Having 4 kids, internet security and parental controls are at the top of my worry list. With phones, gaming consoles, TVs and computers that can access content in a variety of ways it is important to keep the household protected. And it is important to keep little eyes from inappropriate content. The below guest post gives some great tips on things to watch out for from potential hackers as your children use the computer more and more for school research and play.

kid_computerSummer is over, and with that so are all those long days at the beach catching waves.  Now kids are back indoors, doing a different kind of surfing,  sitting in front of their screens preparing homework assignments, as well as playing computer games on the Internet,  possibly exposed to harmful content or  unintentionally causing harm to your computer.

Here are some things that kids should avoid, and thankfully there is computer software out there that can do some of the police work for you.

1. Suspicious features in kids’ online games:  Hackers have laced online games with malware and viruses, leveraging a child’s lack of concern for computer safety into a successful computer infection. Last April OP Productions was forced to take down The War Z  and its forums after discovering a hack of its systems.  In 2009, scammers sent and posted messages to Neopets unsuspecting players encouraging them to use a “magic paintbrush” to change the color of their cyber-pets that actually sent them to a spoofed website that included a malicious program to collect sensitive personal data including bank information.

The best policy is to keep track of what your kids are playing, even if the game appears to be very popular and innocent. Tell your children to watch out for “special offers” that seems ‘unusual’, and perhaps even request that they consult with you when offered an add-in that didn’t come with the original game.

2. Suspicious links in social media posts and private messages: Links in social media posts or in private messages are often used by scammers to get access to private information on computers.  The most common scam is the message “You gotta see this!”, which is sent by one of the child’s Facebook friends. The player they are required to download to see the content is actually malicious software that infects your system, steals your data, and uses your account to send out even more virus-bearing spam.

If your kids are instructed to click on a link that looks suspicious in any way, tell them not to click on it, and ignore the message even if they know the sender.  When in doubt, tell then to send their friend a message to confirm that the message they received is real.

3. Safe search: Hackers are using common searches by children to generate pop-up windows with harmful links.  One father  in the UK reported that after he recommended his son do a Google search to find pictures to color. His son typed “Star Wars Colour” and when he clicked on “print” a virus was installed on the computer.

To avoid your kids from unintentionally infecting your computer, select the strictest search settings (Safe search can be turned on from this Google page). In addition, make sure you have a reputable anti-virus software on your computer and that you always have the latest version installed.  There are solutions available that can automatically monitor and update security solutions for you.

You can link to this post on the site MakeUseOf, which contains different custom made search engines for kids according to different age groups.

4. Requests for personal information: Make sure your kids are careful about the personal information they share. They should keep birth dates and addresses confidential (as well as passwords, home address, age, gender and more, see this article for a better definition of giving their personal information).  They should never post online where they are going and when they will be there, and they should only post personal pictures with your approval.

5. Beware of nasty sites:  Ever since the Internet has been around, there have been inappropriate websites, and these are not limited to just adult entertainment or shock sites.  There are other sites that can make your life miserable by including phishing sites, malware and spyware, prank sites, screamer Flash videos, etc. It is best to have filtering software that is updated constantly to keep current with all of the latest content that is dangerous and inappropriate. 

Taking the necessary precautions to make sure your kids surf safely has become another reality of the computer age.  Making sure that your kid’s computer time is safe and productive is a new parenting challenge.  If you prefer to have a security solution that makes sure you are blocking the right sites and have the most up to date protection and works automatically, click here for more information.

By Alex Varshavsky, Fixico CEO