By Stephanie Humphrey
It’s that time of the year again – a time when we make promises to ourselves to stop smoking, workout more, or whatever else you resolve to change in your life as the new year approaches. And while some of our New Year’s resolutions may be broken pretty quickly, here are three tech resolutions that everyone should keep.
• Start using a password manager: One of the easiest and most important things you can do to protect your online security is to use and maintain strong passwords on all of your accounts. What does “strong” mean? Passwords that are long enough (8 or more characters), complex (a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), and not made up of easily identifiable personal information – i.e., don’t use your dog’s name, your kids’ birthdays, or your street address from 10 years ago. But maintaining these criteria may be easier said than done when you have multiple accounts across a variety of websites that all need unique passwords. That’s why a password manager makes sense for most people. It will store the passwords you have and generate strong passwords for you as well. You only have to remember one master password, and if you have a smartphone that uses fingerprint or face recognition, you don’t even have to do that. Get a password manager that connects and updates across devices (laptops/tablets/smartphones) like LastPass, 1Password, or Keeper. Most services offer a free version, but the paid versions are affordable with plans starting around $3/month.
• Update your devices regularly: Device updates might seem inconvenient to some, but this regular maintenance is critical to the proper operation of your phone or computer. New features are released that give your devices added functionality or make them run more efficiently. But most importantly, updates often contain security fixes that correct vulnerabilities that could compromise your device. You can make it easier on yourself by making sure automatic updates are enabled on your computer and smartphone. Look around in your settings to find “Updates” and set auto updates for a time when you don’t typically use that device. Side note: when updates are done, the device is usually restarted – that’s also a good tech resolution to make a habit of doing. Restarting your phone or computer (turning it off completely, waiting a few minutes, and turning it back on again) is a good practice to do on a monthly basis.
• Make time to unplug: As someone who spends A LOT of time on their smartphone for work, I have had to become very intentional about when to take a break. The potential negative physical and emotional effects of too much smartphone and social media use are well documented. Use the tools available on the devices themselves – set alarms throughout the day to remind you to give your eyes a break and enable Downtime (iOS) or Digital Wellbeing (Android) to prompt you to finish up for the day. Only you know what your limits are, but we can all benefit from being more mindful about how much time we spend online.
One last resolution I would urge everyone to consider is that we all make an effort to be a little nicer online. It seems like the perceived anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in some people, but if we could all take a moment to think before we post something, we truly could make the web a more welcoming place for all of us. Happy New Year!
Stephanie Humphrey is a former engineer turned Tech-Life Expert and author. She is a contributor to “Good Morning America” and Fox 29’s “Good Day Philadelphia.” You can find Stephanie all around the web at:@TechLifeSteph and get her book “Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt!” on Amazon.