Four Ways to Protect Kids From Mobile Threats

You probably think your kids are more tech-savvy than you are. And let’s be honest, they might just be. But just because they’re good at text messaging, Facebook, and Angry Birds doesn’t mean they know everything they need to know. In fact, when it comes to mobile security, most kids don’t have a clue.

For example, do they know how to password-protect their smartphones so mischievous friends don’t mess with them? Do they know that hackers are increasingly attacking mobile devices, and what to do about it? Can they spot a fraudulent email or Web link? And have they backed up their data in case their school laptop gets lost or stolen?

Time to step in, parents. It’s up to you to help keep your kids safe from the growing number of mobile threats that can strike laptops, tablets, smartphones — and your kids themselves. Follow these four key steps to help ensure that your kids’ devices and data don’t fall into the wrong hands.

1. Explain the dangers of sharing personal information

How many stories have you heard about online predators and the kids who unwittingly fall victim to them? This happens because kids don’t recognize the dangers of communicating with strangers via email, text messages, online chat and social networks — all of which can happen on their mobile devices, without your knowledge.

Indeed, while preschoolers are warned of “stranger danger,” older kids need to learn that the same principle applies to online strangers. So have a five-minute talk about it. Knowledge is power, and this is a lesson tweens and teens need to learn: Let them know that it’s never a good idea to respond to anyone they don’t know online. Since they never know when a suspicious adult is misrepresenting him- or herself as a peer, make sure your kids know not to give out any personal information online. Ever.

2. Insist on protection — password protection.

Mobile devices can easily get lost or stolen. That’s a problem for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that it can reveal your child’s personal information to others. (And if that “other” is a prankster peer, it might lead to unauthorized photo sharing, bogus status updates and tweets, and the like — any of which could get your child in trouble for something he or she didn’t do, or, worse, make him or her the target of cyber-bullying.)

One simple fix: demand password protection for all smartphones and tablets. On Android devices, launch the Settings app, then tap Location & Security, Set up screen lock. Here you’ll see a choice of security options: password, numeric PIN, or pattern. (This last lets you trace a pattern to unlock the screen.) Choose one, then follow the prompts to configure it.

On iOS devices, tap Settings, General, Passcode Lock. The default lock option is a four-digit numeric password, but if you switch Simple Passcode to Off, you can upgrade your protection with any alphanumeric password you want. Either way, tap Turn Passcode On, then follow the prompts.

3. Install a kid-safe mobile browser

The Web has its share of unsavory — and unsafe — destinations. Unfortunately, the average mobile Web browser offers no protections of any kind, no filters that block unsuitable content or parental controls for restricting certain kinds of sites.

Thankfully, you can minimize Web threats by installing a family-friendly mobile browser, one that offers a familiar interface backed by various protections. These browsers will filter inappropriate search-engine results and block access to inappropriate sites (whether accessed intentionally or accidentally).

McAfee offers several security features for smartphones.

4. Install security apps

Mobile security doesn’t end with a watchful Web browser. Hacker attacks on smartphones and tablets are on the rise, and they can result in the theft of private data, personal photos, and even money. That’s why it’s essential to outfit your kids’ mobile devices with anti-malware software, which can protect against threats like viruses, spyware, and phishing.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of TechHive. ]

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