surprisingly, they have come to trust the virtual world more than the real world. After all, they can get all their queries answered; their need for friendship and peer approval met; and their spirit of adventure satiated. 53% of the tween/teens surveyed have met someone in person that they first met online, 52% chatted with strangers during online gaming and 42% with celebs who were live tweeting. This is besides the normal chatting with friends and acquaintances.

It is quite obvious therefore that quite a few kids will unwittingly or deliberately say more than they ought to, online. The current statistics supports this. Though 80% of those surveyed were aware that their online activity can affect their identity, yet 90% have posted content that have revealed their personal info or other risky data.

Children today are a curious mix of knowledge and naiveté. On one hand, they are very aware of the risks involved with careless use of the internet and on the other, they do not take measures to protect their self and their personal info, thus putting themselves at risk.

And this is where the parents come in. they are already supervising children in the real world and ensuring their safety and security. They now need to extend this to the virtual world as well.

Which means, parents need to:

(a) Understand and use technology like smartphones and laptops

(b) Be aware of the risks involved with e-mails, messaging apps and chat rooms

(c) Play online games with children to understand the environment from where they are picking up vocabulary, attitude, and ideas

(d) Sign up on social media to get a firsthand experience of the platform as well as keep an eye on kids active there, and

(e) Talk to children about how to stay safe when they go online or use social media

But the very first thing to do when they bring any internet-enabled gadget home is to secure it to keep it free from malware, activate parental controls and supervise kids online. The best solution for this is to install a branded, comprehensive security software that offers parental controls. Some reputed products for your computers, tabs and laptops are McAfee Live Safe. For the security of your smartphones, download the FREE, award-winning McAfee Mobile Security today!

More on the findings later. Till then –  Stop, Think & Connect.

Read my blogs and follow my tweets to stay updated on all cyber safety related matters.Stay safe, stay happy!

McAfee Teens, Teens & Technology 2014

iCloud Hacking- What lessons Does It Hold For Parents Everywhere?

A couple of weeks ago, global media was abuzz with the news of iCloud hacking where hundreds of personal photos of celebs were hacked and publicly shared. With iPhone cloud storage being a popular option with most Apple device users, it’s but natural that the layperson is worried and confused.  Even those using Android and Windows phones are wondering what this means and how this could happen.

 Friends are baffled. They shoot a myriad of questions at me– What is iCloud? Exactly how has it happened? I store photos online, can they be hacked? What do I do?

A young friend confided that she has been trying to read up more on this online but is rather baffled by all the high-falutin terms being thrown around, including “brute force”; “social engineering”; “2-step verification”; “encrypted data’; “malicious user” etc. All she wants to know is (a) Is her cloud-stored data under threat (b) what she can do to ensure her account is more securely protected.

I suspect there are many more in the same sea, especially those who are scared off by anything tech. Already some mothers, whose teens own/use iPads and iPhones, have approached me for clarifications of their doubts. They want to know what’s safe and unsafe and what should they advise their children.

Is there any safety in storing data online and what tips should they give their teens?

Yes, it is still safe as long as you take the most basic but necessary precautionary measures. Storage without proper security is like locking up a safe and leaving the key around. The service providers will be working round the clock to offer maximum security, but you have to do your bit too. There is a reason why users are often referred to as the ‘human bug’ for they are the weakest link in the security chain. The user has to be careful, judicious and not too-trusting.

Consider the scenario: Your bank calls up to say that the system has been affected by a bug and they need to reset all user info. They will need certain details to authenticate your phone number and id. You believe and blindly answer questions posed to you.

You trusted the caller. You did not verify the reasons provided nor check back with the bank. So you will definitely be the main reason behind any future financial frauds you suffer, not the security system of your bank, get it?

This is called social engineering, a very popular way to obtain details from a person on account (social and financial), your date of birth, maiden name of mother, pet’s name, favourite holiday destination etc. Some of those personality quizzes you so love taking online are also designed to gather as much information on you as possible.

The user is therefore often the weakest link and therefore the user has to be learn and practice online safety.

