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Online Privacy and Security for your Family

apps, FAM, GEAR, health By September 19, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Privacy is only a concept, and we all have different definitions of what our privacy means. The NSA has been proven to have one, which many citizens feel violates their rights. Facebook has an incredibly complex end-user agreement that changes faster than most people get their hair cut. Online privacy and security for your family have become one of the biggest concerns for our generation. Gary Kovacs, CEO of AVG Technologies points out that in the next 5 years another 2.5 billion people will connect to the internet, doubling the number of people online. As parents, we snap photos and instagram special times so that family members thousands of miles away can be closer to the moment. We tweet our thoughts, post photos to online albums and we’re excited to buy our mother-in law a computer so she can skype with the kids from afar.

But we have reached a turning point. We are now realizing that the content we put forth on the internet is not secure. We must think of the future reputation of our children as we post funny baby pictures. And even scarier? Bad people can cross reference information and find out exact locations and schedules of our kids.

I’m a trusting person. I recently attended a launch event for AVG, a company that provides (free) internet security for people across all platforms. I’m all for banking security and things, but as a parent I’ve been posting photos and names of my kids without worry. Really, what could happen? I spent a full day learning and had extensive opportunities to interview the executive team. The experience has changed my approach to online security.  15 million people currently run the free AVG ‘Do Not Track‘ program so they control who knows they are going on certain websites.

Did you know that hackers can put code onto your computer so that the ‘google-type’ ads you see on the sidebar are not run through Google at all? If you buy the product in the ad the hackers make money…. Did you know that when you plug your cellphone into a public charger, information from your phone may be collected and sold?… That In mobile, credit card hacking is much easier? The mobile app silently sends your credit card number and you will likely not notice a $3 charge on your bill next month.. That even though you might not use your children’s names on the internet, that a file with your last name and image of your son’s photo can be cross-referenced with his newspaper birth announcement?  Bingo: the hacker now has a full name, image and (if data attached to the photo are present), a location.  And you thought Hallowe’en horror movies were scary.

If you work off a PC, AVG offers an incredible new internet security program for 2014 that highlights protection, privacy and performance.  I’m excited not only by the spy-like encryption and privacy, but the ability for the performance aspects to save my battery life so I’m not always seeking out a charger!  The most secure option, it costs just under $60 and boasts a ton of features.  There is also a free version if you are not dealing with sensitive information on your PC.

Highlights of AVG 2014:
– Anti-virus and anti-malware protection
–  Anti-spam
– Online shield, which screens incoming links and files to make sure they are secure
– File Shredder, which permanently deletes sensitive information (it overwrites the files you want deleted)
– Data safe, which encrypts and stores your files for extra security.  You can create ‘safes’ of sensitive information.  Like when you don’t want your kids to see your tax documents.
– AVG Do Not Track, AVG Identity Protection, Anti-Spyware, and AVG WiFi Guard prevent spying and data theft
– Enhanced Firewall protects banking and credit card information
– AVG Turbo Scan, Game Mode, and AVG Smart Scanner enhance performance
– AVG Accelerator gives you faster video streaming.  Yes please!!

For mobile (iOS, Windows and Android) AVG offers some of the following apps for each platform: image shrinker (smaller photos), tuneup, privacyfix, cleaner (clean up cached memory), uninstaller (removes little-used apps), family safety (protects kids from unsafe websites) and safe browser (avoids malicious sites).  SIM Lock and Camera trap were added this year.  If someone steals your phone it takes a photo of their face and sends it to authorities.  Gotcha.

Here are the other tips I learned for keeping your family safe online:

1. Passwords should be a series of random words like ‘LakeCheeseSkirt’ to prevent people guessing. If you have to add a year, don’t make it your birthday, and for goodness sake, as an employer who has waded through piles of resumes, PLEASE don’t make your email address.

2. Software like PrivacyFix should be running on all of your devices. It allows you to monitor all of the end user agreements for Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google + and programs that have access to your accounts so that you can control your own privacy to the degree that you feel comfortable. You can remove Facebook ‘friends’ from seeing all of your updates and regain control of your online profile.  It’s interesting when you set it up that you are given your personal ‘worth’ as a dollar amount to each program.  It starts to hit home that our information and the way we engage online has value to many players.

3. Turn off location settings when sharing photos, and also do not name the photos with your children’s names. Google will cross-reference names and locations and even if you name a photo Dave.jpg and your account is under your own last name, it will put the two together and your child can be recognized. 20% of kids now have an online profile before they are even born. I spoke to a colleague today and she warned that this can cause classism and repercussions for the rest of their lives. Before they are born. OMG.

