When Digital Immaturity Threatens Online Security A Personal VPN Can Help Protect Your Privacy

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For most of us, maturity means being able to make intelligent choices about our lives. But a new study called Digital Maturity found that when it comes to our kids’ behavior online, growing up is hard to do. AVG Technologies, a global security software provider, commissioned the study which examines the digital life cycle of children. And what it reveals about their online behavior and their parents’ attitudes about it is scary.

Tweens Aren’t Mature Enough to Protect Themselves Online

Digital Maturity found that while the average 11-year-old isn’t managing any bank or credit card accounts to online, his or her online activity closely mimics that of an adult’s when it comes to the amount of time spent on online gaming, social networks and mobile devices. The bad news is that, while tweens can keep up with or even out maneuver their elders on the Web, they lack the life experience to navigate challenging social situations. Tweens may not know about malware and phishing sites or realize they’ve becomes targets of identity thieves, sexual predators or cyber bullies.

On the Internet, Tweens Might as Well Be Home Alone

Digital Maturity also found some remarkably inconsistent behavior on the part of their parents. Only one in 20 parents thinks their 10 to 13-year-old is better informed about the Internet than they are. Yet most parents don’t seem to know what their kids are doing online. Seventy-two percent have logged into their kids’ computers without them knowing it. Yet 41% allow their 10 to 13 year-olds to have a computer in their bedroom which means there’ no consistent parental monitoring of their tweens’ online activity.

AVG’s Digital Maturity study also found that 50% of 13-year-olds have access to a web enabled tablet device and 92% of 10 to 13-year-olds use gaming consoles to play games and connect with their friends. We don’t even want to think about what they’re doing online once they leave home.

A 2011 Consumer Reports survey found the lack of parental attention to what tweens do online is exposing them to huge safety, security and privacy risks. The survey concludes that 7.5 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year were younger than 13, which means they weren’t supposed to be able to use the site. More than five million young users were under age 10; and their accounts were mostly unsupervised by their parents, according to Consumer Reports. What’s more, one million children were harassed, threatened or exposed to other forms of cyber bullying in the past year. And that’s just on Facebook. Given that parents don’t seem to be monitoring what their kids do online, it’s not surprising that children are the fastest growing group of identity theft victims. More than 140,000 are victims of ID fraud annually in the U.S., according to a study by the risk management company IDAnalytics. It found that most of the fraudulent use of the minors’ identities came from the wireless and cell phone industries.

Adults Often Behave Like Children on the Internet

It’s easy to understand why tweens are oblivious to cybercrime dangers. They are, after all, still children. But what excuse do adults have for not taking responsibility for their kids’ and their own online security? A recent survey by the Wi-Fi Alliance provided some answers. It pointed to a big gap between what Wifi users know and what they do about what they know. The survey found that users 18 or older who had experienced the effects of a computer virus aren’t any more likely to have better Wifi security than those who have never had a virus. Users who ranked themselves tech savvy are no more likely to score higher on Wifi security behavior than those who said they are less tech savvy.

The Wi-Fi Alliance survey also found that only 18% of wireless users report that they use a virtual private network (VPN) when they’re logged into a Wifi hotspot. That means more than four out of five hotspot users are easy targets for hackers. Sending personal information via hotspots by email, chat rooms and even some online stores is like playing Russian roulette with your identity. Because your information is travelling over unsecured networks, you’ll never know who might be intercepting it. Personal VPNs protect your data by hiding it from hackers at hotspots and at home – wherever you go with your laptop.

Over two thirds of online adults have been victims of cybercrime in their lifetime, according to the Norton Cybercrime Report 2011. Given those odds, it’s way past time for us to act like grown-ups on the Internet. That means taking responsibility for our own and our children’s online security. That’s what digital maturity should mean.

Protect Yourself and Your Children from Online Crime

∙ If your pre-teen uses Facebook, delete the account or ask the site to delete it by using its report an underage child form. Monitor the activities of your children over 13 by joining their Facebook friends group. Keep tabs on older teenagers and make sure they understand risky online behaviors.
∙ Use Facebook and other social networks yourself so you understand the technology and the privacy issues facing your children.
∙ Create strong passwords. Your network password should be at least eight characters long with no dictionary words or personal information. It be composed of upper and lower case letters and symbols. Follow the same rules for website passwords. Don’t use the same password for different sites and change them often.

∙ Turn off file sharing on your computer.

∙ Set home networks for WPA (Wifi protected access) security. Even better, use WPA2, the most up to date network security technology.

∙ Use virus and malware protection software and update them frequently.

∙ Turn off automatic connecting to ensure that you don’t automatically
connect to any available Wifi signal. Only connect to and from networks you recognize.

∙ Don’t transmit sensitive personal data at public Wifi hotspots.

∙ Use a personal VPN (virtual private network) like PRIVATE WiFi™
to ensure that the data traveling to and from your computer is invisible to cybercriminals.

We’d like to know what “digital maturity” means to you. Drop us a line
and share your thoughts.

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