As the 2022-23 school year begins in communities across Texas and teachers, administrators and families adapt to varying situations, Better Business Bureau reminds residents to remain cautious when interacting online.
While face-to-face instruction is the primary method for administering classes this year, the continued presence of COVID-19 requires preparation and flexibility for possible online instruction. Familiarity with remote learning may have instilled a false sense of security in youths who often do not fully understand the dangers of the internet.
Better Business Bureau offers the following tips on how to stay safe on the internet this school year.
Teachers and Administrators
Videoconferencing tools. Make sure the online software used to deliver lectures, classroom work and other online interactions is secure. The days of Zoom bombing, phishing and other forms of cybercriminal activity are not over.
Evaluate and update cybersecurity plans. Now is the time for educators to develop a plan to notify students, faculty and staff should there be a data breach or security problem once classes are in session. Look at what type of information is stored digitally and the consequences if that information is compromised. What processes are in place to help mitigate the risk?
Keep a clean machine and update devices that connect to the internet. Scheduling and regularly backing up critical lesson plans, personal information and assignments is the best way to recover from viruses, malware and other online threats. A great practice to protect your device is to stay updated on current software, which often includes updates that prevent cybercriminals from accessing electronic devices.
Parents: Be Careful
Creating accounts on websites without permission. Social media sites are full of strangers with intentions that may differ from yours. Many sites are designed to collect and sell unauthorized user details and behaviors to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. When creating an account, some children may falsely create a birthdate to meet the minimum age requirement. Know what your child is doing online and keep track of the social media sites and accounts they have access to.
Adults are not the only ones who receive spam and junk mail. Kids often get junk mail, and since they don’t have much online experience, there is a greater chance they may click on links and answer questions they probably shouldn’t. While some emails may be legitimate, the last thing parents want is a $500 bill from a fraudulent website where their child may have made a purchase – or worse, releasing personal information that con artists can track to your home.
Understand apps. Short for “applications,” apps are downloaded software that operates on various devices, such as smartphones. However, certain apps might collect and share personal information about your child or target your child with ads. Even free apps may include paid features, and children may not understand that some apps or game features cost money since the developer labeled them free to download. They may click on these so-called free games and end up costing parents or guardians a hefty bill at the end of the month.
File sharing sites. Many websites allow children to download free media. They may not know that these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus, allowing identity thieves to access the gaming device, personal computer, or even a cell phone. From there, the cyber thief can track financial transactions and geographic location or tap into the household Wi-Fi without anyone knowing it.
Tips on How to Manage Online Privacy for the Family:
Learn about CARU. The Children’s Advertisement Review Unit (CARU) is the nation’s first Safe Harbor Program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), signed into law on April 21, 2000. Participants who adhere to CARU’s Guidelines are deemed compliant with COPPA and are mostly insulated from FTC enforcement action as long as they follow program requirements. When advertising or data collection practices are misleading, inappropriate, or inconsistent with laws and guidelines, CARU seeks change through the voluntary cooperation of companies and, where relevant, enforcement action. Parents can find more information about CARU and its impacts at BBBPrograms.org.
Learn about COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) protects the personal information of children under the age of 13 on websites and online services—including apps. COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents and get their approval before collecting, using or disclosing a child’s personal information.
Use parental controls if necessary. Although the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, enabling parental controls is an additional tool to help monitor their online activity. Today Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features that allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities, but third-party apps are also available. Research the option that works best.
Share with care and remember, personal information is like money. Anything posted online can last a lifetime; discuss with your children that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Talk to them about who might see a post and how it may make others feel now or in the future. Demonstrate how anything they do online can positively or negatively impact other people. Sharing personal information can also give online thieves an idea of what login information or passwords might be used for banking or other online accounts in the future.
Avoid sharing your location. These days nearly every app automatically tracks a user’s location. It’s a good idea for children to disable this app feature. Advise them not to geo-tag their posts with their location either.
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