4. Always register domain names for your kids so nobody else can take them. This is step 1 of reputation management. GoDaddy allows you to register and when they are older they will want to own it. It’s like a resume. You won’t want 4 axe murderers with the same name to appear in search results above your kids when they are interviewing for jobs. Employers will always Google and the ownership of their online reputation is a professional must. $10 per year is a drop in the bucket for reputation management (think of it as an RESP). You can set up a free wordpress site for them, but just owning the domain is enough.

5. While you are at it, register their names on twitter (and yours) and set up a google alert for all of your names. You will then know if any of you are ever mentioned on the web. (This works for exes and celebrities too. Just saying.)

6. Don’t allow your kids access to your work email account. They may send something by mistake or seek revenge during an angry episode, which could hinder your reputation with colleagues.

7. Never allow the kids to have the password to download apps on their devices. Many apps are free, but the in-app purchases than many kids don’t understand they are buying will set mom and dad up with a massive bill.

8. Make a rule in the house such as a ‘tech basket’ so during certain times like dinner or after school, the tablets and phones are put in one location for the entire family and personal interaction is necessitated.

9. Know passwords for your kids’ devices and keep them by your own bed at night. Check them often. One friend who hosted an exchange student disabled the internet at night so the student could not skype or go online.

10. Be very aware of end-user agreements. Some games meant for 6 year olds request access to location and other data and this is not necessary in the least. They are possibly preparing to sell the data such as location information although the actual game doesn’t need location information to run. Don’t let your kids play these seemingly innocuous games. Clicking ‘Accept’ at each step isn’t necessarily a great thing.

11. Change all passwords regularly.

12. Dump everything on your computer to an external hard drive. Photos, music, documents and emails. Trust us. You don’t want to lose any of your memories or records.

We interviewed AVG Technologies executives Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Chief Technology Officer and Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist about keeping our families and children safe online.

The important thing to remember about internet security, safety and privacy is that you should have the control to set different programs and applications at different levels. If it is overly complex, that is a bad sign. From what I learned, AVG provides a ton of value free of charge with extra options for people who require it. I am so grateful especially for PrivacyFix. I had no idea. And I’m a good mom. We all want to protect our kids no matter what and it’s pretty scary when we don’t even know they are at risk.

Snack tips for kids from an expert nutritionist

Snack tips for kids from an expert nutritionist

FAM, self By April 3, 2012 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Tina Stewart is a registered dietitian for the President’s Choice® product development team. As a busy Toronto mom of two, Tina has a number of tips to offer for choosing healthier foods and filling your grocery cart with them.  (Keep reading for a bang-on dinner recipe, snack tips and solutions making sure you leave the grocery store with healthful products – even with the kids in tow.)

Q.  What are your top 5 snacks to give kids?

I always look to balance nutrition and fun with snacks for my kids. Here are my five favourite go-to options:

1. Ants on a log! This classic snack is quick and easy to make: celery sticks with peanut butter (or any other kind of nut butter) in the groove topped with a few raisins as ants.  My son has a peanut allergy, so I use soy butter. This snack provides carbohydrate and protein, and is a fun way to get your picky-eater to eat.

2. Veggies and Dip- An assortment of colourful vegetables such as mini carrots, celery and sliced peppers with a yogurt based dip is a great way to get vitamin, minerals and protein.  I use PC 0% Plain Greek yogurt and mix with PCBM Ranch or Caesar dressing as a dip for vegetables.  Another alternative is to try hummus as a dip for vegetables.  These are both favourite after school snacks.

3.  Crackers and Cheese. Choosing whole grain crackers that are source of fibre, improves the nutrient value of this snack, and cheese is an excellent source of calcium.

Creating a tasting plate. A selection of apple pieces, carrot sticks, crackers, cheese and/or  nuts.  You can add a new item every week, such as dried fruit, to help your child discover new foods they haven’t tried before.

5. Every once in a while, a frozen treat can be a great snack, but it’s about making the healthy selection for your kids.  I give my kids the PC® Blue MenuTM Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bars in mango to devour. They’re incredibly creamy, so kids believe they are ice cream, but I know they are getting probiotic cultures, and they’re low in fat.


