Summer cyber safety: What parents need to know

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Authorities are asking parents and guardians to pay close attention to internet security for their kids this summer.

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As we head into the summer season many kids will be spending more time at home, which could mean an increase in screen time. State and local officials are suggesting parents take steps ahead of summer break to help their kids avoid online risks like malware and phishing scams.

Some tips include making sure all devices and apps are updated. This can prevent them from being compromised, using parental controls on devices and web browsers, and adding kid-friendly search engines. Also, consider locking devices with a password so children can't download or buy apps without your approval.

Most important, experts say you should talk to your kids about what online content they're viewing and why it’s important to be cyber safe. "Parents in general just have to be vigilant. They need to know what apps their kids are on, who they're talking to, what games they're playing. It can be kind of difficult to look over your kids shoulder sometimes a lot and do that but it is very important," said Officer Josh Miller with Eau Claire Police.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection suggests the following:

Follow these tips to help your children make smart cyber choices over the summer break:
• Restrict access to age-appropriate content by using parental controls on devices and web browsers. Specific kid-friendly search engines can limit results to sites that are safe for kids. Consider locking devices with a password so children can't download or buy apps without your approval.
• Talk to your kids about what they are doing online. Which games, social networking sites, and other online activities are your kids into? Are you comfortable with them? Research apps and websites and try them out yourself.
• Teach your children what NOT to click. Clicking links in unexpected texts or pop-up windows could infect a device with malware and raise the family’s identity theft risk.
• Establish rules for downloading. Teach kids to be wary of online offers for "free stuff" – these pitches are likely either malware transmission ploys or phishing traps set to steal their personal information.
• Talk to your kids about the need for privacy. Make sure they understand not to share personally identifiable information (PII), especially via social media. PII can include their full name, birth date, home address, phone number, email address, or Social Security number.