Tag Archives: parents

Changing Times Call for Changing Habits: 3 Ways to Keep Senior Citizens Secure

Gone are the days of leaving doors unlocked and not having to worry about securing all electronic belongings. Every year cyber predators get more sophisticated, but one rule still holds true: Most criminals like an easy target. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber safety, senior citizens are that easy target. Handwritten checks, passwords written on a note taped to your computer, and trusting other online users are all red flags to criminals that they have found their mark. Whether you’re of the older generation or you’re worried about the cyber safety of an older parent, here are some tips to stay ahead of the bad guys and feel more safe and secure…

Guard Your Passwords
Creating a secure password is the first step to keeping your information private. A secure password is a unique, long (at least 8 characters), and personal code that you create. By personal, this does not mean your birthday or any other easily guessed and attained information, but rather something you will remember. A password that includes your favorite high school teacher and the year you graduated is a lot harder for a stranger to figure out than your anniversary. Once you’ve created this unique password, do not write it down to store near the device you are securing. This practice might be easy for your own access, but it could also lead to a breach in your security. Nor should you use the same password over and over again at different websites. If it’s compromised once, then it gives a thief access to everything.

Don’t Trust Every Phone Call
Many scam artists have begun to target senior citizens with phone calls pretending to be someone they are not. The IRS will not call and threaten to throw you in jail for delinquent taxes. Microsoft does not call you because there was a security breach. Companies and governments do not have the time to call individuals to resolve the issues over the phone. Mortgage companies and banks do make you confirm your identity before discussing your account, however, you should only trust that these companies if you called them. Do your research on the company calling before giving away personal information.

New Home, New Gadgets
Many senior citizens downsize or move to retirement homes as their children grow up and move out. In a previous home, you may have known your neighbors and felt safe and secure. There are no guarantees that your new neighbors will be as trustworthy. The best way to avoid problems is to equip your home with preventative security. Lights set on a timer are a great example! If certain lights turn on even when you’re not home, then a burglar or nosy neighbor will never be able to learn your schedule. Setting up a new WiFi? Make sure to connect one with a secure network. Most phones and devices will remember the password, so only visiting grandchildren will be inconvenienced. And not allowing strangers to access your WiFi will make everything you do online safer!

Sure, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but personal security is no trick. Changing our habits comes with the changing times, and online or home privacy is no exception. Even if you yourself aren’t a senior citizen, helping a friend, relative or neighbor ensure their security is a great way to practice the habits for yourself. Here’s to longer, happier, and more secure lives for us all!

Spring Break Is in Session! Ensure Safe Travels for Your College Student this Vacation

Believe it or not, spring break season has started. Yes, snow is falling in certain parts of the country, but colleges are already releasing their students for the week-long break. Some students may be headed to warmer weather and vacation destinations, while others are just coming home for a much-needed rest. Whatever the case, before your college-age child wraps up their studies and heads out on a trip, you may want to give them a few travel safety tips to study as well.

Be Prepared
When traveling as a family when I was a kid, I used to ask my mother to make a packing list for me so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Since then, if I do not make a packing list beforehand I will most likely forget one of the most basic items. (I have forgotten to pack socks. Socks.) Tell your child to write down or type up everything they need to remember to bring with them, and then have someone else look over the list for something they might have missed. This is especially important for common-sense items that you may not even think you have to write down, such as phone chargers or passports. Before they head out the door for the week, have your child go item by item through the list to make sure there won’t be any emergency pit-stops on the way home from the airport.

Keep an Eye Out
While keeping track of your belongings while traveling may seem like an unnecessary reminder, college kids can be scatterbrained and may be distracted by something particularly engaging on their phone or in a book. Suggest they hook a backpack or purse strap around one of their legs while sitting and waiting to board a flight or bus. That way, if anyone grabs their bag, they will know, plus they won’t forget it. Keeping a purse strap on their arm, and not leaving their phone sitting on a table can also prevent losing anything they worked so hard to pack up. Another area to keep an eye on is public Wi-Fi. While many airports, bus terminals and train stations provide customers with Wi-Fi, that can make devices vulnerable to hackers. Suggest to your child that they use a VPN whenever possible if they need to connect to free Internet access.

