Online Safety Resources for Parents

Online Safety Resources for Parents

For a parent, the Internet is as much of a wonder as it is terrifying. For the first time in human history, our kids have access to a limitless, free store of knowledge, but there are also dark corners teeming with predators. When the worst happens, the story blazes across every news site, and we’re suddenly terrified for our own charges. That’s why it’s so important to familiarize ourselves with the best online safety resources for parents. Even though we occasionally hear wretched stories about children being harassed, victimized, and bullied while online, barring the younger generation from the Internet isn’t an option. A child needs to learn how to navigate the online world for purposes relating to education, communication, and eventually, employment.

Much as we educate our kids not to take candy from strangers, we need to consult online safety resources for parents and work to ensure that our children have safe places to work and play while they’re on the web. Face-to-face communication is important, too: Talk to your kids about online safety, answer any questions they have, and assure them that they can always come to you with more questions and concerns. If you’re looking for online safety resources that can help, consider these ten a great starting point:

WiredSafetyWiredSafety is a good online safety resource for both parents and kids. The site keeps up to date with the latest news on online safety legislation, and offers common sense stories and tips across every aspect of online life, including friendships, security, and relationships. There’s also advice for kids about how they should deal with online arguments and bullying.

Get NetwiseGet Netwise is an easy-to-navigate website that boasts a big library of video tutorials. Some tutorials include tips on how to filter search engine results, while others offer in-depth looks at online security programs.

Google’s Family Safety CenterNot surprisingly, Google features a portal to a variety of tools that parents and teachers can use to help kids navigate the Internet safely. You can use the Family Safety Center to control YouTube and Search content, report abuse, and watch video tips from other parents.

NetSmartzNetSmartz is run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Its colorful tips and characters should hold special appeal to young visitors. Kids can even access, print, and read free eBooks that use metaphors to describe the hazards of giving away information to online advertisers.

StaySafeOnlineStaySafeOnline by the National Cyber Security Alliance emphasizes the importance of online security, especially when using social networks like Facebook and Google+. The site also provides parents with advice for keeping an eye on kids who love online gaming.

For more online safety resources for parents, check out:

Connect Safely

Facebook Safety Center

Common Sense Media

SafeKids

KidsHealth

Also be sure to see our own The Modern Parent’s Guide series of high-tech parenting books (a free download) as well.

[Image source: Digital Mom Blog]

Best Free Email and Webmail Programs

Best Free Email and Webmail Programs

These days, not having an email address for your smartphone, computer and mobile communications is as unthinkable as lacking a phone number. If you want to communicate with the modern world at even a basic level, being able to send messages to others’ inboxes is necessary, which, in turn, requires an email client/program. Unfortunately, Microsoft has opted out of building an email client into Windows 7, which has left some PC users in the lurch. It’s not a huge deal, though, as many of the best free email programs are now available all over the Web, simple to download, and even simpler to use.

One thing to note before beginning: First, you should consider if you want to use an actual email client, or if you’d rather opt for a webmail service. The former is a bit more customizable and lighter, whereas the latter tends to offer a useful solution that’s accessible from nearly anywhere you have an Internet connection, at the expense of potential advertisements—though said ads are usually non-intrusive. You can also access your webmail from any device which has a Web browser, which makes it highly convenient.

Either way, if you’re in the market for a new client or service, here are five online email solutions you ought to consider.

GmailAs far as web-based email goes, there’s little reason to look far beyond Google’s Gmail. It’s free, it provides you with loads of space, it supports POP and IMAP, its spam filter is superb, you can label emails, and much, much more. As for downsides, Gmail is extremely popular, so if you want an address as simple as, say, JohnSmith@gmail.com, you’re looking at something closer to JohnSmith6754@gmail.com, or something else that looks unprofessional and is hard to remember. Likewise, emails sent from a Gmail address may not be taking as seriously as those with a dedicated URL (e.g. nadia@techsavvymag.com), though thanks to the service’s growing prevalence, attitudes are rapidly changing.

