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The Truth About Kids & Internet Safety

All of us have heard the news stories, read the pamphlets, and listened to experts warn about the dangers to children and teens lurking on the Internet.

The truth is, however, that these risks are largely overhyped and happen extremely rarely.  A 2008 PBS documentary entitled “Growing Up Online” examines each danger of the Internet and reveals which threats pose the greatest risks to kids – and which ones don’t (you may be surprised!).  The entire episode can be viewed online at http://tinyurl.com/2y29qb.

Although the dangers aren’t as common as we may believe, parents shouldn’t simply throw caution to the wind.  It is critically important for parents to stay actively involved in their children’s or teens’ lives, including their online activities.

 

CHALLENGES PARENTS FACE

Parents face several challenges when it comes to their kids’ online lives:

1)     Staying current is difficult.  The Internet is constantly changing.  New websites appear every day.  Keeping up with these changes can be challenging.

2)     Kids are smarter than adults – technologically.  They have grown up with computers and the Internet, so their level of experience and knowledge is much greater.

3)     They go online without adults being present.  Parents can’t be around their kids 24/7.

4)     Their desire for independence creates a struggle.  They want freedom and privacy; parents want to know what their kids are doing online, which comes across as intrusive.

So how do parents overcome these challenges?

KEEPING THEM SAFE

A balanced, common-sense, level-headed approach is the best.  Overreaction and extreme measures seldom have the desired effect.

First, parents must be aware and actively involved in their adolescent’s lives.  Taking a hands-off approach hurts the children in the long term.

Second, educate yourself about the Internet.  Learn what the popular sites are.  Investigate the parental control and privacy tools available to help you monitor your child’s online activities.

Third, communicate.  Honest and open dialog between parents and their kids eliminates a myriad of problems.  Asking questions about what they do online and who their online friends are.  Teach them how to stay safe online.  Encourage them to come to you if they ever experience something bad online, such as bullying, threats, or unwanted sexual advances.

Finally, set age-appropriate rules for their Internet usage – and enforce them.  Discuss with your kids the expectations you have.  Let them know that you will be monitoring their online behavior and activity.  Consistently enforce the rules and punish inappropriate behavior.

Understand that the Internet is a significant part of kids’ lives today.  Following these simple guidelines can help you safely navigate your children through the World Wide Web.

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Is Your Wireless Network At Risk?

Wireless Router

Most homes and businesses with a high-speed Internet connection and more than one computer connect to the Internet using a wireless connection.  Wireless networks offer great convenience allowing you to work anywhere in your home or business without the mess of cords and cables.

Wireless networks are relatively easy to set up.  Basically, you simply connect a wireless router to your cable or DSL modem.  The wireless router then broadcasts a signal through the air to nearby computers indicating network and Internet access is available.

However, most people don’t realize that, unless you secure your wireless network, anyone within several hundred feet can connect to it and use your Internet connection – without your knowledge or permission.  This leaves you at serious risk and liability.

It’s like leaving your back door wide open.

 

The Dangers of an Unsecured Wireless Network

An unsecured wireless network allows your neighbors, potential hackers, and even criminals to access your computers and use your Internet service.  Such people may use your network to download illegal content and send spam and viruses.

It also allows them the ability to look at all of the files on your computer, including pictures, documents and other personal information.  With the right software, they can watch everything you do online – including making purchases, booking vacations, and online banking.

If someone commits a crime using your Internet connection, the activity can be traced back to your account and you could potentially be held responsible.

 

How to Protect Your Wireless Network

  1. The first step is to use encryption.  Most routers today have the ability to encrypt your wireless communications, but the feature is turned off by default.  It requires you to manually turn it on. The best and strongest form of encryption is WPA, or Wi-Fi Protected Access.  If you have this option, select it.  It provides the greatest security against hackers.  The other form of encryption is WEP, or Wired Equivalent Privacy.  It provides basic protection for your wireless network, although it can be broken into by sophisticated hackers.  Still it is better than no encryption at all.
  2. Second, change your router’s pre-set password for administration.  All routers have a default password that allows you to setup and configure the router.  These passwords can be easily found on the Internet.  Changing the password to something only you know will make it more difficult for hackers to guess and prevent others from accessing your router.
  3. Third, turn off identifier broadcasting.  Wireless routers send out a signal to nearby computers announcing that a wireless connection is available.  If this signal is turned off, unwanted people will no longer know that your wireless connection can be joined.
  4. Finally, protect all of your computers with good antivirus software and a firewall.  Keep them up-to-date.