Know and Share the Route
Be it the trip to the airport, the bus connections, or the driving route home, make sure your child knows their travel plans before they actually head out—and that they share those plans with you. Remind them that they can’t always rely on their phone’s GPS! Service gets lost and sometimes a phone gets a location wrong. In addition to your child knowing how they’re getting home, encourage them to tell a friend about their route too, so if anything were to go awry, someone closer to your student may be able to help sooner than you. If possible, ask your child to share their phone’s location with you and a friend so either of you can keep track of their progress during the journey.

Speaking of Phones…
Most importantly, make sure they keep their phone charger on them and keep in contact with you! I once forgot to bring my phone charger with me to the airport, and thankfully had my laptop with me to message with the family member picking me up. Imagine if I hadn’t had any other devices, or if my laptop had also died!? Payphones are not as prevalent as they used to be, and not everyone carries change with them. Your child should, at the very least, let you know when they arrive at a new destination, such as the bus station or a rest stop on their drive.

Here’s hoping their spring break actually looks like spring, and the weather warms up for a well-needed rest from classes and cold. As for you as the parent, brace yourself. It doesn’t matter where the final destination is, college kids are still kids and may need a little extra assistance from you with their travel plans. Once they arrive, be prepared for their ridiculous appetites and sleep schedules, and appreciate that they got wherever they were going safely.

Memorize Your Card Number so Your Favorite Retailer Can’t

I’m working as a receptionist at a salon for extra money, and guests have to use a credit or debit card to book their appointments. Some people don’t want to give that information over the phone and question why I need their card number at all. (The salon has a 24-hour cancellation and no-show fee for 50% of the service charge, that’s why.) When they realize they do have to give me that information, some must rummage around in their purse and wallet to find their card to read off the numbers. But others rattle off their card number without skipping a beat because they memorized all 16 digits. And those people are on to something…

The booking system at the salon deletes card numbers after a few weeks, so the information does not stay in our computers for long. However, many online retailers can store your credit and debit card numbers for years for your convenience—but at what risk and potential cost? Here are 3 reasons why you should choose security over convenience, and what you can do instead.

Credit Card Theft
Saving your card information on sites like Amazon and Target can save you time while checking out, but are those 2 extra minutes really worth risking your card’s security? If your account for any of these online retailers were to get hacked, someone would just need to select your card and they’re good to go. Some sites don’t even require the card’s security code! Taking the time to grab your wallet and pull out your card may even help prevent impulse buys, giving you an extra moment to reconsider that possibly unnecessary purchase.

Rather than saving your card information online, memorize the number, like some of the salon’s customers mentioned above. This still cuts down on time of trying to find your wallet or purse, but it also prevents the information from being stored anywhere other than your own head. If you happen to lose or forget your card and you’re in an emergency situation, you won’t be stuck penniless either. Some retailers will allow you to give the card numbers without the card in a pinch.

Data Breaches
There were over 1200 data breaches and 440 million records exposed in 2018 alone! With the number of data breaches rising year after year, keeping your personal information safe is more imperative than ever. While it may not be practical to create a new account every time you purchase something online, you should use a guest account on any site you don’t regularly use. This allows you to prevent your data from staying in the system, protecting you from breaches.

Little Ones
With smartphones and tablets a part of our daily lives, many children have grown up with easy access to this new technology—and put it to use. In 2017, Amazon had to refund $70 million worth of in-app purchases made by children without their parent’s consent. Apple has also had to refund money to angry parents. Parents do have ways to stop in-app purchases, but why not keep your card information off the child’s device in the first place? If they need to make a purchase, they can come ask a parent to input the card information for them.

I, for one, am not a perfect person. I have subscriptions that charge my card every month (say “Hi” to Ipsy and Netflix), but I have become more aware of just how many online retailers have my information stored without my making a purchase in months. No one is suggesting that you go completely off the grid and delete your information from everywhere, only to prioritize your time and safety. To save yourself the extra stress of a fraudulent charge on your card, just input the information yourself. When making a purchase, spending 2 minutes now may save you from someone else spending your $200 later.

