When the New Year comes around we make resolutions to lose weight, spend more time with friends and family, or simply get more organized. These resolutions, however, have the tendency to fall off soon after we start as they require a huge time investment and sometimes a change in lifestyle.
A desire to be safer or more private online doesn’t have to be another New Year’s resolution “failure”, though. In fact, most of the concerns you have for your own online privacy and your child’s online privacy in 2012 can be resolved by taking advantage of a few simple tools and learning how to use them.
Below are five simple things you can do this year to give your family a safer Internet experience.
1. Update your anti-virus software.
Anti-virus companies like Norton, McAfee and AVG are always releasing updates for their software products. Sometimes these updates patch certain issues with the software, sometimes it’s to add a new feature, but either way updates are meant to provide the user with the best, most protected experience possible.
Since anti-virus software is always running in your computer’s background, updating it is as simple as looking for the software icon in your computer’s taskbar and choosing the option to update.
In Windows, you’ll want to look for the icon in the bottom right tray of your desktop.
These two safety tools can really come in handy when you have children using a central computer in the house. Google is the most popular and comprehensive search engine in the world, which means some of the web, image and video results that come up might not be appropriate for your children. In fact, searching for something on Google while SafeSearch is off can easily produce adult content like porn and extreme violence, even when using very “innocent” search terms.
YouTube, on the other hand, is the world’s most popular video-hosting website. Adults and children upload millions of videos every day, making it almost impossible to monitor every single video as it comes through. Safety Mode helps with that by filtering out videos that have adult-intended tags and titles.
Note: SafeSearch and Safety Mode DO NOT carry over across multiple browsers. So if you have multiple web browsers on your computer, both SafeSearch and Safety Mode will have to be activated separately on each browser.
3. Update your Facebook privacy settings and clean up your Friends List.
Now that Facebook’s Timeline feature is available to everyone, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re getting the most out of your privacy settings. If you have an older teen who you feel is ready for their own Facebook profile (we recommend 16+), Timeline can be utilized as a teaching tool to illustrate how what you post online never really goes away.
Privacy settings aren’t the only thing that will help you control who sees your information and status updates. Unless you specify otherwise, people on your friends list are, for the most part, granted access to just about everything on your profile. Start off 2012 right by removing any unwanted “friends” and specifying what content they can see. You can do all of that and more by following this step-by-step guide.
4. Secure the web browser(s) on your family computer
Whether you use Internet Explorer or Chrome, filtering tools are available to help give your kids a safer browsing experience. Learning how to use these tools, however, is a challenge all on its own. Internet Explorer, for example, has something called a Content Advisor that comes pre-installed on the browser itself; the trick is making it work the way you want it to. You can learn how to do that here.
If you use Chrome or Firefox you can download an add-on called WebFilter Pro that helps you restrict access to pornography, adult social networks, violent content, online gaming websites, and drug related websites. WebFilter Pro will also allow you manually block specific websites you don’t want your children to go to.
You can learn how to use WebFilter Pro by following this step-by-step guide.
5. Update the parental settings on your Mac or Windows PC
In addition to all the parental controls in your web browser, your computer’s operating system–Windows 7 or Mac OSX, for example—has its own set of parental controls. Here you can set things like time limits, access/restrictions to certain applications and programs on your computer, additional web browsing filters and more.
If you’ve configured these settings before, this is a good time to double check that all settings still work to the benefit of your children. If you haven’t, now is the time. Regardless of the operating system you’re on, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.