Q. When you’re at the grocery store with kids in tow, how do you make sure that healthy options get into your cart?

When you’re at the grocery store, reading nutrition labels is important to make the healthy choice, but that can be difficult with kids wanting to run up and down the aisles. Try to turn shopping into a game for your kids.  At Real Canadian Superstore, they have added easy to view symbols on their PC® Blue MenuTM products which indicate increased fibre, or reduced fat and sodium, as examples.  I enlist my own kids to help me find the foods with the arrows when we’re looking at a specific shelf.  Not only does it keep the kids entertained and busy, but it has also helped me teach them about nutrition with the easy to view symbols.

Q.  Favourite place to travel:

Although I have not been there for a while, I would say my favourite place to travel is Europe.  I have  a particular affinity for Italy and France.   I love learning about history and the rich cultures of each of these countries. And of course, who could forget about the wonderful food!

Q. Cannot-live-without gadget

I cannot live without my blender.  I use it to make smoothies for a quick addition to breakfast or as a snack. It also comes in very handy for pureeing my favourite vegetable soups.

Q. Go-to ‘Mom’ attire

My favourite go-to Mom attire is definitely yoga pants and t-shirt.  When you are a busy mom on the-go, these can be paired with a comfy pair of runners and away you go.

Q.  Favourite kid-friendly dinner to make.

We like to do theme nights at our house, and this gives the kids something to look forward to. The other day I made a twist on lasagna that they loved for Mexican night: a Burrito Casserole. Instead of traditional layers of pasta, I used the PC® Blue MenuTM 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Tortillas for a nutritious portion of fibre.  For the filling I used vegetarian crumble as an alternative to meat, and then added vegetables to make the meal healthy, without sacrificing flavour. The recipe is found on, but I want to share it with you. The kids, and my husband, loved it!

Burrito Casserole


2 tbsp (25 mL) PC® 100% Pure Canola Oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ tsp (4 mL) ground cumin
1 pkg (454 g) PC® Blue MenuTM Vegetarian Ground Crumble
1 pouch (283 g) PC® Cooked Whole Grain Brown Rice Sides
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) PC® Blue MenuTM Black Beans PC Blue Menu Black Beans
1 jar (430 mL) PC® Salsa – Mild
1 pkg (390 g) PC® Blue MenuTM 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Tortillas
2 cups (500 mL) PC® Blue MenuTM Tex-Mex Light Shredded Cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray 13 x 9 inch (3 L) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion for about 4 minutes, stirring, or until softened. Stir in garlic and cumin; cook for 1 minute. Stir in frozen meatless ground beef, frozen rice, beans, 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) of the salsa, and ½ cup (125 mL) water. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until heated through. Set aside.
  3. Cover bottom of prepared baking dish with two tortillas. Spread with half of burrito mixture and sprinkle with ½ cup (125 mL) of the cheese. Repeat layers. Cover with remaining 2 tortillas. Spread with remaining salsa and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil.
  4. Bake in centre of oven for 30 minutes. Uncover; broil for 3 minutes or until top is golden.

Chef’s Tips

Serve sprinkled with 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped green onions, with light sour cream and sliced avocado on the side, if desired

Q. I’m currently reading this book..

Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel by Jane Austen.   I think that this is the fourth time that I have read this book, but I just love it.  I recently purchased an e-reader and it came pre-loaded with all the classics, so I am getting myself reacquainted with all my favorite novels.

Q.  My child’s birthday party this year will involve…some kind of physical activity such as swimming, karate or an indoor play area.  I have two very active boys that have energy to burn so I find that parties that include physical activity are a great way to provide some healthy fun!

Q.  Is there 1 food that children should try to eat every week?

There isn’t just one food, in fact what is most important is that children—and adults too— eat a variety of foods from the different food groups each week, and each day.  Fresh produce, protein, whole grain, and dairy product such as milk and cheese will help ensure your child consumes the necessary nutrients and vitamins they need to have energy for the day, while growing up healthy and strong.  Planning your meals the week before can help you double check that you’ve included nutritious items each and every day, and save you from the “what should I make for dinner?” moment.

Q.  What about ‘hiding’ nutritious food inside sauces and baking.  Good idea or bad?

I think that “hiding” nutritious foods inside other items can be used to improve the nutrition of certain items such as extra vegetables in sauce or added fruit in muffins.  I don’t think that this strategy should be used to trick our kids into eating fruits and vegetables.   Children may need to try a food several times before they will accept it and just like adults there may be some foods that they will never accept.  I think the focus should be on offering a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables and allowing children to develop a taste for these foods and eating habits that will last a lifetime.