Digital Parenting: The Critical Thinking Skills Kids Need in The Age of Fake News

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

These days information comes at us fast and furious. So quickly, that we easily come face-to-face with videos, articles, blog posts and websites that look real and feel authentic, but are fake or at least distorted. Too many of us  – no matter what our political leaning – have been victim to misinformation and have responded with falsely directed outrage. It’s not productive, and worse yet, can be dangerous.

Information that is rooted in truth, information that distinguishes fact from opinions, rumors, and lies, is vital for a healthy society. The all too real presence of fake news online, ads (that look like news) and news websites (that are not journalistic sources) are not the hallmarks of a society that rules for the people, by the people. Fake news creates the very real risk of allowing ourselves to be controlled by those who seek to color information to promote their own point of view or agenda.

As the song goes, ‘what the world needs now’…is critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue or information in order to form a judgment. A lot of what we read and see online is kind of accurate—but it’s not hard to end up believing something that is not exactly true. How many times have you seen statements as fact, when it is actually opinion or poorly-researched information? It happens all the time, right?

In the age of technology, we must take a greater personal responsibility in seeking out truthful information. As digital parents and digital grandparents, we must ensure that our children and grandchildren have the critical thinking skills to identify fake news. Here are some tips from Savvy Cyber Kids on teaching your children and grandchildren critical thinking skills.

READ TOGETHER: The goal here is not just to improve their literacy, but to develop their reading comprehension skills. Engage with them about what they are reading and ask questions. Give your children the opportunity to think actively, not passively, as they read. Talk about passages or plots that are challenging to them and help them figure out how they can gain knowledge to understand difficult concepts. Ask them to make connections in what they are reading, predicting how a story might end or making a comparison to something in real life. Invite them to summarize a section of a book or an entire story to identify the important themes. This can help you see what they do and don’t understand. You can also read newspaper articles and check facts together to show them how to use analytical and critical thinking skills.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO ASK QUESTIONS: ’20 Questions’ may not be your favorite game to play but it does allow children to conceptualize ideas and call out untrue or half-truthful statements. The child who asks ‘why’ (over and over again) is well on the path to excellent critical thinking skills! The goal here is to teach children to question what they read or hear. With older children, talk about sources of information. Is it a reliable news source or a tabloid , a personal blog or a lobbying website? Did they hear it from a classmate who has only heard it from someone else? The right questions can lead to discussions about the state of the world and all sorts of relevant topics.

MAKE THINKING A FAMILY AFFAIR: Use family time – during mealtimes, on long car rides, or while on trips – to encourage questions and problem-solving techniques. “What do you think of such-and-such?” Or, “What is your opinion on ____?” Invite open-ended discussion and don't let your own opinions drive these conversations.

GO DEEP: Find a topic that interests your child or grandchild, cultivate it and encourage them to read books, watch movies and research the topic.

TALK ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY AND CONSEQUENCE: Start a discussion about why sharing news on social media and elsewhere online may not be a good idea, can be polarizing and can have negative consequences. Remind them of the importance of not confusing their own opinions with fact and to pause before automatically sharing information online, before verifying its truthfulness.

Strong critical thinking skills can benefit young people immensely, improving reading comprehension and furthering their educational development. This will help them throughout their school years and beyond. Independent thinkers make better decisions. Encouraging this skill set in your children and grandchildren will develop a healthy critical mindset that allows them to think for themselves.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Security Alert: Avoid Phishing & Customer Support Scams posing as EarthLink

Please be aware of 2 known scams impersonating EarthLink’s brand.

1) Customer Service Fraudulent Advertising

There are multiple companies impersonating EarthLink and promoting incorrect phone numbers or email addresses to try and get your information and/or money. If you need contact information for EarthLink, visit www.earthlink.com to ensure you’re contacting an authentic EarthLink representative.

