Summary: As if growing up wasn’t hard enough, we all have to worry about staying safer online, too. So whether you’re a digital native or still wary of the web — and no matter how old you are — we’ve got the top tips to stay safer whenever you’re online.
We’ve talked a lot about cyber security and tips like creating a stronger password. But there are some other internet safety tips that you can implement — no matter how old you are. Whether you grew up online or the internet came later in your life, there’s always something to learn.
Let’s dive in and stay more secure online.
Internet Safety 101
Some tips really are universal — so we’ll get into those here.
- Avoid public WiFi networks. We understand that there are times you’ll need to get online quickly, and public WiFi is your best (or only) option. But public WiFi is also unsecured, meaning that your information is much easier to steal. If you do need to use public WiFi, use VPN software — that way, you’re still avoiding burning through your mobile data but the VPN can encrypt your information. And always avoid accessing your bank accounts, online shopping, or doing any other activity involving payment information on an unsecured network. (Psst — if you’re often on your phone without WiFi, choose a mobile plan with enough data to fit your life.)
- Keep your privacy settings on. Most browsers and mobile devices have default settings for your privacy. You can choose to make these settings even more stringent, depending on what you’re comfortable with. Sometimes the settings are hard to find (especially on social media platforms) but they are there — it just might require a quick online search to find out where, exactly, they are. Keeping your privacy safeguards up helps restrict the amount of data (like your browsing history and social media usage) marketers and hackers have access to.
- Only make purchases from secure sites. Hopefully you’re only browsing secure sites, too, but be especially careful whenever you’re online shopping. These transactions require credit card or bank account information, which is extremely valuable to cybercriminals. You can tell a site is secure by looking for a padlock icon next to the address bar or making sure the address starts with https:// and not just http://.
By avoiding public WiFi, keeping (or upgrading) your default privacy settings, and making sure you’re only browsing and shopping on secure sites, you’re well on your way to a safer digital experience. But there are also tips more specific to every stage of life.
Internet Safety for Adults
Even if you’re not a parent, there’s always something more to learn about internet safety. What can we say, we’re just here to remind you.
- Enable two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA). Two-factor authentication might be tricky for younger internet users because it requires a cell phone, email address, security question, or something to be answered in addition to inputting the correct password. This makes it harder for hackers to access your personal accounts and information and renders your password alone useless. If you’re not willing to enable 2FA everywhere, at a minimum implement it across any financial accounts — including things like a mortage and 401(K).
- Keep your cyber security software up to date. Although a cyber safety program can’t protect against every single threat, it is a great step to staying safer online. Look for a program that offers identity theft reimbursement and that works across multiple devices. That way, you can protect all the devices your family uses. Once you have the software, keep it up to date to stay as protected as possible. Most software updates include security patches. We recommend Protect+ powered by NortonLifeLock. With licenses for multiple devices and a million-dollar protection program, it’s everything you need in one.
- Keep an eye on your credit card statements and score. If you’re seeing random charges on your credit card or bank statements — or your score has suddenly significantly dropped — it’s an indicator you may be experiencing a security breach. Keeping an eye on all of this makes it easier for you to alert your financial institution right away and change the password for that account (and any other sites that may be using that password). But it should go without saying: only check these accounts on a secure, private network.
If you do have kids, make sure you teach them these tips as they get older and start opening credit cards, too.
Internet Safety for Elders
Unfortunately, security issues have no respect for their elders. Seniors are often targeted with different scams than other age groups.
- Watch out for phishing emails. While phishing emails can be sent to anybody, it seems that a higher number of scams target older populations. Email phishing is a fancy name for an online scam that arrives via email. It often looks like a legitimate organization or sender, but once you click a link, it can steal your information. Sometimes, the sender pretends to be a family member or friend who needs money. These emails have the goal of collecting your personal information, from credit cards to Social Security numbers and more. If you see a suspicious email, mark it as junk or spam and do not click on anything within the message. If you only open the email and don’t click on anything in the body, it won’t breach your information.
- Use a password for your devices. Whether it’s your cell phone, tablet, laptop, or another device, you should have some sort of password to protect your information. Otherwise, if you leave your device out at a coffee shop or library, anyone can get into it. Like all passwords, it should be something harder to guess (not 1234, your name, your birthday, or any similar techniques) to keep you safer.
- Be wary on social media. Whether it’s a general site to connect with friends or a dating site, social media is a common place for cybercriminals to get in touch with you. In romance scams, criminals pose as interested romantic partners and exploit seniors for money. In 2020, more than $280 million were lost to these scams, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and FBI.
While these tips are specifically for those 60 and over, these techniques can be used on any age group — so due diligence is key.
Internet Safety for Teens
Teenagers and young adults have grown up with the internet as part of their everyday lives — but just because they may feel more comfortable with it doesn’t mean they don’t need any guidance.
- Think before you share. Essentially since the internet was created, we’ve been warning users that the internet is forever. But that’s easy to forget, especially with apps that make things “disappear” after 24 hours, like Snapchat and Instagram stories. But screenshots still happen, and it’s saved in an archive someplace. Beyond avoiding embarrassing photos resurfacing later in life, remind teens that it’s dangerous to share their location or activities in real time. Not only can that alert criminals that no one is home, but it also lets everyone know exactly where they are. Save the geotagging for when you’re back home.
- Know your friends. Another important aspect of social media etiquette is your friends or followers list. Don’t accept a request from a person you don’t know. While it might make your following:followers ratio look more impressive, it also opens you up to attempted crime or phishing — or someone being just plain creepy. Stick with those you know and trust and you’ll have less to worry about.
- Turn off your Bluetooth. Some locations can look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on and use it to track your movements or have backdoor access to your device. Play it safe by turning those features off unless you’re actively using them.
Being online virtually all the time may be second nature but keeping these tips in mind will help make those everyday activities safer.
Internet Safety for Kids
Just like we give kids advice for how to stay safe when crossing the street, riding a bike, getting on the bus, and more, we also need to offer safety advice for being online.
- Keep screens in open areas. Whether it’s one room in your home or just a rule that no one can have screens in their bedrooms, keeping your tech in an open area with more eyes makes it easier to keep track of what your kids are doing online. Plus, they’re more likely to ask questions or be open about what they’re doing.
- Use parental control software. Choose a parental monitoring software like Guardian (powered by Bark). This program keeps everyone happy. By automatically reviewing your child’s text messages, social media accounts, and more, you’ll be alerted to any suspicious or harmful information — all without having to sit down and scroll through their phone for hours. It’s added privacy for them and peace of mind for you.
- Don’t respond to messages from strangers. Whether it’s an email, a text message, a post on social media, or something else, don’t respond to any messages from strangers. Teach your kids to alert an adult and ignore the message. Once they’ve told you, go ahead and report and block the sender or number.
No matter what age group you or your loved ones fall into, internet safety reminders are always relevant. By staying aware of your virtual surroundings and thinking before you click or post, you’ll be able to stay safer online — and to protect your personal information, too. Want extra protection? Check out our cyber safety and parental control programs from our award-winning partners. And if you need internet that can keep up from a provider who values your privacy, well, we’ve got the perfect home internet plans for you.