 

Taking a few minutes to implement these security measures could save you hours of headaches and frustrations.  If you’re unsure of how properly secure your wireless network, give us a call at Calibre Computer Solutions to schedule an appointment for one of our trained service technicians to protect your wireless network and computers.

 

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9 Websites That Will Make Your Life Better

The Internet contains a wealth of information on virtually any topic imaginable.  Some of it is extremely useful, while other content isn’t so reputable.

In this column, I’ve compiled nine really useful websites that can make your life easier, save you money or time, or provide some fun and entertainment.  I would be interested in hearing about websites you find useful as well – just email them to questions@calibre-cs.com.

1)     Planning a weekend get-away?  Heading to Evansville, but need to fuel the car?  We all know that gas prices can vary from town to town.  GasBuddy.com can help you locate the cheapest gasoline prices throughout the nation.  Prices are continually updated as users report gas prices in their area.  Mobile apps can be installed on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android phone to help you find the cheapest gas while you’re on the go.

2)     Rather than throw out an item because of an ugly stain, check out www.HowToCleanAnything.com.   This website features hundreds of handy tips and tricks for removing stains and cleaning all sorts of items – from carpets to vehicles to sports equipment and more.

3)     Financial advisors recommend reviewing your credit report at least annually to make sure its information is correct.  AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website that allows you free access to your personal credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (one per year from each agency).

4)     When you were growing up, were you always taking things apart to figure out how they worked?  Now you don’t have to.  HowStuffWorks.com tells you exactly what you want to know about almost anything.  And if you think you know it already, take their quizzes to find out.

5)     Need a phone number, but don’t have a phone book handy?  Whitepages.com allows you to find people or businesses quickly and easily – including phone numbers and addresses.  You can also do a reverse phone lookup if you want to find out who a phone number belongs to.

6)     Tired of having to listen to the confusing automated phone answering systems when calling big companies?  All you want to do is speak to a human, right?  GetHuman.com tracks the best phone numbers and contact options for over 8,000 companies worldwide to help get you to the right person quickly.

7)     Your calendar age may not reflect your “physical age” (the age of your body).  Leading doctors, including Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, developed RealAge.com to help you find out your body’s health age.  Simply complete the online test, review the results, then follow their health advice to improve your overall wellness.

8)     Looking for a truly unique gift for that someone special?  Got a simple task you need done, but don’t have the time to do it yourself?  Visit Fiverr.com and see if someone is willing to do it for you for only $5.  You’ll find offers ranging from normal “I will draw you a caricature for $5” to zany “I will hand letter your message on my beer gut for $5.”

9)     Enjoy listening to the radio, but hate the constant commercials?  Want music tailored to your particular taste or a certain genre?  Pandora.com is a free Internet radio station that allows you to build stations around an artist, a genre, or a song.  You can also purchase an annual subscription for $36 that removes the ads.

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Use the Web to Plan Your Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

Summertime!  It’s the perfect season for making a getaway from the daily hustle and bustle of life.

The Internet is a great resource for planning a short weekend road trip or a full-scale family vacation.  With gas prices once again nearing record highs, the web can help you find creative ways to save money on your upcoming travels.

All major airlines and hotels have websites that allow you to plan an entire trip – everything from travel to accommodations to daily excursions.  But these sites may not offer you the best value or variety.

For adventurous vacationers who like to explore various parts of the country (or world), Groupon Getaways serves up unique weekend travel deals at huge discounts.  For example, a recent search found a two-night stay for two-adults at the Palms Place at the Palms in Las Vegas for only $169.  Another offer was for a 4-night stay for four at the Blue Ridge Village Resort for $259.  Groupon’s deals change frequently and do come with some limitations, but it may be worth checking out.  (Visit www.groupon.com/getaways.)

The State of Indiana offers a searchable trip planner for those who like to stay close to home.  You can search the type of activities you enjoy, such as family fun, outdoor recreation and sports, romantic retreats, and art and cultural.  Then you can choose where in the state you would like to explore.  (Visit http://www.in.gov/visitindiana/tripplanner/trips.aspx.)

Google is also your friend when it comes to choosing a getaway or vacation.  If you’re thinking of visiting a certain city or area, type in “visit yourdestination name” (such as visit Nashville TN).  You’ll discover many websites that provide visitor guides, nearby attractions, upcoming events and festivals, as well as hotels and restaurants.

Another good search term to use in Google is “things to do near (city and state)”.  Again, you will find many websites filled with information on activities and events to enjoy near a specific destination.

We would love to hear from YOU as you travel this summer.  Please feel free to email us pictures and descriptions of places you’ve visited and activities you’ve done.  We may share them in a future column or in our monthly e-newsletter.  Our email address is info@calibre-cs.com.

Happy trails!