Kids Stuck Inside on a Snow Day? Check Your Home for Hazards

As many schools’ winter breaks come to an end, children are heading back to their classrooms and out of the house. But even with school back in session, some states can have up to 50 days of weather-related school closures. So on days when the weather is too crummy to even play outside, how can little ones stay safe indoors with all that bottled up energy?

If your young children are stuck inside on a snow day, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while preparing for their time off from school:

Slipping or falling opportunities
Cabin fever could mean your kids are more rambunctious than usual, which could mean running inside the house (even if they aren’t supposed to). Look around your home for anything that might present a tripping or falling hazard, such as area rugs, cords or even corners of furniture. Also remind your kids about the dangers of horseplay on furniture, since a fall from a table or sofa would be worse than from their own two feet.

Falling objects
If falling children isn’t a concern, check for any potentially falling objects. Any heavy objects like televisions or stereos should be securely fastened to a wall or stand. Other hazards to scan your rooms for are objects that could be bumped into and broken if they fell, like vases or picture frames.

Hot water in cold weather
With dropping temperatures, your heat could be on all day and all night, posing a potential problem for kids out of sight. Try to keep an eye on little ones around hot water heaters, radiators, and even stoves and microwaves. Children are most likely to be scalded by hot water in drinks or baths, so be sure to be mixing cold water into anything too hot.

Even when your kids are stuck inside at home, they can be just as safe as if they were back in their classroom. When in doubt, if you think your child might get into something they shouldn’t, assume they will and prevent it. Whether the weather is stormy or snowy, wet or simply your typical winter, check your home for these hazards to ensure your child’s safety. Maybe tomorrow it will only be a late arrival instead of a whole day off…

6 School Safety Tips to Protect Your Teens and College Kids from Theft

Your teens are heading back to school, and they’ll be even more distracted than they were this summer because, you know, teenagers. That means now is the time to review some basic school safety tips, before they get wrapped up in classes and homework and sports—and don’t have time to listen. OK, they might not listen anyway, but you can at least try while they have time.

Last time, we went over cyber safety tips. This time, we offer six school safety tips designed to help your teen not to become a victim of theft. As we’ve done before, we’ve written it directly to your teen…so maybe have them read it, and we’ll nag them for you:

  1. If you don’t want to lose it, leave it at home
    Leave anything you don’t want stolen at home. Yes, your new jacket is to be admired and you want your iPod near, but taking them to school means losing them to theft or forgetfulness.
  2. Lock the car and keep valuables out of sight
    Just as you would when parking your car in any public area, hide anything of value under the car seat or in the trunk of your car if you drive to school—or carpool with a friend. If you leave a purse, backpack, iPod or some other tempting thing in plain sight, you invite a break-in.
  3. Lock your locker
    It sounds like commonsense, right? But my own kids confessed to leaving their lockers unlocked for a whole list of reasons. Sometimes it was because they forgot the combination. Other times it was a sticky lock they didn’t want to mess with during the short time between classes. Or there was the time one of them was sharing a locker with a friend. Your locker has a lock for a reason. Use it.
  4. Lock your gym locker
    When it comes to the gym locker, kids assume they’re coming back soon, so why bother? When one of my kids was in high school, she told me phones were stolen from gym lockers on a regular basis. As with the advice above, it locks for a reason. Lock it.
  5. Do a double-check before leaving the classroom
    When my youngest was still in high school, she suggested this safety tip because forgetting a jacket, purse, cellphone, charger or other piece of property can mean it disappears forever. Teens are distracted anyway, but even more so when in class trying to keep up with the lessons and homework, and then thinking about where they need to be next. If they can get into the habit of doing a double-check before leaving a room, that’s a safety habit they can use anywhere, even when out on their own.

Personal safety and security don’t just happen except through luck. And who wants to trust to luck? Instill good habits in your teens and college students now, and those habits might just stick into adulthood. Now that’s a lesson learned!

