Cybersecurity where kids are concerned

By Anne Collier

October is  National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the United States. It’s an increasingly important kind of awareness for everybody to have, because, in this very social media environment, security – of our data, identity and property – is just as “crowd-sourced” as media is now. And we all know that kids are doing as much, if not more, sharing and producing as everybody else. So here, from our brand-new guide at, are some kid-specific cybersecurity pointers for parents:

Kids love videos. So malicious links can turn up in popular video-sharing sites like YouTube. Ask your children if they’ve ever seen links that could take viewers to inappropriate or illegal content in other sites and ask them what they do when they encounter them. If they were familiar with the scam they probably ignored them but these bogus links can be cleverly disguised. Ads, too, can either link kids to content that isn’t appropriate or scams and third-party sites that capture sensitive information. Young people need to be wary of “make a new friend” links, dating sites, and gossipy-sounding scams that look like invites from friends or tempt them to “find out who’s talking about you” or “…who has a crush on you.”

Kids often use family computers. Since most kids don’t have credit cards, you might think that they’re not vulnerable to financial crimes, but if children share a computer or device with parents, their online activities can affect all users, including any online shopping, banking or work parents do at home (be careful when logging into your work network from a shared computer). And parents will want to be aware that, if kids check browser history, they can be exposed to sites their parents visit on the family computer.

Kids can be big fans. Like a lot of adults, but sometimes with even more devotion (or time), kids and teens follow and chat online about their favorite celebrities in all kinds of fields. There are lots of celebrity sites, and the ones operated by the celebrities themselves or entertainment news publishers are fine. But kids need to be extra wary of fan sites that turn up in search results but aren’t actually run by the celebrities and the people who cover them. It’s not always easy to tell, but at least they’re usually lower down in the search results.

Kids are social. There are social reasons why kids are hacked. One form of bullying is using a password a child has shared to break into his or her social media account and post embarrassing messages or images or use the account to spread spam or post links to malicious sites. Teach your kids not to share passwords, even with their closest buddies, and always to close out of accounts when they’re finished using computers shared with other people – especially those used in public, such as at school or public libraries. Browsers and cookies “remember” passwords all too well unless you use the browser’s “private” or “incognito” mode or remember to delete your cookies and history as we explain at

Kids’ IDs are valuable to thieves. It may surprise you that kids are sometimes the target of identity theft – where a criminal gets enough information about them (e.g., name, address and social security number) to apply for credit or commit a crime in a child’s name. Children are susceptible because most have perfect credit (they’ve never borrowed money so they’ve never been late in paying) and don’t find out their identity’s been compromised until much later, such as when they want to apply for student loans or credit cards.

For lots more cybersecurity tips for families – our data, software, identities, hardware and networks – check out “A Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity,” which can be downloaded in PDF format for free. [ConnectSafely is part of the Stop.Think.Connect. Network of nonprofit organizations, corporations and government agencies promoting informed digital citizenship.]

Related links

Online safety: Key issues for 2013 & beyond

By Jacqueline Beauchere
Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft

As noted in a recent post, I spent the spring months on a “listening tour.”  I spoke with prominent individuals both inside and outside of Microsoft, seeking opinions and insights to help inform the strategy and approach for my new role.  While my position and title may be new for the company—and the industry, the commitment to Internet safety is not.

Taking into account the risks stemming from content, contact, conduct, and commerce (“The Four Cs”), a concept I shared in the first part of this post, I’ll focus this second half on how the online safety risk-landscape has evolved, current trends, and where we’re likely headed next. More

Senator Charles Schumer to headline DC Safer Internet Day event

Senator Charles Schumer is the featured speaker at Safer Internet Day DC event

Senator Charles Schumer is the featured speaker at Safer Internet Day DC event

On February 11th, ConnectSafely will hold a half-day event: “Safer Internet Day 2014: Teens and Tech Leaders on Building a Better Internet,” with featured speaker Sen. Charles Schumer. There will be two panel discussions featuring youth leaders from five states and a panel of executives from Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Xbox Live and YouTube. A high ranking European Commission official will address the gathering via video.

The event is designed to provide all participants with insights on youth practices in social media and youth views on social media industry best practices. It’s the official U.S. event for a global awareness day involving Internet users, schools, government officials, businesses and nonprofit organizations in more than 100 countries. The event will be streamed live on Facebook.

When: 9 a.m. to noon. Youth participants will remain for a one-hour planning session for SID 2015

Where: On Capitol Hill at the headquarters of the National Cable & Telecommunications Building at 25 Massachusetts Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. The event will also be live webcast on Facebook Live.