The accurate and safe ways to contact EarthLink support team are as follows:

  • Call our designated support line at 1-888-EARTHLINK (888-327-8454).
  • SMS Text us at 1-866-420-2445.
  • Download the mobile app for Android an iPhone. The app is free and you can chat with a customer support specialist. Download here.
  • Chat with support via our chat tool on the website here.
  • Research issues, find outage postings and other support topics are further detailed at our support page https://support.earthlink.net/

Examples of fraudulent advertisements below:

2)  Email Phishing Scam

An email that fraudulently represent EarthLink has been identified. The email is written to trick you into a clicking a link to a fake webpage with the aim of persuading you to enter personal information. The message may include information that the default payment has expired or a recent payment has been declined.

Tips to identify a phishing email:

  • Misspelled words
  • Grammatical error
  • Incorrect links, to test, hover over link and you will see an unauthorized address
Example of incorrect link.

If your EarthLink account becomes past due and is subject to disconnection, EarthLink will notify via email. You will be requested to login in to MyAccount to make changes to your account.

If you receive an email that you suspect as a phishing attempt, please forward to fraud@abuse.earthlink.net and delete email.

 


Clean up your phone for a better digital life

As your Internet Service provider, EarthLink is committed to keeping you informed of technology tips to help manage your digital life. Below our partner Symantec shares information how to keep your mobile phone working at maximum performance.

If you are guilty of having apps cluttered all over your screen then you are not alone. Smartphones loaded with too many apps can slow down your phone, allow third-party apps to access your data, shorten battery life or worse, crash your phone.

Every once in a while every phone needs a cleanup. This time of year  is a great time to take out the old and bring in the new. Here are a few tips to help you clean your phone.

1. Don’t want it? Delete it.

Apps are notorious for taking up space on your phone. Arrange apps in the order of usage. If you think you haven’t used an app in over a month then you probably don’t need it.

2. The backup plan.

As a general rule, regularly backup your data. This not only frees up space in your phone, it also speeds it up. If your phone is taken over by ransomware, you will still have your data.

3. How many people are in your phone?

You build contacts as you learn and grow in this world. You add them to your address book. As you move from one phone to another, you are carrying these numbers and details to the next device, and the one after that. Finally you end up with more contacts than the number of people you actually know. Go through your contacts and delete the ones you know you wont need.

4. Music, messages and maps

There was a time when music was downloaded and saved in phones. Now with Wi-Fi being available almost everywhere and apps that stream music, the need to save music has declined. Text messages take up a lot of space too. Memes, videos, gifs, etc, live in your feed and take up precious real estate. Delete them once you’ve read them. Apps like maps, ride sharing services, and other services that use geo location that run in the background and slow down your phone. Turn them off when not in use.

5. Time to change your password

Changing passwords regularly keeps your device safe from cyber attacks. Use unique passwords that use a combination of at least 10 upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. The key is to make it difficult for attackers to access your information by changing your passwords every three months and not reusing passwords for multiple accounts.

6. Check for software updates and patches

Software patches and update notifications show up at the oddest moments. While it is highly recommended that you update your phone immediately upon receiving them, sometimes people can miss the notification. Check your phone’s settings, and make sure that you are running the latest version of the software. Ignoring security updates exposes your phone to vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

7. Clean on the inside and clean on the outside

Do not forget to remove your phone cover and wipe down your phone with a clean cloth. Read the cleaning instructions that came with your phone. Using wet wipes and alcohol solutions may damage the phone.

8. Safety first

Use a reliable security suite to keep your phone safe from cyber attacks. Norton Wi-Fi Privacy encrypts the data you send and receive when using an unsecured public Wi-Fi, protecting your information that may be vulnerable to attack.

Make sure you maintain the health of your phone with good cyber habits.

 

 

© 2018 Symantec Corporation. All rights reserved. Symantec, the Symantec Logo,  Norton, Norton by Symantec,  are trademarks or registered trademarks of Symantec Corporation or its affiliates in the United States and other countries.


