July 2008

10 Tips for Secure Family Computing

Computers and the Internet have become ordinary, daily tools for families and children of all ages. How can you minimize the risk of online threats and prepare young Internet users for wise Web use? The guidelines, below, will help you secure your family computer and become part of your child’s online world.

  1. Discuss safe surfing and online behavior. Create an open dialogue about safe computing habits. Find out what children are most interested in online and what sites they visit. Teach older children and teens about online responsibility, and underscore the importance of viewing Web material with a critical eye.
  2. Operate under a limited-user account. You expose yourself to a variety of security risks when you run Windows using the all-powerful administrator account. And if your children act as administrators on the family computer, all of your personal information - passwords, credit card information, family finances and other sensitive stored material - is in jeopardy of being sent to spyware attackers. Once you switch to a limited account, you can assign the administrator account a password to keep other PC users from changing the settings.
  3. Use up-to-date security software. Anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a firewall are critical, core protection to have on your PC. Teach older children and teens how to use the software and why it is important.
  4. Place the family PC in a central location. Move the computer to the living room or kitchen, instead of a child’s bedroom, for more effective parental supervision.
  5. Use parental controls to block inappropriate websites. If you decide to use parental control software, keep in mind that monitoring software may not block every bit of unwanted material; nothing replaces the guidance of an adult. There are, however, many online filters available to help you protect your kids. If you have Ad-Aware 2008 Plus or Pro, you can use the built-in Hosts File Editor to block advertisement sites and assist with parental controls.
  6. Supervise the flow of information. Be sure to talk with kids about what information can and cannot be shared online. If your child uses instant messaging, e-mail, or social networking sites, block messages from anyone not on the child's pre-approved contact list. Oversee posts to personal profiles, blogs and e-mail messages to ensure that private information is not made public. Set up younger children with a family e-mail address so you can monitor incoming messages.
  7. Limit interactive games and websites to kid friendly sites. With older kids and teens, what constitutes as “kid friendly” can be a gray area. For example, social networking sites are sure to be popular hangouts for most pre-teens and teens, but these types of sites present many risks. If your kids use these sites, make certain they are aware of the dangers of both online predators and other web nasties like spyware and malware.
  8. Monitor downloads, file sharing, and uploading music. Do not let your kids download unauthorized copies of copyrighted music from file-sharing or peer-to-peer networks. The same goes for sharing copyrighted music through instant messaging or CDs. Advise them against other free downloads like screensavers and smiley faces for e-mail. So-called “free goodies” can often come bundled with malware and adware.
  9. Do not let online socializing replace real world communication. Social networking is better suited for older kids and teens. Set the example early on that while the Internet is a great tool for staying in touch, getting outside on the playground is just as important.
  10. Together with your kids, visit helpful websites dedicated to online safety for young Internet users. Examples include www.mcgruff.org and www.wiredsafety.org.

78Percentage of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who use the Internet. More than half of online kids 61 percent use the Internet on a daily basis.
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project

Is a slow PC bogging you down? Read our tips to get started on creating and maintaining a healthy computer.
Find out what Softpedia’s editors are saying about Ad-Aware 2008. Browse the highlights of our latest review on the Lavasoft blog.
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