Ride-Sharing: Stay Safe While Waiting For Your Ride

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


Ridesharing services are now commonplace. Everywhere you go, you will see people looking into their phones and watching the road for their incoming ride. We have, in a relatively short amount of time, gotten extremely comfortable with the notion of getting into a stranger’s cars and having them learn our addresses as they take us home. No doubt, being safe when ride-sharing requires your diligent attention – and not just in the car watching the route you are being driven on, but also before you step into the ridesharing vehicle! Don't let the prevalence and convenience of ride-sharing make you forget your common sense.

After all, there are enough reports of sexual assault, harassment, violence and stalking by rideshare drivers from Uber or Lyft. Not to mention criminals when they see you waiting for your ride, pretending to be Uber or Lyft drivers. Your life may be powered by technology, but there are steps you must take – that the app cannot do for you – to stay safe.

Here is what you need to look out for BEFORE you get into a ride share car:

  • Request your ride from inside a building and wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived. If you must wait outside, avoid being alone while waiting for your ride to arrive. This is a great habit even if you are waiting for a parent or friend to pick you up!
  • Before getting in the car, make sure that the license plate, the car type, the driver’s photo and the name match the information on your ride sharing app. Don’t rely on seeing Uber and Lyft emblems and logos on windows and dashboard that could be fakes. Your technology is providing safeguards, use them!
  • Ask the driver the name of the passenger they are picking up before you enter the car.
  • If any of the details provided by your ride sharing app don't match up, don’t get in the car and report the issue in the app.
  • Don’t sit in the front next to the driver. Sitting in the back creates a safety barrier between you and the driver and it gives you your own personal space.

In the car, do these things to stay safe:

  • Text a friend or loved one to let them know that you’re using a ridesharing service. Check in with them when your ride is done and you have arrived safely. You can also use the share status features within ride-sharing apps that track your trip and show your ETA.
  • Don’t chat too much and reveal personal details just to pass the time. Everyone doesn’t need to know your business, do they? Mentioning how long you’re traveling for, if you will be alone at home, where you live or any personal information is private and should remain so. The less strangers know about you, the better!

On every ride, pay attention to your feelings about safety. Uncomfortable? Call a friend and talk on the phone during the ride. Or call 911 if you feel you are in danger. After your ride, rate your driver and provide feedback about your driver, especially if they made you uncomfortable in any way! Unless you share this information, the ridesharing companies cannot take action if their drivers behave inappropriately.


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.

Phishing: You Know What It Is But Will You Know When It Happens To You?

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

No doubt, by now you have heard of phishing, the fraudulent practice of using emails, DMs or texts that end up taking you to a copycat websites pretending to be from a reputable company in order to get you to reveal personal information, such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, login IDs, passwords and credit card numbers. This information is valuable to criminals who use it to steal your money or your identity or both, as well as, to get access to your computer to launch a ransomware attack that can lock you out of your computer.

Listen, it’s easy to make mistakes! The scammers have gotten very, very good at imitating the familiar logos and login pages of legitimate companies. The criminals will make it seem like they need your information quickly – your account will be frozen, you won’t get a tax refund, your account will go into overdrawn status or a family member will be hurt or you could be arrested. Basically, they tell lies that panic you to get to you act quickly, without thinking, and give them information that they want.

This recently happened to me. An email from Amazon showed an order that looked unfamiliar. It was a really large purchase and I was naturally concerned. Without thinking, I clicked on the order number and within moments, a poker gaming software was loaded on my computer. Clearly, this was not really an email from Amazon. Later, when I lingered my mouse over the sender email address, I was able to see that the sender address was not valid. I should have done this BEFORE I clicked on the link. This time, I was able to quickly remove the invading software and do several security scans to ensure nothing was left behind. But it was a good reminder that’s it’s very, very easy to be tricked – especially when distracted by the demands of life off the screen!

Older people are natural targets of scam artists. The criminals assume that they will be easily confused and will act on emotion – especially when inquiries are related to the well-being of bank accounts and billing accounts. But scams are not limited to grandparents! Our youngest digital citizens, our children and grandchildren who spend a lot of time online are being marketed to by scammers who focus on their areas of interests, like gaming. Common scams ask young people to fill out a survey to gain gaming benefits or enter into an exchange of gaming loot. It’s all fake but by clicking on links and providing personal information, young people are at risk too. Their gaming accounts can be stolen, along with the parent’s credit cards associated with that account.

