In June, businesses and companies across the U.S. recognize and address the possible dangers of internet use during Internet Safety Month. Awareness and advocacy groups, such as the National Cyber Security Alliance and National Crime Prevention Council, create and publish many resources designed to protect the public and, in particular, children from possible harm originating from internet use.
Despite the crash-course in internet safety that many adults and children took part in this past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of harm to an individual’s financial, personal, professional or emotional well-being stemming from internet use is a very real threat. In 2020, identity theft that originated from internet use resulted in over $1 million lost, according to reports generated by BBB Scam Tracker.
Businesses, individuals, children, and parents each use the internet for various purposes and should exercise caution when engaging online, whether through social media, an online store, video games, streaming services, or content found on the World Wide Web.
BBB offers the following tips and resources to interact safely with online content this Internet Safety Month:
Learn about CARU. The Children’s Advertisement Review Unit (CARU) is the nation’s first Safe Harbor Program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), signed into law on April 21, 2000. Participants who adhere to CARU’s Guidelines are deemed in compliance with COPPA and essentially insulated from FTC enforcement action as long as they comply with program requirements. When advertising or data collection practices are misleading, inappropriate, or inconsistent with laws and guidelines, CARU seeks change through the voluntary cooperation of companies and where relevant, enforcement action. Parents can find more information about CARU and its impacts at BBBPrograms.org.
Learn about COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) protects personal information of children under the age of 13 on websites and online services—including apps. COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents and get their approval before collecting, using or disclosing a child’s personal information.
Use parental controls if necessary. Although the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, enabling parental controls is an additional tool to help monitor their online activity. Today Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features that allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities, but third-party apps are available as well. Research the option that works best.
Share with care and remember, personal information is like money. What is posted online can last a lifetime: parents can teach children that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Talk to them about who might see a post and how it may be perceived in the future, by showing them how anything they do online can positively or negatively impact other people. Sharing personal information can also give online thieves an idea of what login information or passwords might be used for banking or other online accounts.
Avoid sharing your location. These days nearly every app automatically tracks a user’s location. It’s a good idea for children to disable this feature on the apps they use. Advise them not to geo-tag their posts with their location either.
Visit BBB.org for more information on how to protect a child’s online privacy.
Browser privacy. Many websites use files, called cookies, to personalize user experiences and provide targeted ads. Website browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge, give their users the ability to adjust their privacy settings and delete or manage cookies. Changes made on one device do not carry over to other devices, so make sure to adjust these settings on any device you use to access the internet.
Smartphone privacy. Most mobile devices allow users to control whether they receive targeted ads based on app usage and browsing activity. Settings include: resetting advertising identifiers, tracking control, location control and ad personalization. Toggling these settings will change the permissions of apps and browsers used on a mobile device. The Network Advertising Initiative has free opt-out tools available to consumers who wish to stop receiving targeted advertisements. Learn more about adjusting privacy settings for your devices at FTC.gov.
Protect your device. Download and maintain up-to-date security software to prevent malware from infecting your device. Along with computers, other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware, such as smartphones and gaming systems. Make sure to use security software to scan for viruses on any external device, such as a USB flash drive, before downloading data to your hard drive.
Exercise good cybersecurity habits. Become familiar with the five-step approach to cybersecurity: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. Be cautious when interacting with links received through email or social media and make it a habit to check for the ‘lock’ icon in a website address that indicates it is a secured system before making an online purchase. Protect your most vital accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Read more on how to safeguard your home from cybersecurity threats on BBB.org.
For additional resources on how businesses can practice safe internet habits, visit BBB.org.