How to take control of your online life

The internet and digital technology has become so ingrained in every life that many people feel as though they're suffering from technology overload, with their screens controlling them, rather them the other way around.

Few people would gladly part with their smartphone or device, but half of UK consumers feel they have no control over their online lives. This is according to figures revealed in a report by password manager and secure digital wallet Dashlane, which calls on people to take back control and become happier, more responsible cyber citizens in 2015.

Brits are being left with aggravations over around the sheer volume of online activity bombarding them every day, the quality of the experience, and fears over security and privacy, as Guillaume Desnoës, head of European markets at Dashlane, explains. This all adds up to a sense of frustration and helplessness.

'Improved connectivity, reduced cost of access and the consumerisation of IT have brought the internet into all aspects of our lives,' says Desnoës. 'The trend is set to continue with the advent of wearable devices and the Internet of Things. This is no bad thing – we created and have embraced this new way of living. But the deeper we go, the harder it is for us to maintain control. That’s why we’re issuing a call to arms for consumers to #RestoreControl to their online lives in 2015.'

Nearly half (45%) of UK consumers surveyed said that technology is a time-eater, instead of freeing them up to spend more time elsewhere. The Millennial generation of 18-24 year olds are particularly suseptable to this, with more than three-fifths (62%) expressing this view.

The problem is that time spent online is not necessarily quality time- much of it is wasted by being irritated by online adverts and spam email, according to 63% of people. Consumers are having to register to use hundreds of different online services, remember multiple passwords, and do all this at a snail's pace thanks to internet speeds not being up to scratch.

Not only this but consumers are feeling increasingly unsafe- from celebrities' leaked iCloud photos to hacked webcams, the number of high-profile online security scares is increasing all the time. And those that do feel insecure online aren't always doing something about it – less than a third (30%) of consumers use different passwords for each account, and 21% feel it's unrealistic to do so.

> See also: The rise of the 'phygital' shopper – study reveals the new style of consumer

If not addressed, these problems are likely to be compounded by the influx of more and more devices into the market. Around half of Brits (48%) use a tablet, with more than two thirds expecting to be using them in five years' time. The sharpest rise will come from the surge of the Internet of Things, where experts expect a 500% rise in the use of embedded wireless technology in things such as household appliances, medical devices, cars and numerous everyday items.

Thankfully all is not lost though- Dashlane has outlined seven ways to help consumers make sure technology frees time and enhances their life, rather than leaving them feeling out of control.

'Restore control of your online life by following our seven resolutions,' advises Desnoës. 'Take 15 minutes every day for a week to put one of the steps into practice. In doing so, together we will be able to reclaim our time, recover our sense of security and ultimately take back control of our online experience.'

Day one – Forget your passwords

Experts tell us that every account you access should have a different, complex password. Unless you’re in Mensa – chances are you’ll struggle with this. Many of us use some form of personal mnemonic that forms the basis for multiple logins. But this only makes them more hackable by social engineering tactics and computers with the power to test infinite pattern permutations. There are tools like Dashlane's password management app which will create a complex password for you at the click of a button and then automatically log you in. It will save your memory and is much safer.

Day two – Keep it clean

Invest in security software (Here’s MoneySavingExpert’s list of the best free antivirus software), and regularly update to the latest operating system, software and apps to protect your computer and devices from new attacks.

Day three – Give your inbox a spring clean

They say curiosity killed the cat, and it could be your undoing online too. Delete suspicious looking emails and don’t follow any links they contain. Set up your inbox to divert spam to your junk mailbox, and to auto-archive mail that you’ve only been cc’d on. For more information on staying safe online, visit the Government’s Cyber Streetwise website.

Day four – Make time for time

Take control of your time. There are some brilliant time management apps out there. Understand how you use your time and then take steps to manage it more effectively – here is a recent roundup of three leading apps to help you do just that.

Day five – Make your browser work for you

Manage your browser effectively and it’ll be your best ally in restoring control online. All browsers will let you control and limit pop-ups, and plugins are available that can completely remove advertising from your screen. You may also want to add a layer of control to the online lives of those around you. Visit the UK Safer Internet Centre for how-to guides on the most effective in-browser parental control measures.

Day six – Nominate a trusted back-up buddy

Just as you might give a spare set of keys to a trusted friend or family member that lives nearby, nominate a trusted emergency contact for key online accounts should you forget or get locked out of password-protected accounts. Dashlane’s Emergency feature lets you do just that.

Day seven – Just walk away

Set limits on the time you spend online. Is there a certain time at night when you need to disconnect? How about disconnecting for half an hour at lunch? And if you can’t bring yourself to switch off, there are apps that can give you the option of banning yourself from particular sites at particular times or for a length of time. Put the boundaries in place and then stick to them!

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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