Tips help keep kids cyber safe
Jennifer Phifer is Fort Jackson's installation information assurance manager.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As the cool weather approaches our doorstep and the leaves start to turn, I would like to take a moment to stop and reflect on the difference in perspective the change in seasons provides us as we trade another long, hot summer for a much-welcomed autumn breeze here on Fort Jackson.

On the subject of change, I believe that a different perspective is often needed in order to truly understand a difficult issue. This statement definitely stands true regarding cybersecurity.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and the overarching theme for this year is, "Our Shared Responsibility." This theme reminds us all how we are infinitely interconnected through cyberspace and that we all have an important role in securing our online environment.
Many people associate good cybersecurity with sound security decisions and/or actions they themselves take directly on computer systems across the internet or into "the cloud" be it in the workplace or another official capacity. Although that is a very important viewpoint, it is only one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle.

The cyber awareness of those around us, including our co-workers, friends and family members affect both our personal and our organization's overall cybersecurity stance as well. One crucial topic of cybersecurity that is of increasing concern to the Fort Jackson community is family cybersecurity -- or more specifically -- keeping our children safe in cyberspace.

We pour a great deal of our energy and resources into government cybersecurity initiatives, but what about what goes on right inside our own homes while our children surf the Internet?

It is time for us to invest a little bit of energy into providing a safer cyber environment for our children. While it is simply not possible to be 100 percent secure while online, there are some simple steps that parents can take to provide a more secure cyber environment for their children. By observing the four steps below, you can become more aware of your family's internet habits as well as help to prevent cybersecurity incidents before they can occur:

1)Talk to your children about their Internet chat, social networking and browsing habits.
Parents who keep an open dialogue with their children are more informed about their children's interests and are better able to take action to mitigate individual cyber threats for their families. The rule of thumb for anyone engaged in social media is not to place anything on your site that you wouldn't mind seeing on a billboard. Also, be very careful who has access to view your private sites. "Friend" is a term used a little too loosely in our Internet jargon today and can be very misguiding for young people.

2) Use parental controls and review your internet history often.
Parental controls allow parents to select which sites their children are allowed to access. All major operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7, offer "parental controls" that allow parents to restrict Internet and computer usage. This is an invaluable tool in helping to prevent malicious logic, such as viruses, spyware and software, from making its way onto your computer. Also, review your computer's Internet browsing history often. This will give you a good indication of which sites your children visit online. If any of these sites collect personal information, you should discourage their use immediately.

3) Always use anti-virus software.
Always use anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on any computer connected to the Internet, period. Remember to keep the computer updated and adjust your security settings within your anti-virus software to account for your family's browsing habits, as necessary.

4) Remind children never to talk to strangers online.
This is perhaps the most important rule of family cyber safety. Children should never give out personal information (phone numbers or addresses) to anyone online and should only use nicknames or just a first name for online chat and social media, if engaging in these activities is allowed. They should never plan to meet in person anyone whom they have met online without parental approval and supervision.

For more information on National Cyber security Awareness Month, visit the Department of Homeland Defense website at: http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1158611596104.shtm.

Page last updated Thu October 13th, 2011 at 00:00