Our children rightly deserve the best head-start in life, and to compromise that by exposing them unnecessarily to some of the evils that lurk online means we need to tread carefully. Communication and Awareness are the keys.
As a recent school parent myself, I’m impressed by the dedication of teachers and parents alike, and I’m seeing first hand how setting some high standards within a school community can make a real difference to our peace of mind online, and usually it is as simple as following some simple guidelines.
Upgrade old computers, and keep them up to date.
As computer operating systems mature they inherently become more secure through regular updates, but it is also necessary every few years to upgrade to the latest major versions as well – for example, if you’re still using Windows XP you are well overdue for an upgrade! It is also critical that you have automatic updates enabled at all times.
Install Internet security software and keep it up-to-date.
Anti-Virus solutions provide good basic protection against viruses, worms, trojans, spyware and adware. However, to keep your school and students safe online today you really need additional layers of protection provided by an internet security software suite, like AVG Internet Security.
There are many risks in computing, from security issues to hardware problems such as hard drive failure. It is really important that you consider using one of the many mature solutions available to backup your data files automatically to a remote offsite location – think of all the digital photographs, documents and other important files. A good starting point is Carbonite Online PC Backup (carbonite.com.au). If you are a Mac user you will need to connect to their USA site.
Teach students how to set strong passwords, and keep them private.
This is especially needed on social networking web sites like Facebook. Also make sure they know how to properly set the privacy information on social networking sites so that their personal information can only be seen by those they trust and give permission to see it. A recent New York Times survey found that up to a third of teenagers will share their passwords with close friends, so it is important to address this issue as well; passwords should always remain private, at all times.
Don’t allow peer-group pressure to influence under-age Social site sign-ups.
Did you know that Facebook has a minimum age requirement of 13? Yet, in research we conducted late last year we found an alarming number of 10-13 year olds are already using Facebook. Be vigilant, and do not allow students to sign up for social media sites until they’re ready; the consequences of exposing them before they are ready could be dire.
Never use a computer with the “Administrator” account privilege.
Affecting mostly people using older and insecure operating systems (like Windows XP), up to 90% of all security vulnerabilities can be mitigated against simply by setting up regular user account with a strong password for normal daily use - thus eliminating the need to have administrator rights.
Access the administrator account only on those rare instances when you may need to install software or change system settings. Ensure all school computers are set up this way, and educate parents and students about this simple measure.
Teach everyone to stop and think before they click.
Through social media and other sites, we share information at a rapid pace these days, and so we’re confronted with links to websites and files all the time. Be sure that you understand how to “roll over” a link to view the real destination first, and please make sure you have good web scanning software, like the free AVG LinkScanner® for Windows and Mac computers. It will do a real-time check for any malware payloads that may be lurking on the web page.
Don’t forget to secure mobile devices, like phones and tablets. Computing no longer happens only at desks or in the office or classroom; it happens on public transport and in busy cafes. Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets these days are as fast as computer were 5 – 8 years ago – we are all walking around with computers in our pockets! These need to be protected, so ensure you enable PIN number locks, activate phone tracking features (like “Find my iPhone” for iPhone, or the free AVG Mobilation for Android) for lost or stolen devices, as well as security scanning software.
Remember that the keys are communication and awareness within your School Community. Discuss issues with students, teachers and parents together, and work as closely with one another to develop your own standards about what you consider to be acceptable, and stay safe out there.
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AVG AU/NZ are kindly giving away 2 internet safety programs to two lucky readers. All you need to do is be a subscriber to schooldaysmagazine.com In less than 80 words tell us why you would like a copy of AVGs internet security program for your family or school. Entries close 25 May 2012. - Available for Australian readers.Your privacy is important and your information will not be given, rented or shared and is only to subscribe to schooldaysmagazine.com