TRYING TO STAY on top of all of the dangers online can feel like battling the mythical Hydra — cut off one head and two more grow in its place. But with a few simple tips recommended by Globe tech columnist Hiawatha Bray, you can protect yourself, your data, and your children.
1) Ad blockers and disabling cookies
Cookies are bits of code that allow websites to track your online activity. If you’ve ever had an ad follow you from site to site, or revisited a website and found yourself already logged in, that’s cookies at work. To block them, install a web browser extension or security software that will disable cookies or block them. Ad blockers will add more data protection as well.
2) Consider other web browsers
Beyond Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, there are multiple browsers available that are specifically geared to protect users’ privacy. Bray says that he prefers to use Brave, which has a built-in adblocker and prevents websites from tracking you.
3) Create a secret e-mail account
These days, we use our email address to sign up for just about everything. To keep corporate access to your life at bay, Bray suggests creating a separate email account for private correspondence.
4) Check your software settings
Each program, platform, application, and browser that you use has its own privacy settings, and often the standard terms are quite loose. Going through all these settings might be a little taxing, but it’s well worth doing if you’re concerned about your data. For example, you can set your Facebook privacy settings so that your account does not appear in search engines outside of the social network.
5) Pause — before you sign up
Before you grant data access to that random company, ask yourself: Do you really need another app or social network demanding your time and attention?
6) Watch over the kids
Monitoring your kids’ Internet habits is essential to ensuring they develop good digital habits. Give them their own personal accounts on the computer, establishing limits on what they can do on it, and teach them not to carelessly download files off the Internet, which could introduce malware (used by hackers to access data) onto their devices. Online resources like CommonSenseMedia.Org offer many more tips to help you further protect your kids from video game scams, bad actors on YouTube, and more.
7) Home network devices and parental control routers
If after all that you’re still concerned about your children’s online habits, consider purchasing a home network device like Disney’s Circle or Router Limits, which plugs into your router and allows you to control each and every Internet-connected device in your household. These devices let you decide how long these devices stay online, which services can be launched, and even how long each program or app can be used.
Alternatively, many new routers already come with parental control settings, so you may want to consider purchasing a new one altogether. Just make sure to check with your Internet provider for any specifications you might need to know before buying.