8 Cyber and Cellphone Safety Tips for Teens, College Students—and Parents

School is starting! That puts high school and college students back into the busy-ness of the academic year, as well as back into the social media fray. Sure, they spent an inordinate amount of time on their phones all summer long, but being back in school gives them even more reasons for screen time.

And that means it’s time to review some cyber and cellphone safety tips for teenagers and young adults. If you’re the parent of a high school or college student, read through this advice as well, so you’re better informed about the dangers your kids face.

#1 Keep some things to yourself. You don’t have to share every mood swing, angry moment, argument, thought or opinion. Nor do you have to post every single photo. When it comes to sharing, less is better. That applies to news about yourself too, including being home alone or going on a trip. You are entitled to your privacy, and sharing less helps to protect it.

#2 Remember that everything you do is going to become part of the public record.  Once it’s on the Internet, it’s not going away. Every email, message, post, tweet, like, share and photo might seem temporary because you’re not likely to see it again any time soon, but it could come back to haunt you later.

#3 Employers can access Facebook too, and they do. About 70% of employers will look at a Facebook profile when considering a job candidate. What will they see on your Facebook page? If it’s something you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, it’s probably something you shouldn’t post. This could apply when you’re applying to internships too.

#4 Practice self control. Technology can make that hard to do, because we live so in the moment these days, but you can take the higher road. Put your phone away until you calm down. Choose not to react or respond. Talk to someone instead.

#5 Follow the same rules of good behavior online that you do offline. Don’t gossip, be mean, or spread rumors. If you wouldn’t do it in person or say it to someone’s face, you probably shouldn’t be doing it or saying it while hiding behind the supposed anonymity of a screen.

#6 Watch your step. You’re leaving a trail of everywhere you go. Every website you visit and link you click provides data that is recorded somewhere. Even if you’re clearing your cache to remove the evidence from your laptop, it has already been recorded.

#7 Remember that what you’re seeing online is often not real. The perfect looking people on Instagram, the pornography, the vacation photos…be hyper aware of how those unreal images are affecting your own self-image. Experts have noticed an increase in depression among teens in recent years, and some attribute that to social media. We know of a young woman who deleted Twitter and Instagram from her phone because looking at them caused her to feel so bad about her own physical appearance.

#8 Put your phone away for a while. Teenagers are averaging nine hours per day on social media. That’s more time than most people spending sleeping in a 24-hour period. Not only is that unhealthy, it’s dangerous too. Teens are at risk when looking at their phones when so distracted while walking down the street, and obviously while texting and driving, as these horrific videos show.

The Internet and social media have changed our world, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. Teens and their parents can help make it a change for the better by practicing cyber and cell phone safety, starting with these tips.

Safety for School Days: 9 Rules for Safer Travels to and from School

Although we no longer have kids living at home, and the first day back to school is now on college campuses without mom needed (or wanted) to send anyone off, I still see all the first day of school pictures posted by friends on social media. And that reminds me once again of the importance of safety rules for kids getting to and from school.

No matter the age of your children, if they are going to and from school, they need some rules. And the sooner you instill those rules in them, the sooner the rules will become habits—habits that can last a lifetime.

To get you started, we offer nine rules for safer travels to and from school below:

Rule 1: Stick to the sidewalk
For those kids who walk to the bus stop or to school, they need to stay on the sidewalk. No walking out behind cars or in the road, or even in people’s yards. The sidewalk is there for a reason. Stay on it.

Rule 2: Avoid shortcuts
Shortcuts are a no no. Your kids should take the same route every day, and walk with other kids whenever possible. Talk to other parents with kids taking the same route to get all the kids traveling as a group, even if they’re just walking to the bus stop up the street.

Rule 3: Be careful when crossing the street
Kids are kids and, at any age, they can be careless when crossing the street. Remind your kids to look both ways, make eye contact with the drivers of the cars they assume are going to stop for them, and use crosswalks. Then remind them again.

Rule 4: Put the phone away!
Kids really should put their phones away when going to and from school. If they don’t, they are more likely to be distracted and step out into traffic, trip and fall, or not notice suspicious activity. If they are teenagers who drive, they most definitely should not be on their phones! Kids can send you a text when they leave the school, put their phones in their backpacks, and then pull their phones out to let you know they’re home. Period.

