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Today is Safer Internet Day which is a global effort to encourage responsible use of the Internet and online services.  Events are held around the world, in 2010 there were over 500 in 65 countries, to encourage parents and children to get educated and be responsible when it comes to using the vast resources of the Internet.

Over the last couple of weeks Microsoft has posted a handful of online safety related brochures to the Microsoft Download Center and I wanted to bring your attention to them here.  These each can be valuable tools to help educate about online safety and responsibility.

  • Online Safety – Document providing an overview of Microsoft’s approach to children’s online safety which includes policy considerations and resources for governments.
  • Online Safety Education – Document providing policy considerations for governments on the topic of online safety education. Microsoft’s beliefs about what a comprehensive online safety education curriculum should include, and the approach it’s taking in support of these beliefs, is also covered.
  • Personal Safety In The Cloud – White Paper depicting how Microsoft is thinking about safety issues and striving to address them in the context of cloud computing.
  • Safer Family Gaming & Entertainment with Xbox 360: A Simple 10-Step Guide for Parents – This guide provides 10 easy to follow steps that can help parents and caregivers ensure the gaming, and entertainment, experiences they enjoy on their Xbox 360 are appropriate for them and their family.
  • Get Game Smart PACT – A tool to empower families to make smart choices about what they play, browse and watch.
  • Protecting Your Information On The Go – Brochure with guidance on protecting private information on mobile phones and devices, public computers, and public Wi-Fi.

What other ways can you be safer on the Internet?

  • Install, maintain and update some type of anti-virus/anti-malware software on your computer system.  A good option is Microsoft’s Security Essentials.  It is available for free and from my own personal experience it works great.
  • Learn good computing habits.  Just because you have software running on your system to prevent viruses and malware that does not mean you should just click on every attachment or link you see online.  Learn how to recognize attempts to obtain your data or infect your computer system.  Smart computing is as much a key to being safe online as it is to run security software.
  • Install monitoring software on your computers to see what your kids do online.  Some may disagree with me on this but I believe as parents and guardians we have an obligation to help our children learn about safe computing and online activity and sometimes that includes knowing what they are doing at times.  One free option from Microsoft is Windows Live Essentials Family Safety which lets you set limits to usage time, block certain sites and monitor your children’s Internet destinations.
  • If you have a gaming console in your house make sure you teach your kids about the online side of that activity.  Although the games you purchase may be rated for kids if it has an online component then you never know what language or individuals your children may encounter.  Read the fine print on those games – online activity never has a rating because it is a big unknown.

These tips are not intended to scare or cause someone to cut off all Internet activity in their homes.  The Internet is a huge resource and is also very safe to use if the right steps are taken to minimize or eliminate the risks through good habits and awareness.

Don’t just wait for a certain day of the year to encourage safety online – make it a normal part of talking to your kids about their online activities everyday.

Stay safe out there.