So while you may err and sometimes click on a link that you should not have – you need to be especially careful not to enter ANY personal information in response to an inquiry, unless you have firmly validated the authenticity of the sender.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the rules to stay safe are the same for all ages:

  • Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links in emails. Even your friend or family members’ accounts could be hacked. Files and links can contain malware that can weaken your computer's security.
  • Do your own typing. If a company or organization you know sends you a link or phone number, don’t click. Use your favorite search engine to look up the website or phone number yourself. Even though a link or phone number in an email may look like the real deal, scammers can hide the true destination.
  • Make the call if you’re not sure. Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information. Phishers use pressure tactics and prey on fear. If you think a company, friend or family member really does need personal information from you, pick up the phone and call them yourself using the number on their website or in your address book, not the one in the email.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
  • As an extra precaution, you may want to choose more than one type of second authentication (e.g. a PIN) in case your primary method (such as a phone) is unavailable.
  • Back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly to protect yourself against viruses or a ransomware attack.
  • Keep your security up to date. Use security software you trust, and make sure you set it to update automatically.

Read more here: https://www.edts.com/edts-blog/15-examples-of-phishing-emails-from-2016-2017 and see examples of phishing scams that imitate companies that look very familiar to you, like Netflix, UPS, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PayPal, Amazon and the IRS.

Talk to your children and grandchildren about phishing and scams. Remind them of the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it is!


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.

The Right Age for a First Phone

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

Before we start this chat off with some preachy, scientific-based but potentially somewhat tone-deaf-to-reality blanket statements, let’s look at what is actually happening with today’s youth.

  • The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10-years-old.
  • 64% of kids have access to the internet via their own devices, compared to 42% in 2012.
  • 39% of kids get a social media account at 11-years-old.

On average, kids in the 4th and 5th grades have their hands on a powerful device that leaves them unsupervised and open to a whole lot of trouble. Whatever trouble they can get into, you can be sure that a phone will magnify that trouble 100x.

Sure, parents of previous generations had to face tough parental decisions. But the advent of smartphones and the connectivity of technology has brought with it even more challenging judgement calls.

And, like any other parenting decision, this is a personal one, driven by family dynamics. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for every family—and there may be different answers for each child in your family. I would put aside concerns about being fair and consistent with your children when it comes to giving a child access to a device that literally connects them with the world – the good and the very, very bad. Your child’s maturity and willingness to accept responsibility should be the driving forces in assessing his or her readiness for a phone.

But if you are looking for that very appropriate and scientific-based set of recommendations to gauge how you make this most important decision, I can tell you this: The longer you wait, the better it is for your child. Medical boards and educational experts universally agree that waiting 12 or 14 years old to give your child a phone, gives them a chance to mature enough to begin to manage the complications that come with a phone: distraction, addiction, cyberbullying, pornography, sexting, child predators and more.

You have heard Savvy Cyber Kids say this before: Parenting in the Digital Age is hard. So, if you are looking for an article or a study or an expert panel to give you the nod of approval for handing over a phone to your child sooner, you are asking the wrong questions. Instead, consider these questions:

  • How well does your child keep track of and treat their personal belongings? Is he or she responsible enough to care for a phone?
  • What responsibilities does your child have already and how well does he or she honor managing those responsibilities?
  • How well does your child understand consequences of actions?
  • Is your child empathetic?
  • Is your child thoughtful or does he or she act without thinking or behave impulsively?
  • Do family dynamics, like your work schedule or your kid’s after-school commitments, create a need for staying in touch with a phone?
  • Have you talked to your child about bullying and digital reputation?
  • Do your kids understand what a friend is—only someone they know in real life—and that anyone else they meet online is a stranger and should always be treated as a stranger?