Here’s what you should teach your child (and practice yourself):

  1. Strong and Unique Password: Be the owner of strong and long passwords. More than strength, the secret of a good password is its uniqueness. Don’t please include your full name and birthday or your pet’s name. Be origin, use a passphrase if you like. Use a password manager to store your passwords for you.
  2. Different passwords for different accounts: This is oft said but most unheeded. The login information for your bank account, your online storage account or your social media accounts must in no way be common. Don’t make it easy for the thieves to steal from you.
  3. Enable Two-Step verification on all online accounts: This is a very easy to implement safety measure that I follow and recommend. For eg, when I, or anyone else, tries to access my Facebook account from a different computer, I am notified and a verification code is sent to my mobile.

Similarly, for online banking, security questions/ OTP (One-Time Password) help protect your account from fraud.

Apple has also rolled out 2-factor authentication, use it.

  1. Disable auto backup: Sometimes you have a lot of photos and messages on your gadgets that you would not like to store. However, auto backup means all data gets stored. So if you delete them from your gadgets, they don’t get deleted from your cloud storage accounts. It’s a good idea to check your storage and do a cleanup from time to time.
  2. Free isn’t a good idea always: Ponder well before signing up for a free Cloud service. Will it offer max security without levying any charges? I would be doubtful about that. It’s a very good idea to read the T&Cs carefully before clicking on “I Accept”
  3. Think before you post/share/store: To McAfee’s security mantra of STOP.THINK.SHARE. I would like to add another word-STORE. Consider what you would like to stay online. You can consider an external storage device to store very personal content. And then keep it in a SAFE place.

This is what security firm McAfee suggests, “…users should avoid setting up passwords that are too obvious to be guessed by hackers. These passwords are “personal information, like your birthday, pet’s name, or a favorite color“.

Incidentally, McAfee LiveSafe is an award-winning product that covers all your gadgets and offers protection including Secure Cloud Storage, Password management, Identity protection and cross-device antivirus. Get it today!

Online data storage still continues to be a boon, regardless of the recent hack. Data is sent and stored in an encrypted format and requires secure tokens for authentication. This implies that it isn’t easy to access this data without access to proper credentials. Which in turn indicates that it is easier for hackers to acquire the login information of the users from the users themselves.

So lock up your data using your own, unique key and keep the key in a very, very safe place. And sleep soundly at night without worries J

Stay safe online folks!!

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 netlingo.com)

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:http://mcaf.ee/8b2p7. 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: http://mcaf.ee/z1lmp


This Mother’s Day, Pledge towards a Cyber Smart Family

In today’s demanding digital era, cyber parenting is the need of the hour. Today’s digital natives are exposed to an unrestricted virtual world where they indiscriminately share personal information that makes them vulnerable to various cyber exploits. This makes it important for a mother to don an additional hat of being a cyber-mother and work towards building a cyber-smart family.
According to McAfee’s Tweens & Technology Report 2013 (a study which analysed the online behaviour of India’s next generation of digital natives), Indian kids between 8-12 years  were found not exercising caution while communicating online – 36% of Tweens had chatted with strangers online, placing themselves in risky situations and vulnerable to risky internet behaviour.
The study also showed that on an average, Indian tweens use 3-4 internet enabled devices for entertainment, social networking, and research and school assignments.  Further, there has been a growing trend of Indian tweens (kids aged 8-12) having unauthorised Facebook accounts despite being under the stipulated age to access Facebook which is 13 years. 3 in 4 (70%) kids admitted to currently using Facebook and 59% admitted sharing personal information on Facebook.
This unauthorised access and oversharing of information on social networking sites apart from other communication channels such as messaging apps, smart phone games, etc makes the online lives of kids potentially vulnerable with negative experiences like cyber bullying, befriending unknown strangers, getting into relationships and accessing provocative content. And in this scenario, guiding our kids and proactively sharing potential threats and how to deal with them plays an important role. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, here are some steps that you can take as a mother to handhold your children and create a cyber-smart family:

  • 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.
  • Work as a team to set boundaries. Discuss what is OK and what is not OK regarding what kind of web sites are appropriate for them, which chat rooms to visit, and what kinds of things they can talk about there. Get to know your child’s online friends as you do their school and neighbourhood friends. Learn to surf the web and chat online yourself so you understand what it is that your child is doing.
  • Talk and share. Talking and discussions will take you a long way with your child especially if we discuss cyber threats that are more prevalent today. Referring to one’s own experiences always can help you be their confidantes.
  • 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.
  • Have security software installed on all Internet-enabled devices. The need for advanced security software like McAfee Total Protection and can’t be emphasized enough. If you set up parental controls, you will be able to monitor your kids on all the devices simultaneously. You will be informed if strangers approach your child online or if inappropriate content or language is exchanged. You will also be able to regulate internet use and website access. You can also use free tools such as McAfee Mobile Security available for Android and iOS devices to prevent privacy invasions, data loss, identity theft and McAfee Site Advisor® technology that protects users from malicious websites and browser exploits.

And lastly, the mantra you need to give your child to stay safe online is “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”

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.”

Child online – what every mom should be aware of

Till the age of 10, a child lives in an idyllic world of his own creation, where only his games and parents are often enough to keep him blissfully happy. But come the tweens and teens, there is a sea-change in his attitude to life. Suddenly the child is besieged with hitherto unknown emotions, ideas and needs. And he also feels this urge to discover new people, places, and interests. And this leads him to explore the world beyond his ken.

Is there a specific kind of child who seeks friendship with strangers online? The answer is NO. The daring and adventurous child looks for excitement and connects with people who hold their interest. The aggressive child is also interested in learning more about other kids and peer sentiments and so visit networking sites. The timid kid, who doesn’t desire any adventure often desire new friends whose wavelength would match their own and who would not bully or demean them. The neglected, lonely child craves for attention and looks for it online.

The cyber world offers such kids the opportunity to meet interesting and exciting people who excite their imagination. And children, including teens, are not always far-sighted or experienced enough to separate the grain from the chaff; the genuine people online from the cyber crooks and predators.

So how can strangers connect to your children online?

  • Through chat rooms like Chatroulette, TinyChatnext
  • Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, You-Tube, Flickr, FourSquare
  • Messaging Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram,Whisper, SnapChat
  • Gaming Apps and devices, like PSP, XBOX
  • Emails and text messages

Not all strangers are bad, but then how does one determine that in the virtual world where even the identity shared may not be true?  With the fear of cyber crooks, hackers and predators present, it is indeed necessary that we know how to keep our children safe when they go online. And NO, banning Internet at home is not the answer because they will simply access it elsewhere.

You can instead:

Communicate: All the time, anytime, talk to your kids. It can be about anything, but the intention should be to keep communication channels open, share and listen

Listen: We often do not pay full attention to what kids are saying and answer their series of queries with an absent-minded “Hmm?” This sends the wrong signal that you aren’t interested in knowing about his life and will effectively shut him up.

Use security software: On all devices-including every laptop, tablet and smartphone in the house. Keep parental controls turned on. Disable webcams and chatrooms. I strongly recommend McAfee Total Protection. Just try it!

Family time: Express your love for your child all the time, even after you have chastised him. Set aside time for activities that your whole family loves doing. Spend time online with kids, playing games, checking out new devices, watching You-Tube videos of interest

Make Social media usage rules: the whole family should abide by them. Prohibit children from sending out friend request to strangers or accepting their friendship without your consent. Restrict social media access time and device. It’s advisable not to allow kids the privilege of accessing internet on their phones till they are mature enough to do the right thing. There should be penalties for breach of rules.

  • Monitor: yes you can and should, just the way you do in real life. Be especially vigilant if child changes screen when someone enters the room, wipes browser history, surfs incognito
  • Share and discuss: Everyone should share, say at the dinner table, if they have received a new friend request, inappropriate message, picture etc. and then the whole family should discuss how to handle it. Share stories about predators, ask children if their friends have faced similar issues
  • Say NO: you are the parent and so you have every right to say no when the occasion demands. But do so firmly but lovingly. You are the parent first and their safety is your concern. Children know that, even if they rebel against it

 This is what you should teach your child when they start online socializing: STOP. THINK. CONNECT

Being a parent is a difficult task, and the net has made it a wee bit more complicated. As Cybermum, my advice to you would be, be there for your child and keep an eye on his friends, online activities and change in behaviour. Do this till the child is mature and responsible enough to surf responsibly.

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!


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!

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.