Rule 5: Stay safe at the bus stop
For kids who taking bus, the rule is to stay in the designated bus stop area. After school, they should go directly from the bus stop to their home or their daycare.

Rule 6: Don’t be too early
Although teaching kids to try to arrive early to events is a good habit to teach, many schools don’t have supervision outside the building until shortly before the school day starts. That leaves kids who arrive really early unsupervised by adults. Teach kids early is good, but too early is not safe, and have a designated time for your child’s arrival, when you know the school will either be open or have supervision.

Rule 7: No dawdling
Also make sure your kids know not to dawdle after school. They need to head straight to their next destination, whether that’s home, practice, daycare or somewhere else.

Rule 8: Know the rules of the road
For kids who ride their bikes to school and those who drive, reiterate the safety rules of each.

Rule 9: Have a password
Especially for younger kids, have a password. That password would be used if someone had to pick up your child unexpectedly, say if you were in an accident, for example. If your child is approached by a stranger who claims you sent them, the child should be taught to ask for the password. If the stranger doesn’t know it, the child should be taught to yell for help.

These days it seems fewer kids walk to school because parents are driving them in cars. But kids are still getting to and from school, and still need safety rules for doing so. And since the rules can apply to almost any situation, consider making one of the first lessons of this school year safety first.

When May Means Graduation, Give Gifts to Keep Them Safe

May has definitely become the month that kicks off graduation season, with both May and June seemingly full of elementary kids moving up to middle school, and middle school to high school, and then high graduates going off the college and college graduates going off to life! Oh my!

If you have friends or family moving into a next life stage—with a transition into or out of college—consider giving gifts that put safety first, because it’s an uncertain world out there. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be a suit of armor or anything overly pricey. There are several ways you can give the gift of safety and security with ease…

For the kids headed to college in the fall For those graduates heading off college dorms, look for gifts at DormSmart.com. They sell “dorm room essentials” and have a section of their website focused on safety and security, including both items for sale and helpful hints. (Read more about dorm safety and security here.)

For those who will be driving, consider car safety kits, or this emergency preparedness backpack kit sold by the Red Cross. Other good ideas include gift cards for car maintenance or oil changes, so they can prepare their cars for the road trips to and fro.

For the kids headed out into the world
Not all kids are headed to college. Some will be entering the military while others go straight into the workforce (an increasingly popular choice these days). And even those going off to college won’t necessarily live in a dorm, as many choose apartments instead. (If you’ve ever had dorm food or tried to sleep in a building full of immature 18-year-olds away from home for the first time, you might not blame them!)

For those new graduates who are moving into an apartment or a home of their own, an emergency preparedness kit like the one mentioned above makes a great gift. Or pull together a few basic items they probably won’t have, like flashlights and batteries and a hand-cranked radio, and make a gift basket with those. Or make a gift basket with canned good and a can opener, in case the power goes out. These can be very clever but very useful gifts, because they help prepare the new graduate for an emergency but also get them thinking about being prepared.

And of course either the car safety kit or the emergency backpack mentioned above make great gifts for your new graduate, no matter where they are headed.

More than anything else, however, make sure you talk to them about staying safe and secure. It is a scary world out there. Talk to them about intangibles like identify theft and password concerns. Be honest with them about the importance of staying safe on campus or while out at night. Prevention really is worth a pound of cure, and their schooling probably didn’t teach them how to stay safe in the first place. So now’s your chance…

Travel Tips for Teens: Ensuring Safe Travels for Your Homeward-Bound College Student

It’s only May, but summer vacation is about to start for college students across the country, and that means teen travel, as they pack up and head home to eat everything in sight, sleep for 12 straight hours a day, and make huge piles of dirty laundry until it’s time to go back to school in the fall.

Kids at this age are somewhere between children and adults, and their commonsense hasn’t necessarily matured to the point we might prefer as they set off to make their journeys home. If you’re driving to the dorm to help them pack up and get home, you probably won’t have much to worry about. But many parents have kids going to school out-of-the-area (including me!), and it will take more than a car ride to get them home. For those kids, review these teen travel safety precautions with them, before they start that trek and end up on your doorstep.

