How to Maintain Online Safety and Find a Healthy Technology Balance
Stacey J. Drubner, JD, LICSW, MPH
The past year has represented a huge increase in our online footprint. Fortunately, the internet allowed many to stay connected, attend school, work, exercise and get supplies. Technology can make many of life tasks (paying bills, making appointments and so much more) easy and convenient. However, more time on devices can also have downsides. There are increased opportunities for those who want to lure us into fraud or scams. Additionally, some may find that technology use is overshadowing other activities or personal connections and creating stress.
With life hopefully transitioning to a “new normal” soon, this might be a good time to consider what is safe and healthy for you in terms of online habits. Below is guidance that you might find helpful when evaluating your internet safety and technology use.
Safe Surfing Guidance
In the past year, there has been an uptick in fraud schemes in areas such as unemployment, stimulus checks, taxes and more. Many of these scams are perpetrated using email and other online platforms. There are things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. It is true that using extra security measures (complex and updated passwords or 2-factor authentication) can be a little time-consuming but less than if you are the victim of fraud or hacking.
The EAP always offers resources to prevent and respond to many forms of fraud, but we were fortunate to be able to consult with internal expert, Dan Coleman, from the Mass General Police and Security on the recent increase in online fraud and how to prevent and respond to scams.
Spotlight: Daniel Coleman, MGH Police and Security
Tips for Online Safety and Security
Daniel Coleman, Senior Investigator for MGH Police and Security provides advice and resources to help keep you and your family safe from online predators.
Current cyber risks
- Dan explained that the entire country is experiencing unprecedented activity related to cyber risks, fraud and scams.
- Perhaps the biggest challenges are “Imposter Scams” in which criminals will use actual logos of Amazon, Netflix and others to lure people into clicking links where they try to extract personal information or money from the victims.
– This tactic is known as “spoofing” and people believe that they are being contacted by real and trusted organizations.
Keys to online safety and security
- Use education and awareness to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place.
– Dan recommended visiting the Federal Trade Commission Website – (FTC.Gov) to increase your awareness and knowledge about current online risks, scams and fraud, and to report and recover from any identity theft or related fraud.
- Understanding the scams and methods used by criminals can help you avoid being a victim.
- If someone attempts to scam you, DON’T panic. SLOW down and think before acting. Ask for help before you respond to a solicitation.
- If you are a victim of an online scam:
– Contact local law enforcement, your hospital security team, or the MGH Special Investigations Unit for additional resources.
– Reach out directly to your bank/credit card company and the organization who was the subject of the fraud.
Helpful Fraud protection and response resources from MGH Police and Security and EAP
- FTC – Computer and On-line Security Tips
- Mass General Police and Security – Online Safety
- Mass General Police and Security – Identity Theft-Information
- FTC – Identity Theft Assistance Hotline
- National Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network
- Mass.Gov – Consumer Guide to Scams (online and others)
- The Boston Police Department – Parent Internet Safety Guidelines
- FBI – Safe Online Surfing for Children
- Google Interland -Helping Kids be “Internet Awesome”
- Full Mass General Brigham EAP – Consumer Protection and Fraud Resources
Healthy Technology Use Can Contribute to a Healthy Lifestyle
Do you find that you are too dependent on your devices or that use of them is impacting sleep, stress levels, physical health or relationships? As with any lifestyle practice, implementing healthy digital habits involves trial and error to find what works for you. It takes time to identify and create a realistic and sustainable routine. Below are ideas to consider if you find technology is ruling your life or causing you stress.
- Limit use of devices before or after going to bed
– Consider reading or a mindfulness activity instead
- Set a boundary with work technology
– Turn off notifications and do not check email often after hours or while on vacation
- Consider doing activities such as exercise without a device (except to access music)
- Limit phone use while eating or visiting with friends or family
- Limit multi-tasking with multiple devices
- Don’t use devices while driving
Use Technology for Mindfulness
If you really cannot let go of your devices, consider a productive use of them during downtime. Below are some online mindfulness options that are currently free for Mass General Brigham employees:
- Headspace – Be Kind to your Mind, less Stressed, Happier
- Foundations (formerly Evermind) – Build your Resilience with Evidence-based Activities and Programs
- MGH MoodNetwork - Self-Guided Online Skills Program for Coping with COVID-19 Stress
Social Media Considerations
- Schedule your time on social media rather than letting it control you
- Be thoughtful about why you’re logging on and stick to your plan
- Remember that someone else’s happy news does not minimize your own and is not necessarily a full representation of their life
- Be yourself
- Put your emotional well-being first – you can skip or hide negative or upsetting posts
- Sign off when the stress created by social media becomes overwhelming
For confidential assistance, contact the EAP at 866-724-4327 or request an appointment via our online form.