Who: In Washington, participants will include students, educators, youth advocates, businesspeople and policymakers. All who are interested can access the event live via live-streaming on Facebook or later from a number of access points on the Web.

Register here if you wish to attend in person.


8:00-9:00 – Doors open for registration and continental breakfast
9:00-9:30 – Opening remarks from U.S. government and European Commission representatives
9:30-10:30 – Panel 1: Youth Views on Using the Net & Social Media & Making Them Better
10:30-11:30 – Panel 2: A Conversation with Media Executives & Teens about Social Media
11:30-11:55 – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
11:55-12:00 – Close and goodbyes to adult participants
12:00-1:00 – Consultation with youth participants over light lunch, looking ahead to SID 2015

Please contact us with any questions.

Safer Internet Day takes a positive spin: View DC event live Tuesday morning

by Larry Magid

This column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

For the past 11 years, the European Commission and InSafe, a Brussels-based nonprofit, have been coordinating Safer Internet Day celebrations across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be celebrated this year on Tuesday.

There have been sporadic Safer Internet events in the United States but, until now, it hasn’t been coordinated or official. But in late 2012, then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and European Vice President Neelie Kroes signed a joint declaration to bring Safer Internet Day to the United States., the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director, was asked to host and coordinate U.S. events. We’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., featuring a talk by Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, a panel of high-school leaders from the across the country and a panel of executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo. Kroes will address the gathering by video.

The event will be webcast live starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time at It will also be carried on Facebook Live and archived for later viewing.

The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Let’s create a better Internet together.” Rather than just focusing on all the negative things that can happen online, we’re focused on what’s good about how people, including kids and teens, are using connected technology and what we can all do to make things better.

In the United States, we’ve launched a “One Good Thing” campaign where people have contributed videos and short blog posts about things they done or witnessed that improve the Internet or use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place. You can view those entries at

One Good Things

Some of those “good things” come from teens, including Esmi and Jessie, who said they post anonymous compliments to teens who have gotten hateful messages on Maddie and Monica talked about how they donated blood and used Instagram to encourages others to do likewise. Grant talked about posting to the compliments page on his high school’s website to “send out daily complements to brighten everyone’s day.” Emily talked about how her cousin had a friend who passed away but took solace in all the support he received from friends.

None of these examples are earth shattering, but that’s the point. They are little things that people of all ages do on a regular basis to make life better for other people.

Going positive

We started this campaign because we’re tired of all the negativity. Sure, there are bad things that happen online and it’s important to deal with cyberbullying, trolling, hate speech, unwanted sexual solicitations, sexting, unwanted porn and the risk to one’s security and privacy. It’s also important to remind both kids and adults that what they say online can stick around forever and come back to haunt them. That’s all part of Safer Internet Day, but it’s also a time to celebrate the positive and remind adults, including the Washington policy makers who will be at our event, that — like most adults — most kids are thoughtful in the way they use technology and try to respect themselves and others.

Yes, there are kids who bully online. But most kids don’t engage in that type of hurtful behavior and, when it does happen, it has a lot more to do with the relationships they have than the technology itself.

US getting started with the very global Safer Internet Day


Although still not widely recognized in the US, Safer Internet Day is nevertheless “official” now, with participation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Education (DOE). Though marked by Net users in schools, nonprofit organizations and governments in a growing number of countries since 2004, it was recognized by the US government last November, when Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano joined European Commission Vice President NeelieSafer Internet DayKroes in signing a Joint Declaration in London, “committing to make the Internet a safer and better place for children,” according to the EC’s press release(here’s DHS’s release). And on February 5, the DOE is joining a multistakeholder, private- and public-sector event at the National Press Club in Washington to mark the day, whose theme is “online rights and responsibilities” and main message “Connect with Respect.” Other participants include Google, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), the National PTA, the National Cyber Security Alliance and Project GOAL (Getting Older Americans onLine).

It’s not yet clear how the US government’s participation will unfold – probably in a supporting role like the DOE’s at the National Press Club event – but a number of non-profit organizations and technology companies are recognizing the day with their own programs throughout the US and across the Web. For example, Trend Micro is launching its 2013 “What’s Your Story” contest, aimed at encouraging youth to be the educators in safe, responsible Internet use; Google is relaunching its safety and privacy resource site Good Good to Know; and Microsoft is holding a “Safer Online Teen Challenge” and a live “Connect with Respect” Twitter party at 11 a.m. (Pacific) on February 5. In the non-profit sector, FOSI’s Platform for Good has launched its “Pledge for Good” and, beginning on Tuesday, you’ll be able to take the pledge on the Platform’s Web site and Facebook page. By next year the list will be too long for a single post.

