Here’s how to increase your online safety savvy in 2016

online safety

Child online protection, the sexual exploitation of both children and adults, and fraud and traditional cybercrime featured prominently as online safety concerns in 2015. This year, those – and other – issues appear to be front and center again, further emphasizing the need for risk awareness and smart online habits.

Toward that end, Microsoft has created new resources for parents, caregivers and educators on some important topics in online safety, including teaching young people about misinformation and hate speech online, educating them about the dangers of “sexting,” and helping them respond to incidents of online bullying and cyber harassment. In addition, we’re announcing the relaunch of our presence on Facebook and Twitter to again supply friends and followers with a daily dose of online safety savvy.

To complement our existing factsheet on teen sexting written for parents, last year the Youth Advisory Board of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation created a sexting factsheet for us geared toward youths. At Microsoft, we see sexting as a significant and unsavory gateway through which young people can be exposed to a range of negative online content and experiences. So, we’re raising awareness, partnering with others on research and other projects, and generally encouraging good digital behavior.

Last summer, we announced that we were removing from OneDrive and Xbox Live, and denying access via Bing, to sexual imagery of victims of “revenge porn,” when those victims make known to us the existence of such content on our services. After a drop-off in the number of reports over the autumn months, December saw the highest number of removal requests made to us to-date, with the vast majority of those cases being accepted and addressed. Accordingly, for the foreseeable future we’ll continue to make available our dedicated Web reporting form for non-consensual pornography.

Meanwhile, in 2015, we estimate some 3.3 million Americans — many of them seniors — were victimized by a tech-support scam, at a total cost of $1.5 billion. That’s one American conned out of an average of $454 nearly every 10 seconds. And, the scheme has global reach. We’ve received some 180,000 customer calls concerning tech-support fraud since May 2014, and we took our first major step in fighting back by filing a federal lawsuit against two companies. Law enforcement agencies are also making this a priority for action. This is another area ripe for consumer education and awareness, so we teamed with AARP to help spread the word.  (See, http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/scams-and-frauds-to-avoid.html) That message needs to continue to circulate in 2016.

With the new year comes a fresh opportunity to get on more secure digital footing, and to take stock of online habits and practices — as individuals and families. Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe 2016, both online and off.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to online safety and encouraging good digital citizenship, visit our website:  www.microsoft.com/saferonline, and check out our collection of informational and educational resources at the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub. “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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