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How to keep kids safe online

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We live in an era where most children are always online. However, even though being able to quickly access information is good, there is a lot of content that is not suitable for kids. SIMEON TASSEV advises on how to keep youngsters safe online.

Always-on connectivity has become part and parcel of today’s society, with more and more people relying heavily on email, social media and web browsing. Children growing up in this era have unprecedented access to information, multimedia and interactive learning capabilities, and are entirely comfortable using the Internet for a variety of everyday tasks. However, while embracing connectivity provides new opportunities and is essential for schools to move forward, there is a lot of content online that is simply not suitable for learners. Keeping this ‘connected generation’ safe online is vital not only for parents, but also schools, universities and other educational facilities.

The Internet is home to a wealth of information and offers new opportunities for educators to provide learners with engaging, interactive experiences. For example, channels such as YouTube can be used for video demonstrations and information clips, which offer a richer learning experience than a simple lecture. However, while much value can be found online, there are also certain safety concerns with regard to learners, especially younger ones,  on the Internet. From cyber predators to unsuitable content, suspicious websites and a host of malware, there are numerous threats for the unwary or unaware. Ensuring the safety of underage browsers online should be a top priority.

Simply denying online access or blocking websites is no longer a viable solution. Schools and educational facilities need to not only include IT as part of the curriculum, but allow for access to online capabilities for research purposes if nothing else. One of the most common issues faced by schools is searching online, particularly given the many connotations of certain words, which may lead to inappropriate results. Certain security solutions work to protect browsers by blocking access to known nefarious websites, however, this does not protect users from unknown dangers, nor does it take into account other content such as images, which use different search algorithms.

Leading browsers such as Google provide mechanisms to prevent this, such as Safe Search capabilities, however, the reality is that children are curious and are so adept at navigating computers that they can easily find this setting to switch it off. Internet content filtering solutions have thus become essential to ensure students continue to be able to leverage the benefits of the Internet, without the dangers. These solutions enforce safe searching policies, eliminating unnecessary or inappropriate results from searches of both websites and images.

Another specialised tool that can assist in improving safety is YouTube for Schools, which controls the content available via the YouTube channel to educational and appropriate content. This enables teachers and students to benefit from the power of multimedia content, but prevents learners from being able to access irrelevant or dangerous materials. Again, this channel can be switched off and on, and to prevent learners from disabling safety features, security needs to be enforced through a security solution that prevents them from being able to do this.

Other vital security solutions include firewalls, antivirus, link verification and social media security solutions, all of which can make online experiences safer and more enjoyable. In addition to implementing sophisticated security technology and best practices, however, education is also a critical aspect. Aside from inappropriate content, there are a host of other threats online that the unaware could fall prey to, from cyber predators to phishing scams to malicious links that download malware onto systems. Learners need to be taught not only how to use the Internet, but how to make sure they stay safe online.

The Internet has a lot of valuable information and can be hugely beneficial for educational purposes. As a result, schools need to allow access to online content. However, they are also under obligation to keep learners safe from harm. Ensuring content is safe and appropriate, implement technology to enforce this, and following best practices around security are all essential, and must be backed up with education around security and safety practices themselves. Only in this way can educational facilities ensure students are protected while still enabling them to leverage the freedom and benefits of connectivity.

* Simeon Tassev, Director and QSA at Galix

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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