Is Rapid Tech Growth Leaving Your Family’s Digital Safety in the Dust?

It’s an exciting time to be alive, no doubt. We’ve evolved from tech enthusiasts to social connectors, to a to a culture steeped in a sophisticated digital lifestyle. Ease, speed, and efficiency drives every purchase. Still, the inconsistency hums: The more connected our families become, the more insecure we can feel about exactly how to protect them.

The recent global study from McAfee, “New Family Dynamics in a Connected World,” confirms that while we are all increasingly connected, we’re still confused about the best way to secure our family from threats such as social predators and cyber criminals.

The rise in popularity of the smart home and its many connected devices has experts predicting that by 2020, “there will be more than 10.5 billion ‘things’ in homes worldwide.” Yes, the Internet of Things, IoT, is proliferating by the hour.

But with the growth of an IoT lifestyle, new family challenges are surfacing, according to the study.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • 76 percent of parents allow their child to bring an internet-connected device to bed.
  • 80 percent of parents are concerned about their child interacting with a predator or criminal online.
  • Only 23 percent of parents admit to using software to monitor their children’s activity on their devices (most parents physically monitor or take phones to manage and limit use).
  • 34 percent of parents have caught their kids visiting inappropriate sites using their device.
  • 36 percent of parents have been called out by their child for being on their device during family time.

The study reveals that for all our genuine concern around online safety, our digital safety habits are struggling to keep up with the pace of technology.

“While there is tremendous excitement for the conveniences that today’s technology brings, we know the weakest link in those devices within a connected home put consumers at risk,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee Security. “We must empower parents to actively manage how their families interact with those devices. When the correct security and privacy measures are taken, consumers will feel more protected enabling them to fully enjoy all the benefits of living in a smart home.”

So how do we course correct and begin to close this gap?

Tips: Keep Family Safety in Step with Pace of IoT:

  • Start talking, start early. It’s never too early to talk to your kids about online safety. Fold talks about safety into your routine much the way you would talk about fire safety, nutrition, or good manners. If your kids are young, start with simple rules like “don’t open emails from people you don’t know.”
  • Get back to basics. Sometimes our unspoken worry over an issue can obstruct our view to simple solutions. Try these basics: 1) As a family, set device time and usage rules and post them in a visible place. Set up a reward system if it helps. 2) Routinely check privacy settings, friend lists, and email on your child’s favorite social networks. 3) Implement a device curfew. Physically have kids turn in phones at a set time each night to protect sleep.
  • Be the digital example. If you want to get serious about changing your digital habits, be the example of a balanced digital life for your kids. Limit your time on social networks when at home, put your phone away during dinner and family time.
  • Be honest with challenges.  Share your digital mishaps and near misses with your kids. They need to know you aren’t perfect and learn from how you handled a digital situation such as cyberbullying, a political argument, a hacking incident, or even a tech addiction.
  • Be candid about risks. Digital natives can be desensitized to potential risks online and even develop a false sense of security. This attitude opens them up to social predators or a dangerous person posing as a teen (catfish). The risks are offline too and apply to common services such as Uber*, Lyft* and Craigslist*. Observe your child. If she seems overly confident, blows off your safety concerns, it’s time to step up the stranger danger talk.





Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.

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