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Proactive parents and teachers can help keep kids safe online


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Updated: 1/17/2013 9:10 am Published: 9/24/2012 2:47 pm


(BPT) - If your teen is among the 93 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds using your family's laptop, smartphone or tablet to surf the Internet, they are vulnerable to multiple cyber threats, many of which could be detrimental.

Moreover, teens do not realize the abundance of threats awaiting them, nor do they recognize a tweet or photo upload can impact not only their reputation and future, but their safety, as well. Microsoft's research shows that 55 percent of teens say they give little or no thought to the consequences of posting something online.

And, according to a recent survey, 1 in 4 parents are overwhelmed by technology and just hope for the best.

“As hackers continue plotting attacks, the increase in vulnerability among teens is likely, but parents may not realize they are actually the first line of defense in keeping their families safe online,” says Linda McCarthy, cyber security expert, former senior director of Internet safety at Symantec and author of Own Your Space: Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online.

The increase in prospective cyber threats provides opportunities in the career field of cyber security. If your teen enjoys spending time online, it's never too early to begin discussing the education required to enter this field.

Cyber security related fields are projected to grow more than 28 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. DeVry University, which has partnered with McCarthy to provide complimentary copies of the Own Your Space eBook to parents, teachers and teens, recognizes the growing need for professionals with the skills required to protect individuals and organizations from cyberattacks. By also partnering with technology leaders like Cisco and Microsoft, its students are provided with a mix of relevant theoretical and hands-on education.

For concerned parents and teachers, McCarthy offers the following advice to help protect teens online:

1. Protect equipment. Install and update antivirus software, spyware protection and firewalls.

2. Realize social networking sites are here to stay. Review your teen's Facebook and Twitter profiles. Make sure they do not display personal information such as full names, addresses or school names.

3. Boost password strength. Utilize a mixture of letters, numbers and characters. And most importantly, never share passwords with anyone.

Cyber security is a moving target, and as threats develop daily, it's imperative for parents and teachers to educate teens about these dangers. “The goal is to inform and educate teens, not scare them about the dangers of sharing information online,” says McCarthy. “By protecting your family's devices and empowering teens with the information needed to recognize impending threats, cyber sabotage is avoidable.”

To download a complimentary copy of Linda McCarthy's eBook, Own Your Space: Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online, visit DeVry.edu/OwnYourSpace.


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