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5 Things You Need to Know to Keep Your Kids Safe Online This Summer

Because of the recession, summer camp is now a luxury for many parents. Meanwhile, the job market for teens hasn’t been this tight in decades. So you can bet that your kids will be spending countless hours Facebooking, YouTubing and Twittering away this summer.

You can also be sure cybercriminals will be hitting your PC with every phishing scam, malicious link and malware they can imagine. At the same time, social networks have opened your kids’ lives to world, creating privacy and safety concerns that your parents never had to deal with.

To protect your PC and your kids, here are five things you need to know before you leave for work tomorrow.

1. Links are not your friends
With one click on a Facebook link, your PC could be crippled. Cybercriminals are aware that many of the more than 400 million users of Facebook have plenty of time to kill. That’s why they’re spreading their scams with links described as “The Sexiest Video EVER” or “You’ll never believe this LOL.” When a link like that appears on a Facebook wall posted by a friend, it takes incredible will power not to click it. So repeat this mantra: If a link looks too good to be true, it is. Of course, this advice won’t always work. That's why you should go ahead and bookmark F-Secure’s free Browsing Protection. If your son or daughter feels they must click on a sensational link, have them check it out first.

2. Make it your job to arm your PC with the most recent updates
If you don’t keep your system software up to date, you risk inviting predators into your PC. Monthly updates for Windows, Adobe Reader, iTunes, and other applications are essential for your online safety. This process can be tedious and time consuming, but F-Secure’s Health Check makes it easy. Run it once a month and feel a little better about letting you kid take control of the keyboard and mouse.

3. Just say no to installing software
Once you’ve run Health Check and made sure you’re protect, there’s no need for your kids to install any random software that pops up. So just say no. No, you do not need to add some media player. No, you do not need to click on that ad to scan the PC to see why it’s so slow. No. No. No. If there is something the PC needs, have your child wait until you get home and check it out. And if you aren’t sure what the software does, Google it. These few extra steps can prevent some pretty nasty malware from ending up on your PC.

4. Set clear boundaries for what your child should not share
Most kids know more about Facebook than you’d ever want to. They know how to add and erase apps or how to block this user and not that one. They know how to make their photos only available to friends of friends. But they may not know what they should NOT share. Make sure your kids know not to share their private information—email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses—in public. They should also avoid posting information about their schedule, especially vacations. Tell them that they aren’t to post when their parents are home or not. On a social network, you can never be sure whom exactly you are sharing your information with, or which of your friends might share your information to the whole world. Your kids need to know that no matter how private their settings tell them they are, anything they post on a social network should be considered as public as the front page of a newspaper—if they know what that is.

5. If you can’t beat them, join them
You should know which social networks your children are on. If you have the time, it's a good idea to start a profile on the site and become their friend or follower. It doesn’t take long, maybe five minutes per site. This way, you’ll get a sense of what your kids are sharing with whom. You can’t watch your child every minute. But if they get the sense that you could be watching, it can only help them think before they click or post.