You vs. the Internet: 5 Hands-On Ways to Begin Safeguarding Your Family’s Privacy

Data mining. Privacy breaches. Malicious third parties. Do you ever feel like these scary sounding, albeit significant, concerns got left at the curb somewhere between carpool duty, doctor appointments, and trying to hit two softball games and a track meet in the same day?

You are far from alone. If asked, most of us would confess: Our digital safety habits aren’t keeping up with the wild pace of technology. We understand the risks to our privacy online, but few of us have the time to protect it.

Have you given up? Perhaps you believe the internet is winning and that personal privacy is an outdated, even naïve, expectation online.

That sentiment is true but only to a small extent. Here’s what’s truer: With intention, a small chunk of time — and enlisting the whole family — you can begin to rewrite your privacy future.

You can take steps toward managing (and enjoying) your technology like a boss. Here’s how to get the whole crew on board for a family-wide privacy update.

5 Hands-On Ways to Begin Safeguarding Your Family’s Online Data

  1. Call a family huddle. Change takes action. A successful family-wide privacy update will require, well, the whole family. Call a family huddle. Ask each family member to inventory all devices including phones, tablets, PCs, toys, televisions, gaming systems. This list represents vulnerabilities or points of entry. Assign responsibility to each device. Just as you’d lock windows and doors, commit to securing down digital doorways. Huddle goals: Make privacy a family priority, discuss the online risks, challenge your digital-loving pack to higher digital standards, set up a reward system for keeping family devices safe. Remember: Technology is a privilege, not a right (no matter how culture positions it to the contrary).
  2. Upgrade privacy settings on social platforms. Any social platform — be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or others — requires attention when it comes to protecting personal data. Go through each app and update your privacy settings. Educate yourself on what data you are sharing and with whom. Look closely at the information you’ve willingly shared, and make adjustments from there. For kids: Wipe social profiles clean of any personal information such as school name, age, address, phone number, email, location, and any other personal content.
  3. Scrub apps, update software, add security. Technology brings with it oodles of convenience. However, as with an automobile, our tech also needs maintenance to be enjoyed responsibly. Smartphones, tablets, televisions, and PCs require regular cleaning and updating. As a family, commit to making these changes. 1) Delete unused apps 2) Select “auto update” for software on both your mobile devices and computers 3) Install (and update) robust security software that protects devices against viruses, hackers, and spyware. Useful security software should also filter offensive content, pictures, and websites.
  4. Create strong, unique passphrases. As part of your family’s overall security update, make sure to create strong passwords for family devices. What’s a strong password? According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), think in terms of a passphrase rather than a password. Passphrases should be simple, long and memorable. They should contain lowercase letters and word associations only you would know. For instance: cottoncandyskies, burntsmoresinsummer, or poetrypinkpasta.Make sure everyone from the eight-year-old to the 18-year-old understands why it’s important to use strong, unique passphrases. To reinforce this, consider a reward for family members who stay on top of their digital housekeeping.
  5. Follow-through, follow-through, follow-through! The only plan of any value is the one that is executed. So much of parenting is spent communicating goals, but effective parenting happens in following through with those goals. Be a firm, focused digital parent. Don’t just communicate the digital risks; follow through to make sure your child makes the hands-on changes listed here to protect their online data. Sit down, watch them do it. Review devices and settings. Discuss and physically check off privacy basics which include: 1) Updating privacy settings on devices and social networks 2) Use strong passphrases 3) Not sharing personal information online 4) Deleting unused apps and auto-updating software 5) Making digital privacy a personal priority.

toni page birdsong



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

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