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Posts Tagged ‘Tools’

Remember we told you to set Facebook privacy settings?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Last year we urged parents to help their kids set their privacy settings in whatever social networking service they used (See the How-To Video Tutorials here). We urged kids to turn the privacy settings to “Friends Only.” Well, things change really quickly on the Internet and Facebook has changed how users can access their privacy settings and even the settings themselves. So, still take our advice about changing your kids’ settings to “friends only” but note that the path to making privacy changes has changed. To get to your Facebook privacy settings simply select in the top right hand corner next to your profile name “Settings” and pull down the menu and select “Privacy Settings.” In our dated How To Video Tutorial “Privacy” was right up at the top, now you just need to take that extra step and select “Settings.” See photo here.

But it really is worth noting that Facebook has expanded the category of what is known as “Personally Available Information.” This is information that users cannot restrict from others. It used to be that in order to find each other on a “social network” you could see each other’s name, networks and fan listings. Now Facebook has expanded that list to include things like a user’s city, gender, photograph, the profile pages you are a fan of, and friends list. So, be aware that you really can’t control whether others see that information about you or your children.

What to do? We recommend taking a different look at what info your teen is sharing by taking a step back. First, log out of Facebook and search for your teen’s name on Facebook through Facebook search and other Web search engines. Take a look and see what you find.  Then log in to Facebook as a non-friend of your teen and search for her name and see what information about her you can find. Make notes on what you can see and what you can’t. Third, and most important, talk with your teen about what you have found. Actually, we recommend performing the above search process together.

If changes are needed go into the “Privacy Settings” and make changes. If you and your teen don’t like how much information about her and her friends must be shared as “Personally Available Information,” write to Facebook.

Listening in on teen safety – some food for thought.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

This weekend presented a couple of interesting articles regarding teens and their habits for using MP3 players and cellphones. No surprise for any parent (or acquaintance for that matter), teens listen to their MP3 players louder than adults and are rarely using their cellphones to talk but rather to text. While these issues are not directly related to one another, it is always a good time to reflect on how our kids are using their electronics and how we can use these reflections to set boundaries for safe habits.

Time.com featured an article on CNN this morning about preventing hearing loss from MP3 players. While this article mentions the iPod specifically, I think it’s better to relate this to ALL MP3 players and personal music electronics, including cellphones – many of which are now being used in place of a separate MP3 player. The Consumer Electronics Association has a great reference guide for parents concerned about this issue at their site, DigitalTips.org, “The Safety of Your Ears is in Your Hands”.

The Washington Post ran a piece in the Sunday Technology section, “6,473 Texts a Month, But at What Cost?”, regarding a local mother and her surprise about the number of text messages her 15 year-old daughter sent and received. It used to be that parents would be taken by surprise at the physical cost associated with texting, not having an unlimited texting plan with their carrier. The concern in this article was related more to the potential toll of always trying to resolve life’s problems in 140 characters or less. As someone who, though not in the same demographic, also prefers to text over talk, this piece made me stop and think about my own habits. For some great information regarding wireless kid safety, check out these tips from CTIA – the Wireless Association. Food for thought!

Adware and Spyware

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Two of the pieces of computer jargon that often come up in the context of safe computing are Adware and Spyware. It is important to note that these are two separate items, but often contain overlap in terms of the risk they pose to the individual.

Adware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that is designed to display advertising to you. Adware can cause pop-ups, slow down your computer by increasing the number of programs running, and can generally be somewhat annoying. Adware is often bundled in with legitimate downloads.

Spyware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that monitors you. Spyware can collect information on your Internet browsing habits, including any information that you type into your computer while on the web (such as usernames and passwords). Spyware is generally seen as having greater potential harm to the individual than Adware. Spyware is commonly bundled with illegitimate downloads; it is often times seen in files found on file-sharing networks. To learn more about the risks that file-sharing has for safe computing and kids’ safety, watch Ari Schwartz on identifying Spyware Symptoms (Video in RealPlayer format)   

Both Adware and Spyware are not good for safe computing. So how can you help protect yourself from Adware and Spyware? There are two ways. The first, preventative measures you can take to help keep your computer clean. Pre-ventative Tips:

• Know the symptoms of spyware: Before you can protect yourself from new spyware you have to make sure you do not currently have any on your computer. Learn more about spyware symptoms.
• Learn about examples of the most devious programs: The trickiest part of spyware is that there is not one clear-cut type. Knowing the many forms in which spyware may appear on your computer will help you remove or prevent it. View specific examples of spyware.
• Explore steps you can take to prevent spyware: Prevention is the key to a safe and secure computer. The tips to help you prevent spyware will also help keep viruses and hackers from taking advantage of your computer. Learn more about these prevention tips.

