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Tapping moms in Web security

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:21AM



Alicia Peiffer is proud to call herself a “mom blogger” whose writings about her children’s special needs have caused support groups of parents with similar issues to spring up.

Peiffer describes in her blog, Making Time for Mommy (MakingTimeForMommy.com), how she copes with 2-year-old Lucas’ autism spectrum disorder and 3-year-old Jacob’s processing delay issue s,

“I believe if I’m open about it, I can help another parent or bring people together to connect,” said the 28-year-old Plainfield resident and Orland Park native. “When I first got Lucas’ diagnosis, I didn’t know anyone who was dealing with the issue. I started meeting people after I blogged about i t.”

Her blog is filled with giveaway offers, product reviews, children’s teaching resources and information about a utism.

Peiffer also co-owns “Living Your Moment,” an online marketing and advertising firm serving small mom-owned businesses, and does social-media work for a shopper-marketing company, cbSo cially.

Peiffer’s blogging led Tokyo-based software security firm Trend Micro to recruit her as one of two Chicago-area families and seven nationwide to spend a year exploring cybersecurity issues that families face. The company gave each family an ASUS Ultrabook laptop and free security softwar e to test.

Mom bloggers’ influence has grown into a powerful one, with half of mothers nationwide using social media via mobile devices and one of every three bloggers identifying herself as a mother, according to Niels en research.

The first of three challenges in Trend Micro’s study, “Keeping Up with The Digital Joneses,” asked the families to take a “digital IQ” quiz and share the results with their families and web followers.

Peiffer discovered that, even though she spends 70 to 80 hours a week online, she could do more to protect her and her family’s priva cy and security.

“You think you know about a certain software tool, and it changes two weeks later,” she said.

She advises parents to refrain from tweeting their locations via Foursquare in ways that let people know they’re away from home or at their child’s school, since the exact ad dresses are visible.“I wait until after I’ve left a location and then tweet,” she said.

The second Chicago-area blogger, Stephanie Wagner of Joliet, writes the blog “And Twins Make 5” (AndTwinsMake5.com), to share parenting, cybersecurity and everyday family coping ideas for children fro m toddlers to teenagers.

She and her husband, Brent, are parents to 17-year-old son J.C., 13 year-old son Hayden, 11-year-old daughter Cordelia and 3-and-a-half year ol d twins Cormac and Declan.“On my blog, I will talk about the 17-year-old one day and the 3-year-o lds the next,” Wagner said.

The Wagner family dealt with a cyberbullying incident before being asked to take part in the Trend Micro study, and Wagner was glad to learn more about h elping her children stay safe.

Her 17-year-old son had his smartphone stolen from his school locker, and because the phone had no password protection, the thief posted a pornograph ic picture on his Facebook page.“We had lots of conversations about people being cyberbullies, many of them just to embarrass (the victim),” she said. Now, she advises others to not only protect their smartphones with passwords, but to frequently change those passwords.

Wagner also is “friends” with her older sons on their Facebook pages and carefully watches even the popular Pinterest for inappropriate photos.

“You have to be careful before you dive in,” she said. The next quizzes show how families can clean their “digital houses” and prot ect their mobile devices from malware.

Natalie Severino, Trend Micro’s director of consumer product marketing, said the company’s surveys show that while 83 percent of parents are concerned about what their children see online, only 30 percent track what t heir children are doing on social media.

Parents know that kids as young as 5 have Facebook pages, even though Facebook’s policy prohibits children younger than 13 from creating a profile, but parents don’t know what they should do about that, Severino said.“I’ve traveled around the country, going to PTA events and talking with hundreds of parents, and it has become clear there is a gap in the parents’ education,” she said.

The latest trend in planting spyware and malware on computers involves “spoof” web links that look like news reports about polit ics, musicians and pop culture, Severino said.

Among the more effective: Spoof links to news about sing er Amy Winehouse’s and Whitney Houston’s deaths.

“We found a video spoofing a BBC news story claiming Lady GaGa had died, and it looked real,” Sever ino said. “Kids don’t think twice about clicking.”

Trend Micro’s philanthropic arm, Internet Safety for Kids & Family, is joining a multitude of other groups and businesses in helping families stay safe from cybercriminals, hactivists, phishers and other s intent on hijacking computers and following users.

App and web developers are focused on a variety of solutions, ranging from “safe” sites for children to anti-bullying groups to products that scan a person’s profile f or potentially inappropriate postings and delete them.

Experts say it’s important for parents to enforce online and social-media policies much like companies now do, governing where a child may go and what kinds of information and discussions he may have online.



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