Every day, we power up our computers to stream music or post that photo from lunch. But all the while, a website or program might be recording our – and our children’s — every digital footstep. That’s a terrifying idea for any parent. And it’s also why it’s so important to educate children about their digital footprints. Children need to know how apps and sites record information. Additionally, they need to understand how malicious programs attempt to infiltrate your computer. Here’s the information parents and teachers need to educate children and teens about digital safety – before it’s too late.
Geolocation and Social Media
Geolocation estimates and broadcasts the location of devices like cell phones and laptops. Moreover, apps and websites often use geolocation – sometimes down to the exact address of the device’s locations. For example, apps may use geolocation to help drivers re-route to avoid traffic. Or a social media site may use geolocation to help you find where your friends are – and help people find exactly where you are. Also, digital photos contain information that reveals exactly where the picture was taken. Therefore, geolocation may be convenient, but there are obvious dangers.
Thankfully, there are ways to avoid these dangers. You can, for instance, wipe geolocations from photos. That way, no one will be able to track the whereabouts of you or your children. If using a computer with Windows, simply right click on the photo and click Remove Properties and Personal Information. The same can also be done on a Mac. When you’re using Mac OS Yosemite, open up your photo in Preview. Then, go to Tools in your menu bar. Select Show Inspector, hit the (i) icon for info. Click the GPS tab. There, you’ll see an option to Remove Location info.
Phishing is one of the most popular ways for hackers to gain information. In phishing scams, hackers e-mail spam links to users. Often, these e-mails appear nearly identical to those sent by legitimate companies. In fact, hackers often attempt to replicate e-mails from companies a user trusts. If a user clicks on a link, hackers capture invaluable information. This may include credit card information, social security numbers and passwords. When it comes to links, it’s far better to be safe than sorry. If the sender’s address or URL of the link looks different from the ones you usually see, don’t click on anything and report it to the company.
Avoiding Adware, Malware and Spyware
We all hate pop-up ads. Adware, an easy money-making scheme for many companies, generates ads on a user’s screen. When Adware also gathers information about that user’s behavior on their computer without consent, it’s called Spyware. Sometimes, a program carries a virus, Trojan Horse, worm or other piece of code that damages a computer. That’s called Malware. All three often occur when a user clicks on ads that aren’t legitimate. The best way to prevent adware or spyware is to not click on ads. Also, you can download extensions or apps that will wipe all banner ads and most popups from your viewing. Two popular extensions include Adblock and uBlock.
Though the internet is a dangerous place, it’s also a wonderful place. The internet allows us to access information, goods and services. It also helps us to keep in touch with old friends and find new friends. Thankfully, by educating yourself and your children, you can make the online world a much safer place.
Text by Jonathon Page