This is a big decision to make and you should proceed slowly and thoughtfully. Here are some steps you should consider:

  • THE DUMB PHONE: Instead of a ‘smartphone,’ consider starting off with a simple flip phone, one that is not connected to the internet and can only send text messages or place phone calls.
  • FAMILY PHONE RULES: Work with your child to create a unique set of family rules your child must adhere to get and keep a phone. These rules should include giving parents access to all passwords for devices and apps; agreeing to never take or send sexually-charged images (what kids call ‘nudes’); and promising to never, ever try to meet up with a ‘friend’ (or what you as a parent would consider a stranger) from the internet in real life. Other rules to consider are: no devices at the dinner table, putting devices away when friends are visiting; and placing devices out of the bedroom at night.
  • THE NAUGHTY PHONE: Once your child graduates to a smartphone, have a Naughty Phone handy (this, by the way, can be that Dumb Phone you started with) that they will get when they break rules.

Above all, get involved in your child’s digital life. Read Savvy Cyber Kid’s ongoing series, The Parent’s Guide to Technology to get more ideas about helping your child thrive with technology. Have The Tech Talk and make sure your kids see you as a resource to help them navigate their digital world.


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.

Digital New Year Resolutions: Taking Control of Technology For a Healthy New You

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

Technological advancements in 2019 will bring with it both the good and the bad. On the positive side, there is no doubt that technology has brought truly awesome advancements to our day-to-day lives. From convenience and efficiency, safety and life-saving features, to entertainment and information, technology has transformed modern-day living. But, viewed more critically, the near constant presence of technology has also taken control of our behavior, defining how we act, when instead, we should be strategically using technology to improve ourselves.

The New Year is an opportunity to take control of your technology habits and self-select the very best that technology has to offer, instead of acquiescing to the ever present shortcuts that result in less physical activity and less quality, face-to-face interactions with friends and family.

After all, technology isn’t the bad guy; it’s how we use technology that is the problem. So, it’s up to each of us to take a step back and assess our technology diets and see not only where we can trim the overuse but how we can use technology to work towards even greater versions of ourselves in 2019. Let’s get healthy with technology!


  • Don’t use your phone when driving. It is a life or death choice.
  • Don't let technology limit your sleep. Keep your phones out of the bedroom.
  • Limit your day-to-day technology distractions by tailoring notifications.
  • Manage friends, family and work expectations about technology response time.
  • Use social media to be social, and reduce your time spent there if it becomes a negative experience.
  • Intentionally, create time to disconnect and enjoy quality time spent alone and with others.


  • Use Technology To Get Outside More: From Pokémon Go and Walking Dead augmented reality games to a huge selection of running, walking, biking exercise apps, technology gets you off the couch, out of the office and moving.
  • Use Technology To Track Your Health Stats: Exercise apps and dedicated health apps are designed to track your personalized health stats and goals. These technologies can alert you to health risks and also serve as motivation to get and stay active.
  • Use Technology As Your Health Coach: These same apps give your feedback as to your progress and provide tips to improve your results.
  • Use Technology To Make Exercise Fun: From setting your treadmill exercise program to visually taking you on a walk through the streets of Italy to joining a real-time spinning class led by an exercise professional, there are many ways to make time set aside for physical health into an entertaining activity.
  • Use Technology To Make Exercise Social: Many exercise apps allow you to share your benchmark results, as well as challenge other ‘tech and fit’ oriented friends and family members to join you in achieving a healthier new year.

Be present in your life, cultivating real-time relationships and healthy behaviors by actively taking control of your technology use. Stay in tune to the ways technology can make getting healthy a more engaging and entertaining activity.

EarthLink and Norton have tools to help you stay safe online. Visit our Security and Tools section to learn more about Norton Security Online, Wi-Fi Privacy and EarthLink's Online Backup.


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.

An Online Shopping Holiday Story To Avoid

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

It’s that time of year….time to start shopping for your holiday gift giving! Like many Americans, you do much of your shopping online. It’s convenient, easier to price compare and the selection is great, right? All true – but online shopping comes with risks. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your gift giving is marked by cheer – not tears. Read the following shopping scenarios as you think about the popular holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas


On the first night of online shopping….you are relaxing in a coffee shop, using the stores free Wi-Fi as you pick out the perfect present for your daughter-in-law. Little do you know that at the table next you is a cybercriminal recording your every move as your credit card information is accessed via hacking the free Wi-Fi. So, don’t forget to launch your VPN app before online shopping in a public space.

On the second night of online shopping… you get an email advertising a gift perfect for your nephew. You click on the link and order the gift, sharing your credit card information with a fraudulent vendor and becoming a victim of identity theft. So, instead of clicking the link on the email to make the purchase, search for the gift on a more reputable website such as Target.com, Amazon.com or Walmart.com.

