By Tom Walker
A piece of advice I always give people in regard to their online activity is to be mindful of the sites they visit. This is especially true in the K-12 space, where we need to be careful of the content that our students can access. Here are some tools and suggestions to stay safe while living online.
1) Safe Searching
Google SafeSearch is a filter built within Google that can be turned on or off at a user’s discretion. As Google says, “The SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most adult content.” At our school district, the SafeSearch filter is turned on by default for the students and cannot be turned off. At home, if you are worried about what videos or images may appear while you or your children browse, SafeSearch can be helpful at avoiding objectionable material. The SafeSearch setting can also be locked if you have children that use your computer at home.
Microsoft’s Bing also offers a SafeSearch setting. The SafeSearch within Bing can also be turned on and off, but has a moderate setting as well. When in strict mode, Bing will filter adult oriented text, images, and videos from the searches. In moderate mode, Bing will filter adult oriented images and videos, but does not filter any text. The third setting turns SafeSearch off. Much like Google, Bing states that their SafeSearch, “won’t catch everything.” However, Bing does include a link to a form that can be filled out that sends a support ticket to Microsoft regarding objectionable content that comes through the filter.
Yahoo also offers a SafeSearch filter, much like Google and Bing. Yahoo makes a similar statement, “While SafeSearch won’t catch everything, most adult content won’t show up in your search results.” The Yahoo SafeSearch also offers strict, moderate, and off settings as well. Like Google, the Yahoo SafeSearch can also be locked.
2) Safe Browsing
Google offers a service called Google Safe Browsing which is provided in the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers. This service contains a list of URLs that are known phishing or malware websites. The nice thing is that Google Safe Browsing is built-in protection. When a user comes across a known malicious website using one of those browsers, a notification is displayed warning the user that the website may contain malware.
Microsoft offers a similar built-in service called SmartScreen, which was introduced with Internet Explorer 8. It is still a key component of the new Microsoft Edge browser that comes with the recently released Windows 10.
3) Safe Clicking
In my experience as an IT director, some of the worst issues tend to come from those who click questionable links while surfing the web. Doing so not only opens up the potential for viruses, but your private information can be subject to being stolen. It sounds menial, but pay attention to what you click and what you open. This is especially important now that ransomware attacks have increased in the last couple of years. This is a good conversation to have with your students and children as well. Don’t be — click happy!