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How to keep your kids safe while online learning

How safe are your kids while online learning?
Posted at 7:38 AM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 08:40:51-05

Thousands of local children are taking at least some of their classes online this fall.

But how safe are your children from online threats?

Online schooling is no longer a novelty.

And while many of the glitches and surprise zoom "bombings" of last spring have been fixed, experts say our children still face many threats.

Arneesha Collins is the mom of an elementary student learning remotely.

She worries what her son is exposed to when she is not watching.

"I already don't want my son on the iPad or computer a lot, because when he gets on there he is already on YouTube," Collins said.

Laura Pipitone has two young children remote learning, but she says it's still frustratingly glitch-filled.

"Especially on the iPads the younger kids get, I have to log out and log back in every session," Pipitone said.

She's afraid to leave her youngest one alone at the computer.

"Parents are kind of expected to be in the room, so I feel like I am back in kindergarten," she said. "It's hard!"

But distractions aren't the biggest concern of kids spending most of their day online.

Scammers and predators know that lots of kids are on their computers right now.

These sort of threats against children have risen during the pandemic, because kids are spending a lot of time online. You get things like 'Zoom bombing' where someone is screaming racial epithets or is semi-clothed and shows up in the video."

Security expert Dave Hatter of Intrust IT says parents should take four basic security steps.

1. Make sure your Wifi router is not using the default password.

"It's difficult for parents to stay on top of this,” Hatter said. “But the bad guys on the other hand learn what the cool thing is, because they know where the kids will be."

2. Update your PC and software, which patches holes hackers look for.

"Installing the Windows updates is an absolute necessity,” Hatter said. “But you gotta make sure you are updating Zoom as well, and the other software you are using on these devices."

3. Instruct your children to watch for strangers on Tiktok, Instagram and other sites.

"Warn your kids about this sort of thing, tell them not to give personal info to someone you don't know,” Hatter said.

4. Consider parental control software for younger children like Net Nanny.

PC Magazine also suggests Qustodio, Kaspersky Safe Kids or Norton Family Premier.

Some of these will run your computer through a VPN to encrypt your data.

Collins says she just can't wait for full-time schooling to return.

"I wish they were back in school, yeah," she said.

Finally, make sure your school follows safe Zoom guidelines, such as the teacher being in the room first and guests invited in.

That way you avoid unwelcome surprises and you don't waste your money.