It’s a fact of life: once school is out, kids spend more time online. You may try to schedule when they can and can’t use the PC and use solutions like Parental Control to prevent some trouble. But simply limiting access to Facebook and YouTube and the rest of the online world is a limited strategy. The fact is whether it’s on a desktop, a laptop or a smartphone, most kids—or at least, most teenagers—can get online whenever they want.
That’s why we suggest spending a few minutes explaining the risks of cybercrime and online predators to your family. Of course, your kids will probably brush you off by repeating “I know, Mom (or Dad)” over and over, as if you’re trying to discuss the birds and the bees. So don’t go in unprepared. Check out these five quick tips to keep your kids and your PC safe until school resumes in fall.
1. Repeat the mantra “Links are not your friends”
Cybercriminals are aware that millions of people Facebook have plenty of time to kill. That’s why they’re spreading their scams with links described as “The Sexiest Video EVER” or “You’ll never believe this LOL.” When you’re bored and a link like that appears on a Facebook wall posted by a friend, it takes incredible will power not to click it. So repeat this mantra: If a link looks too good to be true, it is. Of course, this won’t always work. That’s why you should bookmark F-Secure’s free Browsing Protection. If your son or daughter feels they must click, have them check it out first. What else do they have to do? It’s summer.
2. Keep up with the updates
If you don’t keep your system software up to date, you risk inviting predators into your PC. Monthly updates for Windows, Adobe Reader, iTunes, and other applications are essential for your online safety. F-Secure’s Health Check makes this time-consuming process easy. Run it once a month and save yourself some major headaches.
3. Tell your kids that you will handle installing software
Once you’ve run Health Check and made sure you’re protected, there’s no need for your kids to install any random software that pops up. So tell your child that it’s mom or dad’s job to install new software, no matter what pops up. Once you’re home and had a nice summer beverage, check out the software. Google it to see if it’s a legitimate and then decide if it’s worth your hard drive space. Nothing ruins a nice summer afternoon like getting tricked into installing malware on your PC.
4. Make clear what information your kids should not share
Most kids know more about Facebook than you’d ever want to. They know how to add and erase apps or how to block this user and not that one. But they may not know what they should NOT share. Tell your kids that they should never private information—email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses—on any social network. They should also avoid posting information about their schedule, especially vacations or details about when their parents will be home or not. Your kids need to know that no matter how private their settings tell them they are, anything they post on a social network should be considered as public as the front page of a newspaper—if they know what that is.
5. Let them know that you are watching
You need to know which social networks your children are on. If you have the time and patience, it’s a good idea to start a profile on the site and become their friend or follower. It doesn’t take long, maybe five minutes per site. You can’t watch your child every minute. But if they get the sense that you could be watching, it can only help them think before they click or post.
CC image credit: James Emery
You should know that Facebook can play with your emotions. If you're reading this you're probably aware that your Facebook feed doesn't simply serve you the latest posts from the friends and pages you follow. Given that most of us follow hundred -- if not thousands -- of people, places and brands, a real-time feed would dramatically change the Facebook experience. And it would likely greatly reduce engagement, which is the site's life force. But if you do know this, you may be in the minority. A new study from a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, California State University, Fresno and the University of Michigan found that most of a group of 40 Facebook users, 62.5 percent had no idea that their feed is filtered by the world's largest social network. And not knowing that actually seemed to have negative affects on users' psyches. “In the extreme case, it may be that whenever a software developer in Menlo Park adjusts a parameter, someone somewhere wrongly starts to believe themselves to be unloved,” the researchers wrote. The study used a tool to create an unfiltered feed that showed them what they'd been missing. While they weren't thrilled how Facebook decided which friends posts they'd see, "[m]ost came to think that the filtering and ranking software was actually doing a decent job," Fusion's Alex Madrigal writes. In 2014, Facebook partnered in an academic paper that revealed it had manipulated users feeds to adjust how many positive and negative posts they saw. It found that moods were contagious. Positive feeds led to positive posts and vice versa. Users agree to such manipulation in Facebook's terms and conditions -- which you clearly know by heart -- but the revelation still led to a huge backlash. In the recent study, participants found that being aware they were being fed stories by Facebook's algorithm "bolstered overall feelings of control on the site" and led to more active engagement. So if you didn't know a formula was guiding your interactions before you probably already feel better. But there's more you can do if you want to make sure Facebook is showing you the things you actually want to see. 1. Be proactive. Go directly to the pages of the people, companies and artists you want to see more of then engage. Like posts or comments. Comment yourself. Share posts. Facebook's motivation is to keep you on the site as long as humanly possible--and it's very good at it. If it's not showing something you'd enjoy seeing, it probably would like to. So let it know. 2. Choose "Most Recent" posts. In the left column of your home page, click on the arrow next to "News Feed". If you select "Most Recent", your experience will likely be less filtered. Though you still should not to expect to see every post that ends up on the site. 3. Go to News Feed Preferences. Click on the down arrow that's on every Facebook page and select News Feed Preferences. The goal here is to unfollow anything you're sick of seeing so you get more of what you do want. Or re-follow people or things you've missed. 4. Tell your feed what you like. Facebook wants you to take an active role in adjusting your algorithm. That's why every post in your feed has a dim down arrow that you can select. If something really bugs you, tell Facebook you don't want to see and Unfollow the person or page. If you really love it, you can "Turn on notifications" which guarantees that every future post ends up in your notifications -- that little globe on the top navigation. Your notifications can act as a secondary newsfeed to make sure you don't miss posts from your favorites. 5. Switch to Twitter and Tweetdeck. If you want complete control over your newsfeed, you're never going to get it on Facebook. Even Twitter is moving away from this method of feeding content for a pretty simple reason, it needs more engagement. Given that Facebook and Twitter employee dozens if not hundred of programmers and experts paid to make their sites captivate you, they figure they're better at it than you. If you want to prove them wrong, Twitter's Tweetdeck app, which works in your browser, still offers unmediated newsfeeds so you can feed your own brain. Twitter isn't quite as personal or ubiquitous as Facebook -- but it is the next best thing. Try it out and see if you feel more loved. Cheers, Jason [Photo by Geraint Rowland | Flickr]