Three Questions: Internet Safety for Families

NCTA introduces its newest series, three questions with an expert. Check back periodically for interviews on different topics with various professionals within the cable industry.

Topic: Internet Safety for Families
Expert: Kristin Buch, NCTA

As Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes to a close in a few days, this week NCTA’s Kristin Buch and in-house expert on cable parental controls shares tips on internet safety for families on behalf of the cable industry. Kristin’s work for the past 10 years has focused on the intersection of media, technology and education.

What are some ways cable companies are empowering families to become safe and savvy users of the internet?

Two great technologies immediately come to mind. Comcast recently unveiled their new xFi service platform. This new tool gives parents who are Comcast subscribers the ability to individually manage every internet-connected device on their home network. Parents can monitor usage, control access, and set parental control filters as needed for different devices and users. And Disney has developed a small hardware device called Circle, which first became available in November 2015. Circle is a security appliance that plugs into your home wi-fi router, and provides a similar set of usage monitoring, access control and safe search features. In addition to the security features these technologies offer, they also provide solutions to another key issue today’s families are dealing with – preserving blocks of time for families to be together without the distractions of internet-connected devices.

We actually have short, 90-second explainers covering both xFi and Circle on our FAM video blog, #ICYMI, and encourage anyone interested to check them out.

What are a few of the most useful tools out there that help parents and kids navigate the online world?

The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and The Smart Talk, a collaboration between the National PTA and LifeLock, are particularly great resources that provide parents advice on how to engage their children in conversations about and reach agreements on responsible technology use. is a comprehensive resource providing information parents and kids need to navigate this domain safely, and thoughtfully, covering topics such as understanding and identifying online risks, digital citizenship, and media and information literacy. Cybersecurity has also become one of the most important issues for families that cuts across all generations. The cybersecurity section offers resources for families to develop effective strategies for combatting the cybersecurity threats we all face.

These days, everything a person does online makes an impact offline as well. Where could someone find tips on how to best protect their online reputation?

The Good Play Project, funded by a MacArthur Foundation Grant, provides research on online ethical behavior in children and teens, and proposes guidelines for how best to intervene in challenging situations. Commonsense Media is another group that offers tremendous in-depth resources related to privacy and internet safety, and important topics such as cyberbullying and trolling. And has several resources devoted to digital ethics, responsibility, and maintaining an online reputation.