The internet has drastically changed the way that people of every age interact with the world around them. Children now have a wealth of educational and social opportunities at their fingertips. Adults can work, shop, and connect with friends and family members all over the world. There are truly many wonders online, but there are also a vast number of dangers and pitfalls that lie in wait as well.

Even in homes where basic internet safety is practiced, there are still dangers that literally pop up online, even when doing “normal” activities such as reading emails, checking social media,  or doing homework. For instance, 70% of kids ages 8-18 report accidentally encountering online pornography, very often when entering an innocent search term while doing homework. Personal crimes such as stalking or cyber bullying are growing at alarming rates. And cyber crimes including phishing emails and other internet scams cost Americans $800 million last year. In fact, According to Verizon’s “2016 Data Breach Investigations Report,” 30 percent of phishing emails are actually opened, and 12 percent of those targeted click on the infecting link or attachment.

Here at Softcom, we’re dedicated to offering exceptional service to our customers and their families. And that includes safety as well. In an effort to heighten awareness and help families develop safe internet usage strategies, we’ve compiled this list of ideas for all ages to support a safe online experience.

  • Place computers that children use in high-traffic areas of your home where you can easily see what they are doing.
  • Remember that the internet is also available on phones and tablets, so be sure to monitor all devices.
  • Know what social media accounts your child is using and regularly talk to them about their activities through these accounts and your rules for safe behavior online.
  • “Cyber bullying” is a very serious problem and has driven many children to the point of committing suicide. If children are being targeted, they should notify parents immediately. And they should understand the gravity or such situations, and never participate because it can have real consequences for both them and the person targeted.
  • Be proactive. Talk to children about how to handle potentially dangerous situations before they happen such as someone asking them to meet in person. Agree on a plan for handling these situations that includes notifying adults or the proper authorities.
  • No matter how old you are, be sure to never give out personal information (name, address, phone number, social security number, passwords) to anyone online without verifying their identity.
  • Parents should review the privacy and data collection policies of sites that everyone in the family visits and use to make sure they understand how any information that is collected by that site is used and/or protected
  • Know the lingo that kids are using online. We all know what LOL and OMG means, but online speak goes way beyond that. Kids have developed practically a whole new language of acronyms they use online to get around parent oversight. For instance, POS stands for Parent Over Shoulder. ASL is asking for age, sex, and location. And WYCM is “will you call me.” There are too many of these to cover here, but check out this page and this page for a list of chat acronyms and coded lingo that’s good to know.
  • Watch out for elder scams as well. Seniors are often targets of web and email scams. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software can fool seniors who are not as accustomed to the internet, prompting them to download fake programs or enter sensitive personal information that opens them up to scammers.
  • Even savvy internet users are fooled sometimes. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to let people know. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and online resources such as the AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, a great resource for learning about internet scams, how to avoid them, and what to do if you suspect that you or a family member have been targeted by one.
  • Unplug once in a while. Technology can’t replace good old-fashioned time and attention, so make it a habit to get the whole family off the ‘net and back to real life. A recent survey found that 38% of participating households felt they had no way to limit tech use during family dinners. And that 63% of arguments at the table had to do with technology.

In response to technology overload issues like these, mainstream companies have begun offering “off switches” for families looking for a way to declare digital-free zones in their homes.

It’s no secret that we love the internet and are dedicated to providing our customer with the best quality connections they can get to use for work and home. But when it comes to safety, security, and peace-of-mind, it’s best to remember that often the best connections you can have are those made in real life, rather than on the internet.