On the third night of online shopping…you bought a beautiful throw for your daughter’s new home from Bloomindalles.net. You didn't know, but were soon to find out that misspelled familiar vendor names and website address with .net instead of .com is a trick by fake vendors. So, verify that the spelling of the website name is correct before making a purchase.

On the fourth night of online shopping…you bought some great historical books for your favorite cousin from a seemingly lovely online book dealer. The site wasn’t secure. So even though the book dealer was on the up and up, a hacker was able to steal your credit card information from the transaction. So, the holiday season is always a good time to check your credit card statement to determine if your credit card information has been stolen.

On the fifth night of online shopping…you misplaced your credit card and used your debit card to buy your grandchildren beautiful, handmade toys from Europe. Unfortunately, the vendor was not reputable and you gave the criminal access to all of your funds in your back account. So, refrain from using your debit card from all online transactions and wait until you can access your credit cards.

On the sixth night of online shopping…you happened on the most incredible deal, the bargain of the century. After you bought it, you realized that the offer was really too good to be true and now you are out the money you spent, with no gift in hand. So, remember that buying from reputable sites prevents this from happening. If you are purchasing from a 3rd party seller on a reputable site, the reputable site will help you get your money back in the case of fraud.

On the seventh night of online shopping…you found the perfect gift for a dear friend and was so excited that you, without thinking, entered your birth date and social security number during the check-out process, giving a cybercriminal access to your identify for countless future crimes against you. So, if you have yet to place a security freeze on your credit at Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, now is the time.

 On the eighth night of online holiday shopping…your credit card statement came in the mail. It was a fat envelope. You didn't entirely want to face how much money you had spent holiday shopping and decided to review that expenses later. Later turned into several months into the New Year and that delay made it exponentially more difficult to dispute all the fraudulent charges you despairingly found on your statement. So, take a breath, grab a cup of eggnog and review your bills in a timely fashion.

Use these important cyber safety tips to be safe this holiday season!

  • SHOP FROM KNOWN RETAILERS: By shopping on familiar sites, you are less likely to get any surprises. Beware of misspellings or domain names using “.net” instead of “.com” as that is one of the common ways scammers trick consumers.
  • BE SURE THE SITE IS SECURE: A secure website starts with https:// instead of http://. Secure sites will also have a small lock icon in the lower-right corner of the screen.
  • PAY WISELY: Use a credit card instead of a debit card. If your credit card data is used falsely, it’s easier to resolve issues with a credit card company than with your bank. Making purchases by providing your credit card number through email is never, ever wise.
  • BE WARY: Avoid shopping websites that offer prices that seem too good to be true. A common tactic by cyber criminals is using extremely low prices on popular items, such as electronics, to lure in potential victims. Buy from an unfamiliar website with a great deal and run the risk never seeing the merchandise (or the website) again. Worse yet, it could be a "phishing" scheme, where shoppers who click through are led to a false site developed to steal their data. If the deal is too good to pass up, enter the website name by hand into your browser.
  • GIVE THE LEAST AMOUNT OF INFORMATION POSSIBLE: Keep your personal information private. Don’t provide to anyone your social security number or your birthday. This information, combined with your credit card number, can result in identity theft.
  • REVIEW YOUR STATEMENTS: You should already be regularly checking statements for credit and debit cards as well as checking accounts regularly. In January and February, it’s especially important. Even small charges you don’t remember making can be a sign of fraud. Notify your bank or credit card issuer immediately to report unknown charges.
  • SHOP FROM HOME: There’s no place like home…for a secure network. Public Wi-Fi can be easily hacked, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. When on a public Wi-Fi, limit yourself to window-shopping and price comparing, rather than buying. Do your holiday shopping from the safety of your home - not on your phone in a restaurant or store. If you want to shop on the go, make sure you use a VPN.
  • ACCESS IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION SERVICE: Inconvenience is your friend when it means taking the time to verify purchases against fraud activity. Take advantage of the alert features on your credit cards. These alerts can warn you of abnormal account activity, which are helpful any time during the year but are especially useful during the busy holiday shopping season.
  • UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE: Make sure that your computer and your devices have the most current security software patches installed. Once a security patch is available, cyber criminals have all the information they need to attack devices that have not been updated.