Secondly, there are many tools that will help you rid your computer of Spyware or Adware. You should know that each of the tool providers might define Spyware differently. You, the user, should be able to decide for yourself what you find annoying and want to uninstall or disable. GetNetWise offers a list of many different types of Spyware removal tools here: http://spotlight.getnetwise.org/spyware/tools/

Do You Know Where Your Kids Go Online? Monitoring Kids Web Use through Browser History

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Many parents respond affirmatively when asked in surveys whether they check up on where their children travel on the Internet. Research done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that 46% of parents monitor their child’s history (or “travels”) online. We suspect the vast majority of them likely monitor their children’s Internet usage by checking the History and Cache files within the Web browser that their child uses. At GetNetWise, we recommend that parents tell their children that they are keeping track of their online travels if they are doing so. Marian Merritt of Norton’s safety blog “Ask Marian” happens to agree. That conversation alone is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about online safety.

For younger children under 10 years old this is a moderately effective approach for parents to get a sense of the sites their kids are visiting. For instance, the browser History will show names and addresses of sites visited in recent days but very little detail about what the child did while there. Yet, this strategy has real limitations for older, savvier kids and teens.

Even though parents may make it a rule that children should not remove, alter, or delete browsing history, there are very simple workarounds to remove, alter, delete, or even never record a browsing history. One such work around is a simple function available in the Safari browser called “Private Browsing” that turns history recording off.

When Private Browsing is engaged the Web browser goes into stealth mode — no browsing history cookies or cache will be recorded. This feature can be switched on and off very easily, leading to a History and Cache that is incomplete. It is also relatively easy to altering a History to remove individual websites visited.

Private Browsing

It is important for parents to keep these types of workarounds in mind when considering whether they are effectively keeping track of their kids’ footprints online. Children younger than eleven would seem less likely to “work-around” history, than teenaged users. It is vitally important that parents clearly define rules for appropriate browsing behavior and talk about Web safety with their kids. If you as a parent decide you want to monitor your child’s online used and are concerned that he or she is manipulating the browser’s history and cache files you may want to consider using a more a robust approach to keeping track of Internet usage. To supplement Internet usage monitoring, there are many monitoring tools available on the market [See GetNetWise Tools Database for a list]. Many of these tools help parents keep an active eye on a child’s footsteps through cyberspace.

NSFW Tag, The New Content Rating for the Net?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The Internet often spawns its own language. Shorthand phrases like “LOL” (Laughing-Out-Loud) organically emerge as part of the Internet vernacular. Recently we’ve noticed a new, online shorthand phrase that is used to indicate that the content of the message or Web page is not appropriate because it is off-color at best or sexually explicit at worst. It is called “NSFW.”

Families and users should be on the look out for this phrase, which is actually an acronym that stands for “Not Safe For Work (NSFW).”  This phrase is used as a “warning” about content. It is often used in the context in which a link, or piece of material is being categorized by someone as having qualities which may not make it suitable for a workplace environment. This can be because of language, sexual content, violence, or any number of other traits that may make it inappropriate. Of course, if it’s not safe for viewing in the workplace, it’s probably not safe to view in your home with children around.

You will most often see NSFW posted in email message subject lines, next to web link headers and on message boards. An example of how this might be seen on the Web follows:  http://www.somepage.com/adultcontent.html (NSFW)

While this information may be typed out, sometimes it is additionally carried as computer code (“meta-data”) embedded within a link. Mozilla Firefox has a plug-in which allows you to avoid links tagged as being NSFW.

It is important to note that this is not a universal standard. It is up to the individual to “tag” content as NSFW. This means that the tag is entirely subjective; the tag is applied based on the perspective of the individual providing the link.

The lack of detail about the content of the link can be frustrating, but this tag may spawn widespread grassroots adoption. While traditional media is rated and tagged according to different trademarked ratings systems, there is no such assurance that trademarked systems will take root on the Net. In fact, according to sources from the tag’s Wikipedia entry, a trademark claim to NSFW was denied. Grassroots labels such as NSFW may become the new wave of ratings guides.

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