Upcoming Safer Internet Day sparks BBB warning about online safety
Did you know that Canadian high school students spend on average eight hours in front a screen each day?* With Safer Internet Day coming up on February 7th, BBB is reminding parents and kids about the potential cyber security risks of too much screen time.
“Though technology does have its advantages when it comes to education, communication and entertainment, it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers that come with day-to-day use,” says Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “Identity theft, financial losses and malware are just a few of the risks of online activity.”
Here’s the advantages of regular online activity:
- Education, researching information, help with homework. Today students have a wealth of digital information and resources at their fingertips. Whether they’re researching for an essay, need extra help with math or are preparing for exams, they have instant access to a wide variety of information.
- Entertainment. Playing games, catching up on the latest celebrity gossip or using social media sites can help pass the time or help de-stress after a long day at work or school.
- Communication and networking. Staying in touch with friends and family through email or networking with industry professionals is easy, convenient and free. While face-to-face communication is arguably the best form of communication, people can interact with absolutely anyone, regardless of their geographical location.
- Keeping up to date. With newspapers and other traditional print media slowly fading, digital news subscriptions and some social media platforms offer instant news coverage of the latest events. Whether it’s on your cellphone, tablet or laptop, consumers can take their news with them on the go.
These are the potential risks of regular online activity:
- Over sharing. Posting your personal information online, such as full name, address, email address, phone number, or banking information can lead to identity theft, drained bank accounts, damaged credit and more. Over sharing can also lead to safety and privacy concerns like stalking or cyber bullying.
- Third party applications and sites. Did you know that some social media apps share information with each other? Instagram and Facebook share their respective user data with each other to better detect spam and build better features, but that means your info could be shared with numerous other third-party “affiliate partners and service providers”…be sure you understand individual app privacy policies before handing over your info.
- Viruses and malware. Sometimes surfing the Internet can lead to visiting realistic looking, but phony, websites that contain malicious links designed to load your device with viruses and other harmful content. Children can also be exposed to inappropriate content if proper security and parental controls are not set.
How to protect yourself:
- Don’t take the easy way out. It’s easier to keep the same password for all of your social media accounts, but if one of those accounts becomes compromised, chances are your other accounts will be too. Keep hackers at bay with different and strong passwords for each account.
- Should you really “Like” it? Unfortunately, sometimes pictures that tug at the heartstrings (animal abuse, sick children or victims of natural disasters) belong to scammers using malicious apps as phishing tools to access info for identity theft and other illegal activity. Check before you click.
- Going on vacation? Don’t tell the whole world. People who broadcast their exciting travel plans all over social media are easy targets for burglars and prowlers looking for an empty house. If you are traveling, be sure to securely store your electronics before you leave.
- Keep your devices up to date. Always install current anti-virus software and regularly update your security firewall.
- Set controls. Using parental controls for younger children can not only limit the kinds of content they can view online but also avoid accidental credit card charges for games or music.
For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.