A bit of background

In 1999, the European Commission (EC) created the Safer Internet Programme, which led to the creation of Insafe, a European network of Internet safety awareness centers to promote safe, responsible use of the Internet for young people.

In 2004, the program created an annual event called Safer Internet Day, which happens every year on the second day of the second week of the second month. This year (2013), that’s Tuesday, February 5.

Although activities are coordinated among European countries, the day’s events take place in individual countries worldwide in a wide variety of forms, from awareness campaigns in schools to online events to speeches at Internet safety conferences. Participation has grown to where the day is marked in some 90 countries now. In Europe, as in many countries, it’s not just Internet safety groups that participate. In the UK, for example, the BBC is broadcasting special programming on Tuesday, while the British Post Office will be displaying Internet safety videos on screens normally used to advertise postal products. We’ll probably soon see rapid growth of Safer Internet Day celebration in Africa’s developing countries, where Internet connections are largely on the mobile platform and cellphone adoption is exploding (see “Celebrate Digital Africa!” on FOSI’s GRID).

To learn a little more about Safer Internet day in Europe, co-director Larry Magid spoke with Janice Richardson, project manager for Insafe, the EC initiative that coordinates Safer Internet Day. Larry also spoke with Will Gardner, the CEO of Childnet International, the London-based non-profit organization that runs the UK’s Safer Internet Centre. Here are links to those audio interviews:

mp3 file

“>Janet Richardson’s interview
Janet Richardson





mp3 file

“>Will Gardner’s interview
Will Gardner




ConnectSafely’s co-directors on past Safer Internet Days

“Our Safer Internet Day 2012″
Larry Magid’s speech at Russia’s Safer Internet Day (2012)
* ConnectSafely’s 2009 call for online youth empowerment and participation as well as protection:“Online Safety 3.0″ and a number of presentations on the subject given in various countries


Great opportunities launched on Safer Internet Day 2013

By Anne Collier

Now here’s an interesting question, one that young digital media users don’t hear a lot: “What does the good side of the Internet look like?” They’re invited to submit a creative answer to that question in video format, either as individuals (aged 13+) or as students on behalf of a particular school, for the 2013 “What’s Your Story” contest launched today, Safer Internet Day, Feb. 5 (for more on SID USA, please click to Here’s some accompanying info to get creative juices flowing on the video front:

Questions for change agents

“Share stories of the good that you do online. Tell us about the good you see online. Show others the good that is online. Dream about the good that can be done online – whether it’s connecting in kind ways, staying safe, keeping good reputations, doing cool things, being smart about cellphone cameras, or making a difference, for just one person or many…. Be funny, Be dramatic, Be creative. Use live action, stop action, animation, with music or none. Whatever you do, be real.”

The deadline is April 16, and the winners will be announced in mid-May. There will be two grand prizes of $10,000, one for an individual and one for a school, and runner-up prizes of $1,000 each for 2nd and 3rd place in both categories. Full disclosure, I’m one of the judges for this contest, but that’s not why I love it: I like my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid, believe that there’s safety as well as literacy to be gained in supporting youth agency, participation, and creativity in digital media.

A pledge we can take

A nice awareness-raising initiative for SID is A Platform for Good’s “Pledge for Good” in our networked world. It’s a simple pledge – “I will use my power for good” – that anyone can make either on their Web site or Facebook page. It’s a lovely initiative because, as Nancy Gifford at PfG put it, they “aren’t looking to change behavior” or preach Internet safety. “People are already doing great things with technology – we are simply trying to give greater visibility to these positive acts. It is one small way to close the gap between the perception of how tech is used and the reality of how people are actually using … to amplify the good that’s already happening online and … encourage even more.” Enough said. +1 from me!

Celebrating Africa’s connectivity

And if anyone wants to get a picture of the very mobile Internet use and safety in Africa, either from30,000 feet (about 55 countries on the continent) or on the ground in Senegal – or just “Celebrate Digital Africa!,” launched today – check out the Family Online Safety Institute’s GRID, with info about 55 countries. Just the at-a-glance data on mobile phones and people in Nigeria (170m people to 101.2m phones), Egypt (78.3m people to 71.4m phones), Kenya (42m people to 28m phones), and South Africa (50.5m people to 59.4m phones), is amazing to see, and speaks reams about the explosion of connectivity on that continent. GRID tells us Africa has 7% of the world’s Internet users and 15.6% of its population, but – as in other parts of the world – mobile is the locus of Internet growth there. For example, 57.9% of Nigeria’s Web traffic is mobile, compared to an average of 10% of the world’s Web traffic.

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