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Tips for Safe Summer Surfing from McAfee’s Cybermom

by Employee on ‎06-09-2011 01:26 PM

tracy-mooney.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Tracy Mooney, McAfee’s Chief Cyber Security Mom.  A mother of three, Tracy shares her insights about keeping families safe online.


By: Tracy Mooney

As we near the end of another school year, there’s been a lot of excitement around my household. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my kids, and the kids are counting the days until they are “free.” I quickly realized though that I’m once again going to compete for the kids’ attention. They will want to spend a big chunk of their day on the Internet instead of doing family activities.


Don’t get me wrong; the Internet will have a lot to offer them during their dog days of summer, such as discovering new games (I try to sneak in some educational ones too!), music, and whatever else they think to search for, all the while chatting with friends. With all of the fun times to look forward to, there are bad things lurking too, such as viruses and spyware in addition to inappropriate ads, videos, music and other adult content.


So as summer quickly approaches, let’s get ready for it now. In addition to stocking up on suntan lotion and making travel arrangements, be sure to secure your family’s computers and start talking to the kids about Internet safety before school is out. It’s easy! Keep the following quick tips in mind when preparing your family for a safe and fun summer:


Tip 1: Give your kids some real life examples. Kids may be savvy “digital natives,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to learn some lessons from Mom and Dad. Teaching your kids online safety is a conversation that starts when they begin surfing and continues as they grow up. Just like when you taught them to cross the street and later walk to the store by themselves, they need reminders to stay safe online and the lessons should build over time.


As they learn these valuable skills, you can consider allowing them to engage in more online activities. Dinner time usually works best for me. Use the stories you see in the news to discuss things like cyberbullying, sharing too much personal information online and only connect with people online who you know in real life.


Tip 2: Check Your Verizon Internet Security Suite and ensure it is set to update automatically. That way you will know your PC and your kids PC will be protected from the latest threats, especially those “free” searches the kids will be doing. I don’t think parents usually consider how dangerous key search terms can be to their computer. Kids are probably more likely than adults to search for these terms. “Free game cheats” or “free music” are terms kids are likely to look up and more likely to infect your computer with a virus!


Another ongoing threat to be aware of is cyber scammers continue to take advantage of people’s interest in big news stories about celebrities, holidays, and natural disaster charities. How could affect your PC? If you click on a malware-laden link, picture or video in the message in an email, social networking message or a website, then it could download malicious


 software onto your computer or spam your friends and contacts.


I don’t know about you, but I have all of my family’s documents and tons of music files on the family PC. I really don’t want to lose all those files or buy a new PC due to a virus my kids accidently downloaded!


Tip 3: Use technology to help educate and protect your kids. Set up parental controls so it will work well for your family and to help provide your kids a secure environment to develop online skills. Today, products like Verizon Family Protection Parental Controls, which is available in the Verizon Internet


 Security Suite powered by McAfee, has much more robust features to help you monitor your kids’ online activity. Having kids in completely different age groups was a big challenge for me. A tool that will help me protect and educate my kids at every age is what has worked for me.


For my teenager, I eventually removed the filters and only monitored his time spent online and what sites he is going to. For my seven year old and tween, I appropriately checked the keywords that will filter websites, in addition to YouTube and TV shows, that may expose them to inappropriate content.

Also, for my tween, I block and record IM conversations, and get alerts when he attempts to post personal information, such as our phone number, online. You can even get a report of the sites your kids visit and the videos they are watching. My kids know that I check the report at random times and, as needed, will sit down to discuss (it creates good teaching moments!).


If you’re like me and want to stay on top of the most urgent computer threats, something that has been really helpful for me is to receive email alerts from McAfee. One recent example was during the Easter holiday and there was a lot of email and social network spam floating around disguised as a cute bunny email.


To find out more about these threats and to sign up to receive alerts by email, please visit:


I hope you find these tips useful this summer. If you have a question then just let me know!

Stay safe out there!



McAfee Chief Cyber Security Mom
@McAfeeCyberMom on Twitter

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