Carnegie Mellon University

INI director appeared on WQED webcast about cybersafety

March 06, 2018

INI director shares how to keep kids safe online in WQED cyber-safety webcast

By Jessica Corry

Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, director of the Information Networking Institute (INI), appeared on a live webcast of WQED's nationally-distributed television program iQ: smartparent on March 9, 2018. The episode - "Cyber-Safety: Privacy, Protection, and the Latest Laws Affecting Children and Families" - is now available at

In the live webcast, regional and national experts explored and explained vital information about safety and privacy settings online and revealed how predators, cyber-bullies, and marketers evade them. Viewers discovered ways to protect their privacy, manage their social media "footprint," and recognize and report online harassment.

Panel guests for this episode included:

  • Alicia Kozakiewicz, Creator of The Alicia Project and a child sexual exploitation survivor
  • Detective Steve Dish, FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director of Carnegie Mellon University's Information Networking Institute
  • Kelsey Meacham, Allegheny County Police Analyst
  • Megan Galloway, Allegheny County Police Analyst

In addition to watching the webcast, here are Dr. Haritos Tsamitis' top three tips for keeping your kids safe online.

1. Kids need to safeguard their Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Just as you teach your children never to share personal information about themselves with strangers on the street, the same is true for the Internet. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is anything about your child's offline identity that someone can use to compromise their personal safety and potentially even steal their identity.

PII includes name, date of birth, address, email address and school, and it's surprisingly easy to overshare. Posting a photo in front of a school building, filling out a Facebook quiz asking where you were born or "checking in" to a specific location on social media are all ways to overshare information about yourself online. If you think someone is misusing your child's personal information, follow these steps from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to repair the damage.

2. Introduce cyber hygiene early.

We teach our kids to brush their teeth and clean their rooms, but when was the last time you talked about cyber hygiene? Start with explaining how to make strong passwords, and why it's important to update them regularly and never share with friends or classmates.

My colleagues at Carnegie Mellon CyLab recommend passwords at least 12 characters long with lowercase/uppercase letters, digits and symbols in unpredictable places. Also, avoid including PII like birthdates, pet names or social security numbers.

3. Keep the dialogue open.

Find time for frequent, casual conversations around the dinner table or during a family outing to ask about apps, social media and gaming. Don't let fear drive your decision-making and conversations around tech. Inspire your children to be both tech savvy and "street smart" by equipping them with critical thinking skills, teaching cyber hygiene and lending an open ear.