SSL certificate changes

In July 2018, Google will release an updated version of their web browser Chrome that will mark websites without SSL certificates as “not secure”. Other browsers, like IE, Edge, Firefox will also be adopting this policy.

What is SSL?

SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) is a standard security technology for web browsers, encrypting information passed between a website’s server and a visitor’s browser. Websites with SSL certificates appear in your browser URL as “HTTPS” versus “HTTP”.

SSL helps create a safe and secure connection for your web pages, keeping customers’ information safe from hackers, criminals and other unwanted eyes.

Why use SSL?

Your business and website needs to look credible to your website visitors. Websites marked as “not secure” may cause potential customers to lose trust in your business, so it’s becoming increasingly important that every website is secured with SSL. If your website transits sensitive information like credit card details or personal information, it’s essential your business and your customers’ information is protected with SSL.

Secure your website and your Customer's information before July 2018. If your site does not have a SSL Certificate, you can learn more about EarthLink's SSL Certificate by calling 1-800-201-8615 or learn more here.


Security alert: Reboot your router

As your Internet Service provider, EarthLink is committed to keeping you informed of important cyber security events being observed globally. Below our partner Symantec shares information regarding a recent alert regarding router vulnerability.

 The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued an urgent request for consumers to reboot their routers now to help disrupt a massive foreign-based malware attack.

Foreign cyber criminals have compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and other networked devices worldwide, the FBI said in a May 25 announcement.

What does the VPNFilter threat mean to you?

The malware, called VPNFilter, poses several threats to small office and home routers, the FBI said.

Here’s what the malware could do:

  • Render routers inoperable
  • Collect information passing through the routers
  • Block network traffic

The FBI said detecting and analyzing the malware’s network activity is difficult.

How to help defend yourself from VPNFilter malware

The FBI recommends taking several steps. Here’s what you should do:

  • Turn your router off, then back on. This may temporarily disrupt the malware and potentially help identify already-infected devices.
  • Consider disabling remote management settings on the device.
  • Secure the device with a strong, unique, new password.
  • Enable encryption.
  • Upgrade firmware to the latest available version.

How pervasive is the malware already? Analysts have estimated that more than half a million routers in more than 50 countries have been affected.

Compromised routers raise risks

Keep in mind that all your information passes through your router. That’s why security is essential.

When your router is compromised, your privacy and the security of your devices can be at stake.

 


Technology Tools for Grandparents

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

 

Have you heard? We are living in the ‘Digital Age’. Got grandkids? Then you are grandparenting Digital Natives, young people born into a world that is, if not defined by technology, then certainly surrounded by technology in ever-evolving ways. This means, like it or not, you are a Digital Grandparent.

But what does it mean to digitally grandparent? From the Savvy Cyber Kids point-of-view we—parents, grandparents, educators and any adult who cares for a young person—have a responsibility to raise cyber aware kids. Their safety, if not their lives, depends on it. Their reputation and their ability to not make inappropriate decisions that will negatively impact the rest of their lives depends on it too.

There is no one-stop shop set of rules for digitally grandparenting. Every family can and should make their own judgments, even from child to child, or grandchild to grandchild, about what constitutes cyber safety and cyber ethics in the family home. The one rule we impart to EVERY digital grandparent is to get involved and stay involved in your grandchildren’s digital lives.

In order to get involved, you need to be on technology yourself. The Savvy Cyber Kids Grandparent Guides to Technology help you navigate your own online safety while you meet your grandchildren where they are at. And, your grandchildren, where are they? Geography aside, they are on Instagram, among other social media platforms. That's the beauty of technology, your grandkids could be living down the street from you or a continent away, technology doesn’t care. And truth be told, your grandkids might very well be more attentive to what you have to say when you post it or when you use technology to communicate with them.

Ready to get tech savvy? Here are some guides to get you started….

Click the links below for Volume 1, 2 and 3:

Grandparents guide, Volume 1

Grandparents guide, Volume 2

Grandparents guide, Volume 3

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.