EarthLink and Norton have tools to help you stay safe online. Visit our Security and Tools section to learn more about Norton Security Online, Wi-Fi Privacy and EarthLink's Online Backup.


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.

Top Apps & What you Need to Know

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

At Savvy Cyber Kids, we encourage parents and grandparents to get involved in their children’s and grandchildren’s digital lives. This means knowing what they are doing on their devices, on the platforms they engage on and who they are ‘playing’ with – their friends, followers and so on.

In reality, it’s hard to be involved without getting involved yourself. If you don’t know what a certain social media platform is or if you are not familiar with the games and apps that your children are playing, it’s hard for you to converse about them with your child or grandchild. And, it’s equally hard to know what might be of concern to you.

To that end, it’s interesting to look at what are the most popular apps.


Top Paid Apps on iOS

  1. Human Anatomy Atlas 2019: Complete 3D Human Anatomy
  2. Facetune: The Original Selfie Editor
  3. HotSchedules: Employee Scheduling App
  4. Sky Guide: View Stars Day or Night
  5. Dark Sky Weather: Up To An Hour In Advance Weather Reports
  6. Forest – Stay Focused: Screentime Moderation
  7. Afterlight 2: All-In-One Phot Editor
  8. The Wonder Weeks: Baby Development Calendar
  9. SkyView: Explore The Universe
  10. Cute CUT Pro: Full Featured Video Editor


Top Free Apps on iOS

  1. YouTube
  2. Messenger
  3. Instagram
  4. Snapchat
  5. Facebook
  6. Netflix
  7. Google Maps
  8. Gmail
  9. Remind: School Communication
  10. WhatsApp Messenger


Top Free Apps on Android

  1. Hello Stars - Game
  2. Hole.io-Game
  3. Word Link- Game
  4. Tomb of the Mask - Game
  5. Tik Tok- including musical.ly - Game
  6. Helix Jump - Game
  7. PLANK! - Game
  8. Wish - Shopping
  9. Rise Up - Game
  10. Messenger


Top Paid Apps on Android

  1. Minecraft – Game
  2. Bloons TD 6 - Game
  3. Roller Coaster - Game
  4. Pocket City - Game
  5. HotSchedules
  6. Hitman Sniper - game
  7. Fake GPS Joystick & Routes Go – Proximity Re-Writer
  8. Basic Education – Educational Game
  9. Geometry Dash – Game
  10. Nova Launcher - Customizable, Performance-Driven Home Screen

It’s really great to see popular apps that are devoted to intellectual curiosity, be it human anatomy or astronomy - even the weather.

But even with the presence of apps like human Anatomy Atlas, Sky Guide and Sky View, the preponderance of apps that are popular are overwhelmingly devoted to social media – be it the apps themselves (like YouTube, Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook) or the photo editing tools that create a social media friendly version of reality, like Facetune and Cute CUT.

Do you know how your child or grandchild engages on social media? It’s always worthwhile to talk to your child or grandchild about the pressures to maintain a social media presence. This can have a negative impact on the investment they put into IRL (real-life) relationships and they’re real life responsibilities like school, extra-curricular activities, family relationships and SLEEP! Apps like Facetune and other photo editing services can send a message to your child or grandchild that they are not good enough the way they are. It’s probably worth observing how much time your child or grandchild invests in a selfie. How many photos did they take? How much time did they spend editing it? What did they edit?

These lists are also heavily weighted by a fondness for gaming. There’s a lot of talk these days about gaming addiction and, no doubt, kids can spend way too much time trying to level up within a game. It’s important for you to know which games your child is playing so that you can look at the privacy settings. You need to know who your child is playing with. Is it strangers or only people they know in real life?  You need to know how players communicate with one another within a game. Are strangers communicating with your child or grandchild as they play a game?

By looking at this list together, you can start all sorts of conversations with your child or grandchild. First, learning which one of these apps they use and then exploring how to use it.

Remember, getting involved in the digital lives of your children and grandchildren isn’t just so you can look out for potential pitfalls. It’s also about finding a new way to connect with your child or grandchild – in their virtual worlds where they are already immersed. It’s about seeing if you can find fun and joy with your child or a grandchild in their digital world.


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.