Are Your Friends and Family Safe Online? Here’s How to Spread the Word About Private Browsing

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the current issues surrounding internet privacy and security.

Maybe you’re already using a private search engine, encrypted email and messaging, a VPN or other measures.

Good for you! In today’s online climate, every individual has to look out for their own safety. Otherwise, our personal information will be shared and exploited by corporations, and we can expose ourselves to all types of cyber crime.

But even if you’re being careful with online safety, the people closest to you might not be.

It can be a challenge to convince others of the importance of private browsing, if it’s not something they think of on their own. However, once you make them aware of how it directly affects them and what they can do about it, most people are eager to take action.

In this article, I’m offering some advice on how to talk to key people in your life and help them stay safe online.With

your family:

The people who are closest to you are the first you should talk to about protecting privacy online.

It’s very common (but definitely not recommended) for people to use personal information in their passwords. Birthdays, the names of children, spouses or pets, and home addresses are classics – and every hacker worth his salt knows this.

If a cyber criminal gets access to someone’s Facebook account, for example, they’ll often pillage through it for information they can use to guess passwords to more important accounts.

The more they know about your family, your background and your personal life, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to break into your online banking or something else.

So everyone’s cyber security is directly relevant to everyone in their close network!

Maybe you’re savvy enough not to use these obvious details in your passwords, but what about your parents? Or your 13-year-old niece?

How to teach elderly relatives about private browsing

Granddaughter teaching grandma how to use laptop computer

It’s especially important to have this conversation with the older members of your family.

Seniors are often too trusting online. While using the internet is a great way for elderly people to stay connected, they can be very vulnerable to phishing, malware attacks and identity theft.

And if just teaching Grandma how to use email was a challenge, dealing with a cyber attack will be much tougher!

With older relatives who aren’t so tech literate, skip the extra details. Explain to them which services are safe to use and which might leak their information. Show them how to use a private search engine, help them come up with strong passwords and make sure their computer is running up-to-date software.

Teaching kids the importance of online privacy

Kids and teenagers are notoriously unconcerned with online privacy and security. And when their tech skills and fluency are so much higher than many adults, it can be hard just understanding what they’re doing online – much less making sure it’s safe.

The best rule of thumb to give them is that if they wouldn’t do it face-to-face, they shouldn’t do it online.

Shalegh McManus, an online safety advocate for Norton, has a clever way to encourage her children to guard their privacy on social media: at dinner, casually ask some “too much information” question based on what you can see on their profiles. (“So are you and Jennifer friends again or are you still angry that Kyle asked her to the dance instead of you?”)

This can drive home just how much they’re putting out there!

With children who are too young to use the internet independently, it’s easy to lead by example.

For older kids, it’s better to talk directly about the risks and how to stay safe.

Setting up a VPN in your home and using a private search engine as the default browser on shared computers can help protect your kids without any effort on their part. But in the long run, you’ll want to teach them good habits.

illustration of concealing identity

With your friends:

Cyber crime can strike anyone. However, many people who fall victim have a confused “how could this happen to me?” attitude when it happens!

People are often pretty cavalier about cyber security, even when they claim to know better. For example, in one study, 78% of participants clicked on an unknown link in an email, although they said they were aware that this was dangerous.

People who grew up with the internet can easily take it for granted, overlooking the risks. In fact, millennials are much more likely to be careless with passwords and access their company’s cloud accounts while away from the office.

This carelessness can come back to bite! If you catch your friends falling into bad habits, don’t be shy about calling them out on it.

At least people who use the internet a lot are probably very aware of targeted advertising and how pervasive it is. If you explain to your friends where these creepy “stalker ads” come from, it can demonstrate how large a digital footprint they’re leaving without realizing it.

From here, you can suggest private browsing options to them.

Another helpful angle is that most private search engines, secure email providers and other private web services are alternatives to the mainstream corporate search giants. They’re usually idealistic startups trying to make the web a safer, more honest place.

Isn’t it better to support these guys instead of multinational mega-corporations who are just out to sell your data to advertisers?

With your coworkers:

Cyber crime is one of the biggest (and often most overlooked) threats to businesses in 2017.

A few statistics that make it clear how important it is for companies to stay on their toes:

  • Cyber crime currently costs businesses an estimated $400 billion (some say $500 billion) every year. By 2021, it’s expected to hit $6 trillion.
  • Global damages from ransomware attacks will exceed $5 billion, a number that will quadruple by 2020.
  • It’s not just big corporations that are at risk. A recent study found that 55% of small businesses had experienced a cyber attack in the last year, and 50% had suffered a data breach.
  • In the case of stolen records, the cost per record averages $158 globally and over $220 in the US.
  • Last year, 38% more incidents were reported than in the year before.

Keep in mind with all these statistics that what we hear about is just the tip of the iceberg – most cyber crime goes unreported.

For the sake of the whole business, it’s important that every employee is onboard with safe internet practices. Anyone who is connected to the company network is a potential breach, and the company’s online security is only as strong as its weakest link.

That’s why I recommend bring up the issue with your supervisor or in a meeting, rather than going piecemeal with individuals. Stress the importance of private browsing and up-to-date software.

If you need some added incentive, mention recent cybersecurity disasters like the WannaCry  ransomware epidemic. Many businesses fail to update their operating systems and antivirus software, just because it takes time and effort, but the consequences of cutting corners are too dramatic to take the risk!


Everyone wants to be safe on the internet, but most people don’t know how. Or (even worse) they don’t realize that their normal online habits are putting them at risk.

From this perspective, as someone who’s aware of the risks and alternatives, it’s up to you to help your friends, family, and the people around you protect themselves.

Spread the word: it’s the most powerful thing you can do.