Traveling by plane, train or bus
If your student will be traveling by plane, train or bus, make sure all arrangements are made well in advance. You don’t want to purchase a ticket only to find out your child never arranged for transportation to the airport or station, or that they didn’t know they needed to get there an hour before departure time. You’ll probably also need to work around dorm checkout times and your child’s finals, and make sure travel times fit with those.

Also review basic safety tips with your college student, including things like don’t leave their bags unattended, always keep their purse or wallet close to by their sides, be aware of people bumping into them or trying to distract them, keep their photo ID and boarding pass with them at all times, sit in crowded rather than isolated waiting areas, make sure their contact information is inside of their bags in case of lost luggage, and look up from that darn phone so they’re aware of their surroundings.

Traveling by car
If your child is driving home from school or getting a ride, you don’t have fewer worries—only different ones.

Ideally, before they even left for school last fall, you made sure they know how to check the tire pressure, fill the washer fluid, and make sure all brake lights, headlights and blinkers are working. In addition to reminding them about those pre-travel checks, encourage them to get an oil change before the trip—maybe even send them a gift card for that purpose.

It’s not only the car that must be made ready, however, it’s the child too. Review the route with them. Make sure they plan to drive only during the day, with a plan to stop every couple of hours to stretch their legs. Really stress the dangers of driving while sleepy, and, of course, make sure they know not to text and drive!

No matter how they’re traveling, charge that cell phone!
Regardless of the plane, train, bus or car that will bring your student home for the summer, make sure they leave with a fully charged phone, and that they have a power cord for charging along the way. Stress that there is no excuse for a dead phone while traveling. At all. Period.

Now, go make that bed, stock those cupboards, prep that laundry room, and get ready to welcome that hardworking student home for a summer of much-needed rest!

9 Ways Your Home Automation System Can Keep Kids Safe When They’re Home Alone

Following the high-profile abduction cases that led to pictures of missing children on milk cartons and much more diligence on the part of parents, studies show that far fewer kids are home alone these days: The number of grade-school American children who spend time at home alone has plunged by almost 40% since 1997.

Yet there are still those situations when kids will be unattended, at least for a short while, as much as parents would like to avoid it. Or the kids will be old enough to be unsupervised, but haven’t quite proved they are trustworthy before that day comes.

In either case, your home security system can help. Below are nine ways you can use your home security or home automation system to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact when your children are home alone:

  1. You can get alerts when a code used to unlock the front door, so you’ll know when your child has arrived home. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a child to return a text message to you, letting you know they got home safely, you’ll know how nice this can be!
  2. Window and door sensors can alert you when a window or door is opened, so you can check in with your child.
  3. A video camera at the front door can show you (or your child) who is knocking.
  4. If you’ve said no video games, you can monitor the room that has that tempting distraction with a video camera to make sure rules are followed.
  5. A security video camera can also be used to monitor the yard (which is also helpful for those families who must leave a mischievous pet home alone).
  6. If your child is too young or your teenager too forgetful for properly monitoring the heating or air conditioning, you can use your home automation system to regulate the thermostat.
  7. Your home automation system can also be used to turn lights on automatically, either to make sure the house is lit when your child gets home on a dark winter afternoon, or to make sure your house is lit when you get home at the end of the day—because teenagers simply won’t think about it.
  8. As a parent with a child home alone, you can also get peace of mind knowing your home security system offers fire, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring.
  9. And if your kids need to leave the house, you can lock doors remotely should they forget.

Views about how much latitude children should have and at what age have changed drastically over the past 70 years, especially in the past 20 as we have turned into helicopter parents. (You can find a fascinating breakdown of changing parental attitudes over the decades by reading the results of this Slate study.)

My own kids are all grown and gone now and in their own apartments, and I still worry about them and wait for replies to texts so I know they’re okay. I guess some things never change, but at least technology makes it easier to keep an eye on them even when we’re not around.

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Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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