Opera MailIf Gmail’s multiple features don’t do a thing for you, consider Opera Mail. It’s slick, it’s light, and it lets you access multiple POP and IMAP accounts in addition to RSS news feeds. There’s also a low bandwidth mode that only downloads part of a message unless it’s requested to retrieve more of the email.

ThunderbirdMozilla’s Thuderbird has been a popular free client for a long time. It handles spam well thanks to a self-learning spam filter, and you can add multiple features via a set of extensions. The extensions in particular make Thunderbird a customizable and enjoyable experience. The program can be easily altered to fit your needs without unwanted features bogging you down.  

Pegasus MailTalk about a name that conjures up an image of quick and sure email delivery: After all, what moves faster than the winged horse of legend? Pegasus is another popular Windows email client that’s among the best free email programs available, and it has a host of features to back up its popularity. Its message editor allows for rich text, HTML, and plain text formatting, and flexible message templates allow you to make canned responses a little warmer and friendlier.

Postbox ExpressThe interface for Postbox Express should be familiar for Outlook Express users, but it has some additional and compelling features. There is, for instance, an advanced search function that makes it easy to sift through your stack of messages and pinpoint letters from days of olde. You can also post contents of your email to Twitter and Facebook—if that’s what you want to do, of course.

In the end, there’s no such thing as a perfect email client: It’s all about what works for you, and why. For more information on the best free email programs and clients, visit:

Top 11 Free Email Clients for Windows at About.com

Best Free 7 Email Clients at MakeUseOf.com

Best Free Email Client at TechSupportAlert.com

5 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs

5 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs

A PC can be your best friend in the digital era, so treat it nicely. The first and best thing you can possibly do for your digital pal: Ensure that it’s shored up against viruses, Trojans, malware and other online threats. Naturally, dozens of companies such as McAfee, Symantec, Lookout, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Webroot offer retail anti-virus software that can guard your desktop or laptop – but just as many offer complementary solutions you can download at no charge. Looking for the best free anti-virus programs? The following list makes a great starting point.

Note that while traditional anti-virus options may cost more, or require ongoing subscriptions, costs often cover added functionality and expanded features or companion apps that can even extend coverage to your smartphone or tablet PC. But many of today’s best free anti-virus programs make a perfectly good alternative, offering solid protection against Internet threats and regular software updates with minimal fuss, and only the most periodic pop-ups or nag screens. So don’t let the price tag on either end fool you, or bias you against taking precautions: From free to paid options, there’s a metric ton of anti-virus software that is easy to download and provides first-rate protection for computers and mobile devices.

Here are five of the best free options, ready to grab over the Internet at no charge: 

Avast! Free Anti-Virus – Avast! is one of the best-known free anti-virus programs for Windows, and for good reason. It guards you as you surf the Web, check your email, and visit your favorite sites. Like paid solutions, it updates virus definitions automatically, and is free for private and personal use.

AVG – AVG is another well-known anti-virus provider, and, depending on whom you ask, its protection is just as compelling as Avast!’s. Like Avast!, AVG updates its virus database on a daily basis, scans your email for spam or malware, and is free to download for Windows as well.

Panda Cloud Anti-Virus – Popular software program Panda Cloud Anti-Virus works in the cloud, meaning that it handles the heavy number crunching on other computers and frees up resources on your own machine. You simply download a lightweight client from the Panda website, and it does all the heavy lifting once it’s installed. Also, its name invokes images of cuddly bears working hard to defend your computer – always a plus.

Avira AntiVir PersonalAvira protects your computer against the usual suspects (viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, adware and more), and it’s free to download for machines running on Windows. There’s even a version of AntiVir Personal for UNIX operating systems as well.

Comodo Anti-VirusComodo Anti-Virus has a unique feature: Its “Defense+” technology automatically blocks unknown files that might be threats. While this option sounds like it would be a hassle to deal with, Defense+ is actually non-invasive and it does its job quietly in the background. 

For more information on free anti-virus programs, visit:

Freebies at About.com

2012’s Best Free Anti-Virus Programs at PCMag.com

The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs at MakeUseOf.com