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All school districts in Cherokee County will have started school by the end of this week. Because many have incorporated some kind of online learning into school programming, it’s more important than ever for parents, teachers, administrators and students to be aware of potential online threats. The Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to be on the lookout for online predators this back-to-school season.

“As more of our lives and our children’s lives are conducted online,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “It’s important for parents and administrators to create guidelines and to provide education about online safety.”

Tips for Parents:

• Know what your child is doing online. Keep track of the social media sites and accounts to which your children have access. Many sites are designed to collect and sell unauthorized user details and behaviors to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. Make sure your children are aware of the existence of online predators.

• Watch out for click bait. Whether it’s in the form of contests and giveaways, surveys, too good to be true prices, or the latest trends, click bait is designed to entice or attract attention thinly disguised to collect personal or financial information. Make sure your children know to steer clear and don’t have access to banking or credit card information.

• Understand apps. Certain apps might collect and share personal information about your child or target your child with ads. Even free apps may include paid features, which children may not understand. This could result in a hefty bill at the end of the month. Remember to turn location settings off, or at the very least to turn them on only while using the app.

• Use file sharing sites with caution. Many websites allow children to download free media. Unfortunately, these sites often come with the risk of downloading viruses or malware, giving identity thieves access to your information.

• Read privacy policies together and understand privacy settings. Teach children to read the privacy policies and terms of use of any apps or websites they want to use. Remind them of the importance of knowing what they are signing up for and that less is more when it comes to sharing information.

• Use parental controls if necessary. While the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, parental controls provide a second line of defense. Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features which allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities. Third-party apps are available as well.

Tips for Teachers and administrators:

• Video conferencing tools. Make certain the online software used to deliver lectures, classroom work and other online interactions is secure.

• Evaluate and update cybersecurity plans. Create a plan to notify students, faculty and staff should there be a data breach or security problem. Conduct drills to test their ability to maneuver through a cyberattack.

• Keep a clean machine and update devices which connect to the internet. Regular backups along with up-to-date software and a well-informed team/family are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

To read more on keeping children safe online, visit the National Cybersecurity Alliance at staysafeonline.org/ for the latest information.

About BBB

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

Visit bbb.org for more information.

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